Q&A with CMA professor and producer of “What Lies Below”

This intricate film has been trending on Netflix for the past week, leaving students inspired to follow in Abel Vang’s footsteps.

Kate Bomar, Staff Writer

Produced by Biola professor Abel Vang,“What Lies Below” hit Netflix and became trending one day after Easter and remained in the Top 10 for a week. Vang gives readers an inside scoop to the production of his trending Netflix film. 

“What Lies Below” tells a story of  a 16-year-old girl who meets her mother’s fiancé for the first time and feels drawn to him in an unusual way. Over the course of the movie, viewers find out that this man is not who he claims to be.  

To be a producer for a Netflix film, which has been in the Top 10 for the past week, is an extremely big deal. How are you feeling about this?

Abel Vang: “It’s crazy and exciting in a weird way, because we’re just this small time movie made by a first time director, and it’s kind of surprising that none of the Oscar nominated films were even trending in the Top 10, but somehow our little film shot in New York was. I went to sleep the night after its release on Netflix and woke up the next morning, and checked my emails. I opened up Netflix and we are trending at No. 3, even though this thing just dropped yesterday. There are so many other movies that are bigger, and it was pretty exciting. The next day we hit No. 1 and the day after and it was like that for three days. It was pretty unexpected.”

What was the movie-making process like?

Abel Vang: “We made the movie during my first semester of teaching here at Biola. What really happened was my friend Braden Duemmler from film school had the script laying around and a mutual friend came up to me saying Brad was trying to get this movie off the ground, but didn’t know where to start.”

Abel Vang: “Back in 2018, we met at an 85°C coffee shop here in Cerritos where I live. Us three guys were sitting around having coffee and Brad pitched this film to me as a sci-fi mystery movie which was later labeled as a horror film.”

Abel Vang: “I helped set Brad up with a casting director and also different meetings with department heads. From the moment we were able to cast Mena Suvari from American Horror Story we were in full throttle. We got the star, we started identifying every single department head and then we shot it in upstate New York.”

Do you have a personal favorite scene?

Abel Vang: “I’m not sure I have a personal favorite scene. I think the whole time the movie is so creepy and it just gets under your skin, and that’s what it’s supposed to do. Ema Horvath who played Liberty is such a good actress. I think the director was really happy with casting her as well. I’d say any scene with Ema in it was a favorite because she comes off so natural and she really carried the movie. At first I thought our film would be riding on someone like Mena Suvari, but at the end it really rides on Ema Horvath’s performance, which is right because she is the main character.”

Do you like the idea of fans figuring everything out or do you prefer when it remains a mystery.

Abel Vang: “I think the director wanted it to be mysterious in a way and what he ultimately wanted to do, he accomplished. He did an interview with Entertainment Weekly and he has his reasoning behind it, but for the audience it may come off a bit vague, but to me personally I like that, so in a way it’s not so spoon fed or cookie cutter. It makes people wonder and dig a little deeper.”

How does the movie affect Biola students who want to get involved?

Abel Vang: “Since this movie has been trending, I have been sharing the news with all my students and it has been such a positive reinforcement. It’s promising to see one talk about film theory, see its action, how it’s applied, and see the results. I’m not just teaching them out of a textbook, but real experiences. The projects they do now will have a huge impact when they go out and do it professionally. That’s how I teach. I teach students to do exactly what I’m doing now.”

Do you have any advice for students who want to follow in your footsteps?

Abel Vang: “Ultimately, ‘What Lies Below’ was made by a bunch of friends who went to film school together, and that was where we formed our relationships. Especially for myself and my colleagues, a lot of the movies that we made overtime had been from ideas that were brought up in film school.” 

Abel Vang: “Success doesn’t begin after you graduate, it starts here. It starts in the classroom. College is where you’re gonna form relationships with people, find your voice and nurture your creativity, talents and skills.

0 0 votes
Article Rating