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His Hollywood dreams lured him from China He was killed during a USC

Under the noonday sun on April 15, cinematographer Peng Wang, 29, was in the back of an all-terrain vehicle traversing Imperial County’s sand dunes with three other filmmakers, working on a movie for the University of Southern California’s prestigious School of Cinematic Arts. The otherworldly backdrop was the setting for a surreal short feature called “Finale, ” about a man who journeys to his death in the desert. Wang was a third-year graduate student at Chapman University’s film school and had volunteered to help the USC crew complete their directing course project. The team was running late and working on little sleep, having not reached their hotel until after midnight after a long drive from Los Angeles, said one crew member who declined to be named. They had just finished their first scene when the group went out to check the next location in the dunes. Minutes later, word came over the radio that the Can-Am Maverick had rolled over and Wang had been injured, the crew member said. Despite emergency services’ efforts to resuscitate Wang, he died at the scene among the dunes, about a mile from the nearest road. He was wearing a helmet but not a safety harness, said Arturo Platero Jr., a California Highway Patrol spokesperson. An investigation, which is not criminal in nature, is underway, he said. A week later, the film schools are still trying to figure out what happened. The tragedy comes six months after the shocking on-set death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico set of the western movie “Rust, ” which renewed widespread calls for safety improvements in filmmaking. Wang’s friends and classmates have been left devastated by the loss and questioned how the tragedy could have happened.“He is a type of guy that is humble and traditional, ” said Oliver Li, a Chapman graduate student film editor and Wang’s roommate, who found it difficult to imagine him flouting safety measures. “As long as he’s informed of the possible hazard, I don’t see a reason why they say he never had the seatbelt. Why? ”A devout Christian who prayed before eating lunch on set, the Sichuan province native saw helping Chinese independent filmmakers achieve their dreams, whether or not they could pay, as a type of vocation, Li said.“He’s not a guy who would search for fame or money, ” he added. Wang’s parents — a small-business owner and a factory worker in Chengdu — supported his dreams, his father said in a letter written after his death. But they could not underwrite his entire education. His financial straits became so difficult his second year at Chapman that he almost dropped out before the school came through with additional money, Li said. Stephen Galloway, dean of Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University, confirmed that the school had supported the student with grants and that he had already largely completed his coursework. It will award him his master of fine arts degree posthumously, he said.

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