White House Renovations Impact the Film Industry

The White House announced that the long planned plant upgrades were completed today.  As part of the press release, they published pictures of the refreshed facility.  Of course a renovation like this doesn’t occur in a matter of months, there is a lot of planning that goes into updating the appearance of the building but also the infrastructure.  However, those plans are, as in this case, kept quiet until today, reveal day.

Throughout American history, cinema has portrayed the White House all the way back to the 1920s.  Since it is an active seat of government, it is rarely open to cameras except for press conferences and the odd documentary.  This is why the film industry may now scramble to duplicate the look of the newly updated White House.  Film, at it’s essence, is about telling a relevant story.  Part of relevance is ensuring that a viewer’s understanding (conscious or not) of the White House is consistent with what is portrayed in an film.  Sets will be updated, modified, and recreated for some shows.  Throwback shows have often utilized the Reagan National Library where there is a duplicate oval office but that only works for the older looks.

The great political shows of the past 20 years have done well at duplicating the look of the White House -whether it is The House of Cards, The West Wing, or VEEP.  The sets, although not entirely dimensional, at least look close enough to the actual government buildings to be believable.  Of course, this look depends on the goal of the show.  Saturday Night Live (for instance) usually portrays the typical vanguards of the oval office (a desk, some flags, and some gold curtains).  This fits the purpose of the show.  Accuracy of sets matter little when all is needed is enough visual archetypes are needed to give the audience a location reference before the satire flows.

Ultimately, this update to the White House will not only affect government but also ripple into the civilian sector for film makers.

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