William Huang ’14: Filmmaking is Like Building a House

2013_1205_Schnaittacher_WilliamHuangWhile others focus on the beauty of a particular shot, or the arc of the narrative, for Tzu Jung “William” Huang ‘14, the attraction of film is in the meticulous process of figuring out how each piece fits perfectly with every other.

That’s what drew the Taiwan native to film making in elementary school, where he started tinkering with Windows Movie Maker during a fifth-grade summer camp, and it’s what has kept him interested enough to learn other editing programs such as Final Cut.

It’s all about starting from nothing, says Mr. Huang, who tends to break into a wide, infectious grin while he talks about his process.

“It’s like building a house from all the raw materials,” he says. “From nothing, to 100 percent done.”

The freedom to explore interests such as film—which Mr. Huang does largely on his free time or as his Afternoon Program assignment with the Communications Office—was what drew him to boarding school in the United States. As a student in Taipei, Mr. Huang began his school day at 7:30 a.m. and would often remain until 9:00 p.m. Teachers were strict—and private. It was unheard of for a teacher to invite his pupil home for dinner, as often happens at Williston, Mr. Huang said.

“Here the relationship between teachers and students can be really, really close. They can be like friends,” he said. “They can help you almost anytime, anywhere… They can even invite you to their house to have dinner with their families.”

7250273400_15fcc613d2_o-medAs a result, Mr. Huang has found that Williston students are more engaged in class, more willing to discuss their work, and will even talk about issues from their own perspectives as adolescents.

“Collaboration with the class, it’s important,” he said. “That’s the most important part, being open minded, not judging people based on what they said.”

Although Mr. Huang misses a few things from home—beef noodles and rice with stewed meats top his list—he’s also learned to love aspects of his adopted culture: brownies with milk, fresh air, large American cars, and the chance to embrace new ideas.

Mr. Huang’s senior schedule includes a Williston Scholars course called Contemporary Art and Culture, as well as classes on economics, creative writing, AP physics, honors discrete math, and eastern religions. He’s also in the string ensemble where he plays cello. For the past four years, he’s volunteered as an International Intern, where his duties have included planning the initial orientation for the international students and arranging slideshows and other technical aspects of the annual Diversity Day. Mr. Huang also arranged to have projectors set up for the event’s main stage.

“I like to make things work perfectly. To be stunning,” Mr. Huang said.

Bridget Choo, who taught Mr. Huang in English Language Learners class and also works with him as the International Student Coordinator and Director of Diversity, described him as “a positive force in our community” and “very generous with his time.”

In a letter, Ms. Choo noted that he had volunteered at international orientation since ninth grade and had served as director of the program last year.

“I am particularly impressed with William’s ability to make technology work for him,” she wrote. “At every diversity program since his freshman year he has been the student behind the scenes, facilitating all technological aspects. He has established himself as our “go to” technology expert, so much so that our own technology department often uses his skill to support or help orient other students.”

Whether it’s building stage sets, editing video, or studying engineering—which he hopes to pursue in college and as a career—Mr. Huang said he tackles each project the same way: as interlocking pieces in a huge puzzle. It’s an approach that he said receives a lot of encouragement at Williston.

“Here, teachers actually encourage us to keep thinking,” he said. “Don’t worry about the result—just keep thinking, keep thinking.”

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