Shoot the conference title from this preset camera position;
state seal and flowing flag when allowed to shoot head-on. images:whitehouse.gov
Sforzian Backgrounds. So that’s what they’re called. At least that’s what Elizabeth Bumiller’s NYT article calls those glib slogan-filled, PowerPointy, made-for-TV backdrops that show up behind Bush whenever there’s a camera around. They’re named for Scott Sforza, a former TV producer, who is finally getting credit/scrutiny for his tireless work behind the scenes in this White House’s quantum leap in visual image control.
Sforza spent days “embedded” on that aircraft carrier, prepping for Bush’s staged arrival. “Sforza and his aides choreographed every aspect of the event,” Bumiller writes. White House cinematographer (yes, there is one) Bob deServi gets credit for angling the ship just right and timing the spectacle so they can take advantage of “magic hour” lighting [a recurring subject here].
It’s about damn time we get a Making Of piece. The best DVD’s now are full of this stuff. Hell, I just saw Making the Animatrix on MTV2, a meta-meta-program on a meta-meta network. (making of animated spinoffs of a movie; spinoff channel for videos for songs. Please keep up, people.)
For the screamingly obvious manipulation/staging of these images, it’s pretty inexcusable that we’ve had to wait this long for someone to report on it. (OK, ABC buried one mention.) I mean, Scott Sforza only has 25 Google hits, and just one ancient credit on IMDb. If some premium cable channel offered a Sforza commentary track for all Bush’s appearances, I’d definitely subscribe.
White House DP Bob deServi: “You want it, I’ll heat it up and make a picture.”
Surprisingly, though, the White House website has tons of media-critique-ready photos which unintentionally (?) reveal the machinery behind these made-for-TV-and-only-for-TV images. The bird’s eye view of Bush’s Waco Forum shows the press getting their White House-designed shot, complete with Sforzian Backgrounds. And check out this photo from a beautifully lit deServi production of Bush and Putin in St Petersburg, which has a boom mike hovering in the foreground.
To light this shot, deServi shipped floodlights from the UK
And this pic captures the elaborate staging elements imported to Romania for White House Productions’ biggest (pre-tailhook incident) show, a 2002 Bush speech in Bucharest’s Revolution Square. (Sforza even put up a little “Romania” banner, just in case you didn’t recognize that other flag.)
The sheer volume of photos on the White House site reveals another Sforza favorite, what Bumiller’d call the “men without ties” background, for those ops when a giant slogan just won’t do. He used it at Tailhook, when he put soldiers Skittles-colored turtlenecks in the background. Last month, in an uncrowded but well-draped Boeing factory, Sforza had Boeing workers perch on top of an F-18 to be seen listening to Bush’s Iraqi progress report. Looks a lot like last August at the fair, where he arrayed some farmers on tractors and bales of hay. But not so fast. Sometimes, he uses the “men without ties” wallpaper-style, and sometimes he actually puts them into the Sforzian Background. (Note: the last one has stock photos so nice, Sforza used them twice. Check out the SB in this elaborate 3D setup for conservative conservatism, which looks to mean “black people in front.”)
So, with this media manipulation thing, just like with that whole neo-con American Empire thing, the “run by and for corporations” thing, the “we need and may use new nuclear weapons” thing, with this supposedly secretive administration, there’s actually plenty to see. It’s not that no one cares. It’s just that the White House makes it so easy to not report it.