WHITE HOUSE DOWN
About the Cinematography
The director of photography Anna J. Foerster, who previously worked with director Roland Emmerich on the period drama Anonymous, re-teamed with the director for White House Down. "Anna doesn't want to be a cameraperson. Anna wants to be a director," says Emmerich. "So she approaches every shot like a director -- everything is about the story."
"At first, it was difficult to talk Anna into doing the movie -- 'I'm not shooting an action movie,' she said. And I said, 'Well, Anna, it will be the most beautiful action movie ever shot. What do you say to that?' She asked, 'Can we go really radical?' 'As radical as you want,' I said. And that's what we did."
"We decided to do the opposite of what people expect," says Foerster. "We're very extreme in the approach, contrasty sometimes, and at other times marginal, definitely not very conventional for the size of movie and for this genre, that's for sure."
Apparently, to a cinematographer, "going really radical" means shooting with a very wide lens. "It was something we started on Anonymous: we found that with the wide lenses, you can capture so much of the action as well as the whole scope," explains Foerster. "We have a favorite lens, a fifteen-and-a-half millimeter lens, which is really wide. It doesn't distort very much, so you don't have that feeling that you're looking through a fish eye -- it just gives you this wide image so that you see rooms from window to door, which is great. The challenge is, it's very hard to light."
After all -- if the lens is so wide that you're capturing the entire room, there's no place to hide the light. That's where the DP and director get clever. "You have to be very careful how you plan certain scenes and certain shots so that you can position the cameras and the people in a way that it makes sense with the light that is coming from the window or from a practical light source," says Foerster.
Emmerich says that it's tricky, but worth it. "All of these things add up to a very different-looking action film," he says.
Foerster and Emmerich also used blended light sources and reflections to avoid the perfect "movie lighting" you might expect from an action movie, but Foerster says it all serves the story. "The imperfect lighting creates a real and immediate feeling," she says. "If a character is standing in a dark corner and moves into the light, and now they're in silhouette, and in a moment they'll be overexposed when they stand next to a window -- all of that creates a certain uneasiness, because we go with those people to those different places. It helps tell the story of a man who is, at various points, being chased or chasing somebody."
Executive producer Reid Carolin says, "The way Anna has lit everything has blown me away. She's a true artist who plays with light and the set as if it's a painting. She creates incredibly sculpted, meticulous paintings with every frame."
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