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Watch: Donald Trump’s Deplorable Camera Placement and Cutting Errors

in Filmmaker Videos
on Aug 24, 2017

There’s already enough documentation on the Trump presidency to fill a university library (and we’re just getting started), but a few aspects have, I think, been underdocumented. One is Our 45th President’s almost endearing habit of asking, during his ex tempore rambles (politely, euphemistically and implausibly labeled “Remarks” on the White House website, as if they were full of stand-alone aphorisms that should be recorded for future circulation a la Oscar Wilde), where someone is: “Where is Reince?” “A couple of my friends are out in the audience today—Ike Perlmutter, Laura Perlmutter. Where are they? Where are they? Where are they?” I’ve screengrabbed and collated all these remarks in an ongoing Twitter thread to save historians some time later on.

The shoddiness of Trump’s Twitter has been widely remarked on: typos galore, weirdly formatted banner images, etc. The badness of the videos he posts—PowerPoint assemblages of stills, sub B-roll of people walking across tarmacs—has also been extensively analyzed, but one specific aspect has gone underexplored. His weekly “address to the nation” videos — his most on-script and, attendantly, dullest—are shot from two angles: one a head-on shot, the other a sort of 3/4 profile view looking at him from his right. This other angle is pretty disorienting: Trump’s really bad at being able to take his eyes off the teleprompter for even a second, and seeing him not head-on accentuates that. In a movie, this would make a sort of sense: the head-on shot would be the representation of the speech itself, the other angle the “real, on-set” shot. But the Trump administration is not (yet) a movie, so the other angle is  a baffling choice: he’s not making eye contact, which is pretty much a prerequisite of anytime a president directly addresses the people. Is the idea just to lessen the boredom by giving people a second angle to make your pupil jump around a little bit, a la David Fincher’s reframing from shot to shot? Because if so it’s not working at all.

The editing further confuses matters. The head-on shot gets the bulk of the running time, as Trump delivers one to three sentences in each such shot; when cutting to the other angle, he gets out at most a sentence. Sometimes, though, it’s only a clause: in the example linked above, for example, in the sentence “And just this week, we announced a historic immigration bill to create a merit-based Green Card system” etc., the camera only stays on the second angle for the words “And just this week, we announced a historic immigration bill” before cutting back to head-on. This means these secondary insert shots can be something like two seconds long—again, theoretically there’s a kind of logic here, because at least the cuts are timed to sentences and clauses, but it actually makes no sense and is wildly disorienting every single time. [Addendum, per Scott Macaulay: “The visible light source in the cutaway accentuates the badness of the cut. It’s like the lighting background doesn’t match.”] These are the kind of rookie camera placement and editing errors that not even a sophomore year film production student would make.

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