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Scott Sforza: White House Art Director

Scott Sforza is a hot topic at www.greg.org, the weblog of New York filmmaker and writer Greg Allen. Sforza is best described as the White House art director, carefully designing George Bush's public appearances. Allen, who has been monitoring Sforza's image making with an astute eye, answered some of our questions about this set-dressing of world leadership.

Who is Scott Sforza? What does he do?

Scott Sforza was a news producer who the Bush 2000 campaign hired away from ABC. With Bush as his main performer, Sforza and his team produce news images from Bush's public appearances to illustrate the White House's chosen message for a given day. He designs sets, stages, crowd scenes, props--and most famously, backdrops--for an event, and he places the TV cameras in exactly the right spot so they can get the perfect shot the White House wants.

What do you consider his most impressive work?

I'm constantly impressed by the images he's able to create. Last February, the White House basically turned the Daytona 500 into a giant campaign appearance. He gave photographers with long-range lenses this shot of Air Force One taking off, and it looks like fans in the stands could just reach up and touch it. Of course, he also got busted for doing the whole "Mission Accomplished" scene, with Bush landing on the aircraft carrier.

Can you compare his role to that of Hitler's infamous propagandist cinematographer Leni Riefenstahl?

I think I actually have. Riefenstahl was such a problem for film people because, while they strongly opposed the people and the ideas she served, they couldn't deny the sheer skill and inventiveness of her work. At the RNC convention, for example, [Sforza and co.] lifted state-of-the-art techniques straight from the entertainment industry--even from a documentary about Robert Evans, the ultimate embodiment of everything conservatives hate about Hollywood--and what do they do with them? They paint a Hollywood-worthy picture of Bush. And they slam Hollywood. It's truly fantastic.

How did you become a Sforza nut?

I think I've just stuck with it longer than most people. I just try to take a filmmaker's view of things and ask myself, how did they make this image? If you're not a big fan of the star, but you still have to watch the show, it helps to start paying attention to the cinematography and the sets instead.

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