Carl H. Lindner College of BusinessCarl H. Lindner College of BusinessUniversity of Cincinnati

Carl H. Lindner College of Business
Ben Schweitzer

Preparation Meets Opportunity

Kolodzik Business Scholar gets a once-in-lifetime opportunity in China.

When Ben Schweitzer, BBA ‘13, interned in China during the summer of 2011, he had an additional adventure that he could not have predicted.

Schweitzer, a Marvin P. Kolodzik Business Scholar and University Honors student in the Carl H. Lindner College of Business, ended up working at China’s Hengdian Studios ­– the largest film studio in Asia – as an assistant to a movie star.

The international business and finance major traveled to China to intern for NXP Semiconductors in Shanghai when fate met opportunity. As an intern conducting market research on solar panels and digital products, he was introduced to an agent.

A few weeks later, Schweitzer got a call from the agent who told him that actor Wen Zhang was looking for an English conversation partner to stay with him 24/7.

“I asked, ‘what does this job entail?’ ” Schweitzer says. “They told me that I would be kind of an assistant to him, if he needed help, but mostly we would just talk.”

Schweitzer already knew Mandarin Chinese conversationally because of his Taiwanese mother, but he was not proficient at writing the language. Luckily, before going to China, he had taken some courses at UC.

“A simple stroke means the difference between ‘dog’ and ‘chair,’” Schweitzer says, laughing.

Zhang, the 27-year-old actor, is well known in China. “I started by reading his biography,” Schweitzer says. He then watched all Zhang’s movies. “He was in the middle of filming ‘Ocean Heaven,’ where he played someone with autism and the son of Jet Li.”

Zhang is a friend of Li’s, a well-known philanthropist for his Jet Li One Foundation in China.

Finally, Zhang and Schweitzer were ready to meet.

“At first I talked in Chinese with him,” says Schweitzer. “After that, we switched to English. He told me, ‘You are going to see my life.’ ”

First they went to Hengdian and filmed there for about a month and a half. The movie was an old ancient Chinese folk tale. “It will be the biggest movie this year,” says Schweitzer.

Schweitzer’s talents were noticed by others. He helped the director, Stephen Chow, with translations. Schweitzer was even listed in the credits for “Journey to the West” as “Special Assistant.” He also got a call to be a celebrity guest judge on the Chinese equivalent of an “American Idol” show.

“I’m not sure what qualifies me for that!” he says, laughing.

Schweitzer and Zhang discussed Western and Eastern cultures a lot, comparing their similar family values. “He is solidly connected: he’s an esteemed actor, married, with a daughter,” Schweitzer notes. Zhang posted photos of Ben on his blog — to the delight of Ben’s grandparents, who still live in Taiwan.

The next movie, “Love Is Not Blind,” required travelling all across China. It was the second-highest grossing movie with the biggest opening at the box office.

The group filmed three movies in the time that Schweitzer was with them. “They work really hard — 12 hours a day,” Schweitzer says. “It’s not glamorous.”

Now that Schweitzer has had a taste of China, he is positive about returning there after graduation in 2013. He’s headed back to co-op in the spring and summer 2012 terms, and once again he’ll work with Zhang on the set of his latest film.

Schweitzer’s brush with fame prompted him to take an acting class winter 2012 term at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music. Through the Lindner College of Business, he is a member of a business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi and remains involved in the International Business Club and the Entrepreneurship Club, a group he enjoys for its “out-of-the-box thinking,” he says.

When he returns to UC for his senior year, he’s also thinking about adding a minor in Asian studies and perhaps learning another Chinese dialect, like Cantonese.

“I was completely lost trying to talk the language in Hong Kong and Guangdong,” he says. “It was humbling. But no doubt I want to work abroad in China: Shanghai especially. I want to put my skills to the test.”