Category:scott sforza, wh producer

This is so beyond jumping the shark. At least the shark was jumped on the main show.

Colin Powell singing YMCA in Jakarta (he was the construction worker.) is the political equivalent of a bitter, aging Erin Moran, who--realizing her series isn't going to be renewed, and without even a glint of hope for a Charles in Charge of her own--just pushes through the script and tries to get through the week so she can cash her check and suck it up her nose. [via waxy]

On Monday, the Bush-Cheney show had (yet another) location shoot in Ohio. Exec Prod. Karl Rove is guarding the script closer than a CIA agent's identity, it appeared to be (yet another) Bush Liking Black People scene.

The production company has published some pictures from the set on their website. They reveal some useful tips for imagemakers who need to utterly transform an alcohol and drug treatment center into a TV-friendly black-box studio.

First, the basics:

  • Design backdrops with both wide shots (banner and happy collage) and tight shots (image closeups, and/or tiny banners illegible at a distance)
  • Position backdrops in line with both TV and print camera pens.
  • Wrap crowd around for alternate background, as needed

    Rarely Ideas:

  • Rig even lighting on the set; light the audience for wide shot; spot the backdrops.
  • Lay matte-black flooring on set.
  • Paint all chairs and railings matte black.
  • Add matte black screen to avoid (unwanted) up-the-skirt or bulge shots.

  • June 22, 2004

    The W is for WTF?

    w_ketchup.gif"W Ketchup would like to thank President Reagan for his selfless service to this nation.

    "Reagan won the Cold War, let private enterprise flourish, and most of all made Americans proud to be Americans again...

    "You donít support Democrats. Why should your ketchup?

    "W Ketchup is Americaís Ketchupô."

    the bush-cheney campaign site splash page
    Reagan hits his last mark, stumping for the Bush/Cheney campaign

    Love him or hate him, you've gotta give Karl Rove credit for pulling the plug at the optimal time. He manages 1) to divert attention from whatever new Bush administration embarassments are set to unfold this week, and 2) he figures out how to get some campaign appearances out of Reagan.

    Related: Joan Didion's Reagan myth-puncturing essay, The Lion King, in the NYRB.

    [Update: finally, a Nader for the right wingnuts. Bush/ZombieReagan '04 campaign site]

    April 10, 2004

    Hook, Line and Sinker

    I usually confine my viewing of OLN, the Outdoor Life Network, to pen-to-pen coverage of the Professional Bull Riders Tour.

    But then, like a shiny object dancing before me, on-the-set production details for OLN's Fishing With Roland Martin appeared on Josh Marshall's Talkingpointsmemo:

    On Saturday, Bush and his father were to go fishing at the ranch's bass pond with a crew from the Outdoor Life Network's "Fishing with Roland Martin."

    The White House approached the network about coming to film Bush, who is eager to cultivate an image as a sportsman with the millions of voters who hunt and fish. The crew was to bring its own boat for the shoot on the small pond. [emphasis added for ironic effect]

    I'd imagine Roland & Co. would need at least a month's leadtime to put such a shoot together. Coincidentally, it's been just over a month since White House producers--and sportsman voters--heard a report on NPR where "the hook-and-bullet crowd" voice opposition to the Bush administration's environmental policies. Roland's crew is joined this weekend by the NRA and conservative/moderate conservation groups mentioned in the story.

    Although manmade, Bush's bass pond was not actually excavated for the shoot. The CSMonitor even mentions it in a WH Press Office-stocked feature on Bush's Crawford ranch:

    A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll shows that 55 percent of Americans believe four weeks is too long for a president to be away from Washington. Keenly aware of the image of a slough-off president - the Washington Post calculates that Bush has spent 42 percent of his presidency at vacation spots or en route - the White House refers to this as a "working" vacation. The president has planned about two trips a week to spread the gospel of "heartland values." Last week, much of his time was taken up with the televised announcement of his stem-cell decision.

    Still, there's no doubt the president is enjoying considerable down time. He's gone on long, early morning walks with his wife, golfed with friends at a nearby course in Waco, fished, and jogged through canyons on his land - where he's also building a nature walk. [emphasis added]

    The date of that article: August 14, 2001.

    Hong Kong? or Daytona? AF1 taking off on the occasion of some sporting event or another. image: AP via

    It's not political theater, even political amphitheater. It's beyond political grandstanding, even though there are grandstands in the picture. It's the political imagemaking equivalent of the chariot race in Ben Hur: Air Force One taking off next to Daytona International Speedway during the Daytona 500.

    Sforza knows how to set up the camera positions for the best shot, image: Reuters via

    And it was purely for show; GWB had already run a partial lap around the track in his motorcade before turning the gaggle of NASCAR drivers into colorful extras for his own photo op. [The composition is similar to the Thanksgiving turkey shoot in Iraq, where a 3-D environment wraps around Bush, as opposed to the less sophisticated made-from-people backdrop.] I can't wait for a similar shot from the Republican Convention, with corporate sponsors swarming around Bush in a visual cacophany of be-logoed gear.

    Whatever your leanings, you have to be daft, numb and blind to not appreciate the near-sublime stagecraft of White House Productions' Scott Sforza. [via NYT's David Sanger]

    Update [via Slate's Bryan Curtis]: in 1969 Nixon tried to pull the same sports photo op to appeal to the same demographic by choppering into the Texas-Arkansas football game. The resulting photos are positively primitive compared to Sforza's handiwork. No DW Griffith, but it got the criticism-deflecting job done.

    Scott Sforza parking a Coast Guard cutter for Bush's speech, image:
    No run-of-the-mill PowerPoint banners in South Carolina. No, the money shot of White House Productions' primary mitigation show was clearly the Coast Guard cutter, positioned behind Bush's podium.
    GWB in Charleston in front of shipping containers, image:
    Forget the boat, though, and go wide. Bush is addressing his crowd of extras in a mini-amphitheater made from shipping containers. This set is my pick for Sforzian Backdrop of The Week.

    Related: posts about how I [inexplicably heart] shipping containers

    February 3, 2004

    Calling Scott Sforza

    Some schlub Dem senator falls in the forest against the Bush budget, next to an embarassing picture of a red elephant, image:AP/
    To protest Bush's 2005 budget, the party of Liberal Hollywood ignores the dark art of image manipulation (cf. White House Productions' favorites, PowerPoint wallpaper and carefully positioned crowds of (skin)color-coordinated soldiers) in favor of some intern's clip art.

    Let's get one thing straight: this is not Democratic indie authenticity going up against Republican soulless studio spectacle. Just 'cuz Karl Rove is playing Jerry Bruckheimer doesn't mean the Dems are suddenly Steven Soderbergh; they're the dweebs sending their darndest "accidents" to America's Funniest Home Videos.

    Related: Scott Sforza, White House Productions. And they do indie, too.

    Just a quick Sforzian note of these two Reuters photos, which were side by side on a Yahoo News page this morning:

    1/10/04 image of Dean emerging from the depths of his hellish kingdom to rain secular terror upon the earth, apparently: reuters rick wilking via yahoo 1/9/04 image of Bush anointed by God, single-handedly hastening His second coming by launching Armageddon, apparently, image: reuters larry downing via yahoo

    Related: Producer Scott Sforza, who's built a Potemkin village centered around the White House.

    [via Gothamist] Jimmy Orr, the Choire Sicha to George Bush's Nick Denton, has posted his new short film, Barney Cam II: Barney Reloaded, on his weblog, Elizabeth Bumiller, the Times' specialist on the dependent film industry, gives it a glowing review and talks with Orr, who co-produced Barney II with Bob deServi. DeServi is best known for his work as the key grip on many of Scott Sforza's productions, which are being shown on TV everywhere, all the time, on every channel.

    Scott Orr films Barney II with what looks like a Sony VX-2000, Magic Hour? Scott Orr demonstrates his handheld video technique in the making of Barney Cam II. Image: Paul Morse,

    Like Elephant director Gus Van Sant, Orr prefers working with non-professional actors (although it doesn't seem like he budgeted much time for rehearsals). He's got a scrappy, run-and-gun style which constrasts sharply with Sforza's theatrically staged fictions.

    As these behind-the-scenes shots reveal, Orr also scorns the debilitatingly large budgets favored by his White Housemates. His equipment package and crew are strictly barebones: a Sony VX-2000 (good, but not Combat Camera good), with a camera-mounted mic feeding into the XLR adapter (no sound guy) and using only available lighting. Of course, none of this is unexpected; compensating for a small package is a recurring theme on Orr's site.

    Also screening at
    Secretary Evans Reads "Cowboy Night Before Christmas" [Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, FYI]
    Mrs. Bush Reads "Angelina's Christmas"

    Ungrateful criticism of diServi and Sforza by their star actor
    Bumiller's first review of Scott Sforza and Bob diServi productions.

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    Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

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