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Creating Realities in Film that Effectively Transport Viewers: Art Director Haisu Wang

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Art Director Haisu Wang shot by Tian-ran Qin

 

As the art director of the films “Is That A Gun in Your Pocket?,” “Contrapelo” and “Day One,” ABC’s hit television series “The Muppets,” the Asian television series “My Sunshine,” and commercials for major global clients including Kia, Chinese native Haisu Wang has carved out an indelible place for himself in the international entertainment industry as someone who’s skill effectively transports audiences into the world of the stories on screen, no matter how far fetched they may be.

While it is no secret that the film industry is full of oversized egos often competing for the glitz and glory, what makes Wang so special, besides his adept technical skill and unparalleled creativity, is the fact that he always lets the director’s vision for a project guide his work.

Never failing to design an atmosphere that creates the perfect environment for a story, the versatile nature of his creative vision compounded by his intuitive approach has allowed him to nail the mark every time.

“My passion is always creating environments to help storytelling,” admits Wang.

It is no coincidence that practically every project that Wang has art directed to date has received coveted accolades. As the art director of the film “Day One,” which earned a nomination for an Oscar Award at the 2016 Academy Awards, in addition to winning two Emmy Awards at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences College Television Awards in 2015, one of which earned director Henry Hughes the award for Best Director, Wang’s work garnered worldwide attention.

About Wang’s invaluable work on the film Hughes explains, “Haisu’s vision and rare skill using digital software to create some of the most challenging sets for ‘Day One’ was invaluable to our production, especially considering the geographic challenges of the location. Without his contributions it would have been nearly impossible to construct these sets in the amount of time and within the allotted budget. He is definitely a huge asset to the film industry.”

Whether he is working on a film, television series or commercial, Wang’s attention to detail combined with his logical and budget conscious approach to outfitting each set with the right props has been imperative in setting the tone and creating believable environments for each and every production he’s contributed to.

As the art director of Kia’s “Extraordinary Day” commercial, also known as “When an Ordinary Day Turns Extraordinary,” which currently has over 900,000 views on YouTube and was produced by BuzzFeed, Wang turned the sets of a simple car commercial into a project that plays visually on screen like a narrative story. From the minor knick knacks of a local garage sale, to colorful balloons falling from the ceiling after one of the character’s wins a raffle in a convenient store—Wang’s work manages to keep viewers engaged as we watch a love connection sparked between two Kia Soul drivers all started from the fact that they share the same kind of car.

For Wang, who also spent time as a visual effects artist for three-time Emmy Award winning VFX and animation company, Base FX, based in Beijing, China, art has been a major part of his life since childhood.

“I practiced Chinese calligraphy with my grandpa since I was a kid and also learned how to make shadow play puppetry with him, and I think that set the foundation of my path in art,” admits Wang.

Wang recently wrapped production as the art director of multi-award winning director Ryan Velásquez’s (“Ojalá,” “Record Breaker”) film “Drowning,” which is slated for release later this year. The film follows Gabe, played by Jovan Armand (“The Middle,” “Shameless,” “Parenthood”), an overweight teen who finally starts feeling good about himself after he musters up the courage to talk to Sarah, the girl of his dreams, and an unexpected friendship forms. However, when the high school bully and bane of Gabe’s existence makes Sarah his newest target, Gabe is forced to decide between remaining a coward in his comfort zone or standing up to the bully and fighting against injustice.

As the lead art director on “Drowning,” Wang had the difficult task of arranging a set to depict Gabe falling onto the ground combined with a montage in water. He was able to build a vertical wall on a track and dress it to appear as the floor so that the actor was able to pretend to hit the ground without hurting himself. On “Drowning,” as he has done on many of his past productions, Wang utilized his excellent CGI skills to create a revisualization animation to rehearse the timing of the scene; this assisted the director greatly in explaining how the scene could work for the actor.

Through his work on screen it is easy to see that Wang is passionate about the worlds he creates for the characters in a story; and, as all of the worlds from film to film are completely different, the versatility he’s shown across projects is just another testament to his seasoned skill in creating the perfect environment for each project on an individual level.

With “Drowning” on the verge of release, and Wang set to begin production as the digital asset art director on the highly anticipated sequel “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” later this year, audiences can look forward to seeing more of art director Haisu Wang’s ingenious work on screen very soon.

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