SAE Industry Insight: Gaffer and AD, Werner Van Peppen

05 Aug 2020

Werner Van Peppen is a freelance gaffer and occasional AD who has worked on a wide range of productions, primarily working within the lighting and electrical departments. 

Werner has worked on some of the biggest films in history, including Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi, Rogue One, Avatar, and Black Widow

He also has 1st Assistant Director credits on a range of titles including the TV movie Snowflakes and the comedy coming-of-age short film, Sequins

What was Werner’s role on these big-budget films? 

Werner worked on the Star Wars movies as a Technology Manager (credited as IT support Manager) responsible for all the networks, mail servers, accounts, editorial, post network, storage, live streaming, wifi on set, data transfer etc. 

His work on Avatar involved setting up the DI system in New Zealand at Park Road Post and providing general support for the Quantel DI system (for which he worked at the time). He said: “It got me to New Zealand and LA, it's more than 10 years ago now.” 

For Black Widow, Werner got involved with the aerial coordinator which involved moving planes, helicopters and jets back and forth between different locations. Werner said: “This is easier said than done when they weigh several tonnes and are as big as a small house on occasion!”  

How did Werner get roles on such big productions?

Werner reckons that it was a combination of his experience, hard work, a bit of luck, saying yes to a whole lot of things and being nice to people who were willing to give him a chance. If he could say one thing to his younger self, he would say: “Go for it! Practical experience trumps anything.” 

What does Werner like about his job?  

Werner enjoys the freedom that accompanies his role, including getting to visit places you wouldn’t normally go to and meeting interesting people. 

In the long-term, Werner would like to make his own film/short, and has several ideas that he is working on expanding. 

What challenges has Werner faced in his career? 

Like many creatives, Werner has at times struggled with depression and failures. He said: “You have to keep going. It will only get better. If you feel miserable in what you are doing then make the change yourself. Don't wait for others to improve life for you. They won't all the time. Most people won't help you without getting something for themselves.” 

What should SAE students do to ensure they’re ready if the chance to work on a big budget production comes along? 

Werner recommends working on as many projects as you can, networking and learning accounting. You can be as much of a genius as you like, but HMRC won’t care if you mess up your tax return! 

Find out more about Werner’s work by checking out his IMDB page

Note: SAE Industry Insight is an interview feature where we talk to people working within the creative industries about their roles and how they got there, with the intention of providing SAE students with career advice. The people we interview are not necessarily affiliated with SAE in any way.