With thousands of miles between them, George Mooradian, the five-time Emmy-nominated cinematographer and 1971 Division of Film alum, and Wenting Deng, a second-year MFA student, formed a bond spanning from Los Angeles to Athens.
The friendship between the two filmmakers found its early planting when Mooradian came to the university for a postponed 40-year-anniversary commencement ceremony in 2011. That was when Mooradian met Steve Ross, director of the Film Division. Charmed by his enthusiasm and excitement, the Division later awarded Mooradian with a Medal of Merit award from the school.
“He came, he met the students, he brought his wife and children down and he was just so thrilled to be back,” Ross said.
This led to a vacation Ross took to LA to see Mooradian and his family, as well as the studio where George worked and the city. It was there where Ross saw that George was so proud of his award that he hosted it proudly on a monitor. Preceding this trip, Mooradian and Ross continued to be in conversation, emailing one another at various moments. This continued conversation lead to the student and alum getting to know one another.
“I talked to Steve at the beginning of this summer that I was going out to LA and hoping to know more experienced professionals and learn more about cinematography,” Deng said. “I was very excited when Steve gave me the name of a prolific (Director of Photography) in LA. I emailed George and he emailed me back the day after. We emailed back and forth a few times and eventually met up when I was in LA.”
Although they communicated, they didn’t really get to know one another until they started calling. In fact, for a while, Mooradian mistook Deng for a man, having only communicated through email before then.
These initial conversations would then lead to Deng being in LA with Mooradian, getting to learn about the business by being around him as he worked on The Exes.
“I find it immensely satisfying to give back,” Mooradian said. “Whether it’s the American Society of Filmmakers, education and innovation or this, I like doing it, giving back. It’s especially gratifying to do it to someone from my home ammeter. I’m tired of all the AFI graduates, so it’s nice to give back and opening doors to an OU Bobcat is very gratifying.”
In addition to being on his set and learning valuable information, Deng also got the privilege of being with Mooradian not only when he received word that he was nominated for an Emmy for his work on The Exes—his fifth nomination after being nominated for According to Jim four times—but also got the honor of being Mooradian’s guest to the festivities.
“It was very exciting for me to be at the Emmys with George,” Deng said. “He introduced me to many experienced cinematographers who have worked on popular TV shows like Last Man Standing, 2 Broke Girls, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, etc. They were all friendly, easy to talk to and helpful to me. Mooradian seemed calm before he went on to the stage. When the host called his name, he was very excited to go on to the stage.”
Through this trip, Deng met the director, cast and writer, while also witnessing Mooradian working with lighting, camera crew and the multi-camera working world. The later being very different than what she worked with at film school.
“There was (one) piece of advice that stuck out the most that I got not only from George but also a few other cinematographers,” Deng said. “It is working and aiming at the position I want to be at from the very beginning. From my understanding, if I want to be a cinematographer, I needed to not only be updated with the newest technology as a cameraman but (also) stay creative as an artist.”
As gratifying as it was for Deng, it was equally as great for Mooradian to give back to a place where he was given so much.
“Overall, it was really fantastic to show her my world,” Mooradian said.