Open for Questions: West Wing Week

Uploaded by whitehouse on 14.04.2011

Ms. Schulman: Good afternoon and welcome to the White House for a very
special Open for Questions event.
For the past year, West Wing Week has been your backstage
pass to everything that's happening at the White House and
with the Obama Administration, your guide to everything at 1600 Pennsylvania.
And today we're celebrating the one year anniversary of West
Wing Week, and you have the opportunity to meet the men
behind the curtain.
We have Josh Earnest to my right,
the Deputy Press Secretary for the White House,
and whose voice you've heard narrating the West Wing Week
videos, and then also Arun Chaudhary,
the official White House videographer and the creator of
West Wing Week.
I'm Kori Schulman in the Office of New Media,
and for the past couple of weeks you've been sending in hundreds
of questions and comments on Facebook and through, your questions about West Wing Week,
and we've got a stockpile we're going to answer.
You can also join a live chat that's happening right now on Facebook.
If you go to,
you can start submitting your questions,
and I'll be scanning the live chat and also asking some of those.
So, without further ado, I'm going to turn it over to these
gentlemen and start with the first question that comes from
Louise Begley of Northern Ireland, she's in Belfast.
And she asks -- she has two questions;
"Hi Josh and Arun."
She asks, "Where did the idea of doing West Week come from?
And, Josh, were you always the person who was going to narrate,
or was there an audition process?"
Mr. Earnest: Sure.
Well, first of all, it's good to see that we've gone global.
That's kind of fun.
Arun should talk about this, because Arun really is sort of
the creative force behind West Wing Week,
but he is somebody who, when he started the position as the
White House Videographer, it was a brand new position,
and I was getting all kinds of interesting footage,
and after -- after a while, we were sort of struggling with how
to sort of best put this into, into a form,
into a vehicle that would allow us to sort of live up to the
President's commitment to transparency and give people
across the country and, apparently, people like Louise,
people around the world, the opportunity to take a look
behind the scenes at the White House and really live up to the
President's commitment to having the most transparent White House
in history.
Arun, do you want to talk about that process a little bit?
Mr. Chaudhary: That's exactly right.
At the end of every, you know, week or so,
I would have all this great footage and no real place to put
it, and so West Wing Week basically is the vehicle for all
this behind of scenes footage that we wanted to share with
people but didn't quite know how.
And I think the real thing that made it work was selecting a week.
You know, a week is a short enough period of time where I
still think it's very relevant to people, you know,
throughout the week, but is a long enough period of time that
we're not struggling to try to put something out everyday,
for instance, which we had tried and was not well and possible.
Ms. Schulman: The second part to her question is,
"Is there anything that you've planned to feature on West Wing
Week that's been overruled by your bosses?
Is there anything that you still want to show or feature?
How does that approval process work?"
Mr. Chaudhary: Like any other photo or image produced by the administration,
it is looked at by the Comms and the press shop of which,
you know, Josh is part, before it goes out.
But I will say, and I get asked this question a lot,
the two reasons things end up on the cutting room floor,
and there really is basically two of them, is: One,
there simply isn't enough time.
The President did too many things in that week to,
you know, keep it within the time frame we like to do.
A lot of times events of things that were interesting and cool,
something like the Motown event, for instance,
just didn't have time that week to include this West Wing Week.
And the other reason is, sometimes I think things are
funny that other people think are non sequiturs,
and that's my own problem as an artist.
Mr. Earnest: That's true.
Well, I also think that there's a little bit of creative balance
in terms of the number of things we were trying to accomplish in
one short weekly video, in terms of trying to convey a genuine
sense about what it is that the President accomplished that
week, but also trying to conceive of what his priorities
were, sort of what he accomplished and what his main
priorities were in terms of what he focused on.
But we also want to make it interesting.
We also want to try and give people a unique look at what
happens at the White House.
And so trying to strike the right balance of being serious
about the tough challenges that the President confronted that
week, while also trying to add a little bit of levity and a
little bit of spontaneity into a video.
And trying to strike that balance means that sometimes
there are serious things that are left on the cutting room
floor and sometimes it means there are more spontaneous
things that don't quite make the cut at the end of the day.
But trying to find that right balance every week, I think,
is the principal challenge.
Ms. Schulman: So we've got a lot of great questions coming in.
If you're just joining us, go to
Click the link to join the chat that's happening right now on Facebook.
We've got a lot of questions and comments, actually,
about this cup.
It's a White House coffee for those of you that are curious.
A lot of chatter about turning the cup.
Mr. Earnest: Okay.
Ms. Schulman: This questions comes from Lalani Martinez, and she asks:
How does government create compelling videos?
What's the recipe?
What are three things we should consider when we're trying to
produce interesting videos that are more than just talking heads?
Mr. Chaudhary: I think, at least from my perspective,
you hit the nail right there, which is trying not to rely on
talking heads.
You know, especially something like West Wing Week,
we try to show things in action on the periphery,
how they're working, because, I mean,
as informative as it can be having someone simply just sit
down and explain to you what's going on,
usually having a variety of different inputs, I think,
is the best way to explain things,
which is why having sort of a variety-ish show like West Wing
Week, I think, does well for us.
Ms. Schulman: This next question comes from Meredith Morgan of
Houston, Texas.
She says: Hi, Arun and Josh.
My first question is regarding my favorite West Wing --
Mr. Chaudhary: That's someone we know, isn't it?
Mr. Earnest: I think we know Meredith.
Mr. Chaudhary: We know this particular Meredith.
Mr. Earnest: Hi, Meredith.
Ms. Schulman: She asks about her favorite episode, Dispatches from Sudan.
How and why did you decide to focus on this area of the world,
and generally how do you decide on what stories to pick out from
all of the events that happen in a given week?
Mr. Chaudhary: I can speak to Sudan.
I mean, first do you want to address the normal kind of back and forth?
Mr. Earnest: Sure.
I mean, the truth is that the schedule that we put together
for the West Wing Week is based on the President's schedule that week.
That we'll lay it out that what the President has done in terms
of the most important things that he's tried to convey to the
American people that week.
Sometimes it's a bill signing, sometimes it's an interview,
sometimes it's a set of remarks, sometimes it's a trip either
overseas or to a domestic location,
but a lot of it is looking at the President's schedule,
trying to pick out the highlights,
and stringing together a narrative of what it is that the
President has focused on that week and trying to use,
again using the West Wing Week as a vehicle for providing some
insight so that people have an alternative way of getting a
sense about what it is that their president has been up to.
Mr. Chaudhary: And, you know, if you're a regular West Wing Week watcher,
you know the President is a rather busy fellow,
but there are some small gaps in the schedule,
and when one of those had come up,
I had talked actually with the director of the photo office,
Pete Souza, who had suggested, you know,
why not show some of the President's policies in action
where they actually occur, not necessarily in Washington,
and that led to us shooting West Wing Week: Dispatches from the
Gulf Coast, which centered around the oil spill and the
government response to contain it.
And ended up people being very interested in seeing those
actions on the ground, and so we then did two more,
one of which centered around the change of command in Iraq in
August, and then the second one, the one that you mentioned is
your favorite, which was in Sudan,
which was an amazing opportunity to travel with General Gration,
who is the President's Special Envoy out there,
and to see exactly how when the President wants something to
happen, how does that actually unfold on the ground.
You know, it's not -- it's obviously a complicated process,
but however we're able to show it,
I think it really adds to the understanding someone could have
of the administration and enhances our commitment to transparency.
Ms. Schulman: This questions comes from Michael Fly.
The question is specifically for Arun.
For the professionals in the audience,
tell us what you shoot with and what you edit with and do motion
graphics with.
Thank you.
Mr. Chaudhary: Of course I'm not endorsing any product,
but I shoot with a Sony EX3, which I like, I like.
The microphone we use on it, I'm very particular about my
microphones, I use a '80s-era 416 Sennheiser Shotgun
Microphone only.
It's the only microphone I'll use.
That's right.
You laugh, but it's the only thing I'll use.
And then edit on a Final Cut Pro, you know,
a laptop much like this.
But, you know, any important storm,
if I'm out there needing to shoot something,
and I don't have any camera with me --
in fact, let me show you something.
Mr. Earnest: I think we're going to go to the replay here, is that right?
Mr. Chaudhary: Yeah.
This is on my iPhone.
I was walking by the basketball course, and Reggie was shooting,
and he insisted.
And then I was like, well, maybe I can use this for West Wing
Week, so why don't I try to get the wide angled version.
Nothing, nothing.
Mr. Earnest: Brick city from Reggie.
Mr. Chaudhary: Yeah, it is, but I didn't want to show this clip because he
didn't make the center shot.
So it shouldn't be embarrassing.
Mr. (inaudible), as you know, is an accomplished basketball player.
Ms. Schulman: Great.
Mr. Chaudhary: Gear talk, that was good.
Gear talk.
Ms. Schulman: This next question comes from Norish Adams in
Tallahassee, Florida.
It's been very informative and enjoyable to watch West Wing
Week videos.
Do you have a way to allow viewers to recommend other
topics for you to cover?
Mr. Chaudhary: I'm going to shoot this question back to Kori Schulman, I think.
Mr. Earnest: A lot of feedback.
Maybe we need a tool, a widget.
Ms. Schulman: A tool, a widget.
Well, thank you very much for your question.
We are always --
Mr. Chaudhary: Great idea.
Ms. Schulman: It's a great idea.
We're always looking for new opportunities to engage with
folks, and we will absolutely look into that,
and I hope you continue to share your ideas and maybe hop in the
chat if you're watching this live and share some of them now.
Mr. Chaudhary: And once a season we do a Mailbag Day West Wing Week where
we answer letters from folks, and those come in from the
correspondence office, but, you know, that is definitely a way.
People have suggested things as random as how many chimneys are
there at the White House.
And so dutifully, we climb up the ladder, and we check it out.
I think it was 26.
I don't actually recall.
I'll have to go back to that episode.
Ms. Schulman: Great.
If you are just joining us, go to
There's a link to join a live chat that's happening on Facebook.
We're getting a lot of great questions.
This next one comes from Marilyn,
who is another international viewer in London,
but she's also from San Francisco.
She says, I love --
Mr. Earnest: It's getting late there.
Ms. Schulman: I love West Wing Week and tune in every week to get my USA fix.
I'm homesick.
My question: There's some serious stuff and some fun stuff.
Who has the final say on the weight of each,
and how far in advance do you plan each program?
Does "The Man" approve?
Has he viewed them all?
And can we get more behind the scenes and Bo, please.
Mr. Earnest: That's a lot of questions in one question.
Mr. Chaudhary: That is a lot of questions.
I wouldn't even know where to start.
Mr. Earnest: You know where that would fit in well?
In the White House briefing room,
trying to squeeze in a number of questions into one.
Ms. Schulman: So who has final say and how far out do you plan in advance?
Let's start with the first part.
Mr. Chaudhary: You know, I think we'd all like to plan more in advance,
but folks are really busy, and it seems like there's a Thursday
every week, which is the day that we edit West Wing Week.
So basically get started right away after the first one's up
thinking about, what is the President's schedule.
It's like a, you know, actually to tie in one of the other
questions you asked, you know, how do we figure out the balance
of whatever, a lot of that is determined by the schedule,
which we usually get at least a few days out,
but it's very fluid, very changing,
and it requires a lot of all week stick-to-itiveness to get it up.
Mr. Earnest: We've definitely done our fair share of takes and retakes as
the schedule changes over the course of the week.
Mr. Chaudhary: Yeah.
Mr. Earnest: There's an element of the President's schedule that
changes with some frequency, which means that we can't plan
too far in advance.
Otherwise, we'd spend most of our time redoing what had
previously been planned.
So there's definitely an element of doing some retakes and doing
some edits, and adding a little language here to try to make it
all fit together and work.
In terms of sort of wrapping it all together and trying to make
a final decision about what gets in and what gets out,
it's a pretty collaborative process.
There are a number of people who are involved both in --
certainly, Arun is the principal driver of that process,
but in terms of sort of trying to strike the right balance in
the end, there's a collaborative process.
There's some people in New Media and certainly in the
communication shop in terms of making the decision about what
the final product looks like.
Mr. Chaudhary: And if by "The Man" you're referring to the President,
that's what we call him in America.
He doesn't -- he does not approve it before it goes up.
I think he only sees West Wing Week in bits and bobs, you know,
whatever his secretary or Reggie or Brian Mosteller are watching
in the Oval Office.
So he sees little bits.
Ms. Schulman: Marilyn is watching live.
She says, thank you for asking my question.
Mr. Earnest: Thanks for watching, Marilyn.
Ms. Schulman: And she wants -- she still wants more behind the scenes
and more Bo.
Mr. Chaudhary: Bo is a tricky one.
He's difficult to photograph.
He's elusive.
Ms. Schulman: So this next question comes from Gabe Fleisher in
St. Louis, Missouri.
Why did you pick Josh Earnest as the voice?
Did you have a you a audition or something?
Mr. Chaudhary: We did not have an audition.
I had actually worked with Josh previously on some other
voiceover work developing his reel How to Caucus --
no, no, sorry -- The Citizens' Guide to the 2008 Iowa Caucus
was our first collaboration back on the campaign.
And then we had another collaboration earlier working on
maybe a kids movie for, that I think I'll actually show in a second.
But I think Josh just has the right voice for it.
I've tried to do it a couple of times when I've been on the
road, like in the original draft of the Iraq,
dispatches from Iraq, I did the voiceover.
It's one of those things, you think anyone can do it,
but anyone can't.
No, you can't.
It was bad.
Just -- I mean, you're hearing it now.
Can you hear this, kind of the nasal thing?
It happens a lot.
Oh, I messed that up, but we can do this anyway.
Anyway, this is called "The President's Apples".
Take it away.
♪♪(music playing)♪♪
Mr. Earnest: The White House 101 Edutainment Program.
Episode One: The President's Apples.
♪♪(music playing)♪♪
Many of you noticed the bowl of apples that sit on the table in
the President's office, the Oval Office.
(bell dings)
Some of you observed the shininess of the apples.
Others pondered the seeming deliciousness of the apples.
One of you even noted the ubiquitousness of the apples;
very good -- use your words.
For the more average viewer out there,
I thought we should review.
The President's Apples.
(bell dings)
Narrator: (speaking Spanish)
Mr. Earnest: These are the President's apples.
(bell dings)
This is the President of the United States.
(bell dings)
These are the President's apples.
(bell dings)
This is the President's desk.
(bell dings)
The resolute desk.
Narrator: (speaking Spanish)
Mr. Earnest: These are the President's apples.
(bell dings)
And this is the Prime Minister of the Netherlands.
(bell dings)
But all of this --
Mr. Chaudhary: You know what, actually we got to,
not only do I want to move on, but we need to update this,
because I believe this prime minister of Netherlands lost an
election, so we're going to update the movie.
Mr. Earnest: Have to update that one before we release it there, right?
Mr. Chaudhary: Yeah, we're going to have to get on that.
Ms. Schulman: Well, Stuart Mantina just chimed in on Facebook.
Stuart says, more videos on apples, please.
So maybe you could work on a sequel to that.
Mr. Chaudhary: Yeah, but we didn't tell you how it ends.
How do the apples get to the President's office,
and who brings them?
See, when I did it, it didn't sound as good as Josh.
The other thing I just want to say about Josh's voice is that I
take on Thursdays, or Wednesdays when we do all the narration,
I take a little bit too interest in what he's having for lunch.
He'll be like, I'm just going to have lunch first.
And I'll be like, no honey, no --
you know, I have a whole list of stuff I don't want him chomping
on before we get down to work.
Mr. Earnest: It's very demanding work.
It seems like the least I can do to serve my country, though.
Ms. Schulman: The next question, this comes from Peter Groff, he says,
Good job, guys.
What do you do with the outtakes or excessive film?
Peter is writing from Woodbridge, Virginia.
Mr. Chaudhary: Every single scrap of footage that is taken is saved and put
into the presidential records, and none of it is allowed to be
erased, in fact, according to the Presidential Records Act.
So, even if I'm just shooting, overexposed something or a shot
of my shoe or something, it's saved and put away.
So, you know, when you get ready to demand your Freedom of
Information Act things, you can be like,
I would like to see Arun's shoe, please.
Mr. Earnest: Thousands of hours of entertainment for
presidential historians.
Mr. Chaudhary: It should be very interesting, and I think it will be an
exciting thing.
Ms. Schulman: This is a good follow up to that from Duncan Wolfe writing from
Greencastle, Indiana: How many hours do you shoot each week
that ends up in West Wing Week?
Or, sorry, how many hours do you shoot generally?
How many hours does it take to edit each package?
Mr. Chaudhary: I would say I shoot between two and four hours every week,
which is probably less than some people might think.
I can be selective.
My motto is shoot video like it's film.
And then how many hours?
I would say between nine and 12 hours total like eyeballs on
computer time until it's actually up.
Ms. Schulman: And Duncan continues, he had a few more questions: Who comes up
with the title for each episode?
Mr. Earnest: Arun does.
Mr. Chaudhary: And I will say that it's not easy,
and that it makes me have a lot more respect for folks like
Letterman and -- people have like, you know,
they have to come up with something that's sort of funny,
like their monologue like every single day.
I kind of feel like that some weeks.
I'm like, I don't have a title this week.
I don't have a title this week.
But we have one for this week.
So, "Open for Business" will be up tonight at midnight.
Mr. Earnest: That's a good plug.
Mr. Chaudhary: Yeah.
Mr. Earnest: Nice work.
Ms. Schulman: And this is the final question in the series from Duncan: How
has West Wing Week evolved since its conception?
Mr. Chaudhary: It's gotten tighter.
They used to clock in an average of eight minutes.
Now they clock in an average of five minutes.
We had the -- for a while we had these sort of plugs from the
agencies, but it became too much to coordinate in the beginnings.
And then, oh, Lauren Paige's improvement was so good.
Mr. Earnest: Yes.
Mr. Chaudhary: Her idea was to always have an intro to West Wing Week
explaining kind of what the focus was that week,
which is fantastic for me, because it's one more place
where I can put -- you're talking about what happens to
the outtakes, the outtakes of the outtakes.
It might be some beautiful shot, but it just doesn't really work
in explaining something the President was doing,
but I really want to use it.
You know, helicopter sunset, that kind of thing.
Always work that into the intro.
So I'm happy that I kind of get to save one last level of shots.
But other than that, it's the same old show.
Mr. Earnest: Yeah, but sort of I think what we've --
the principal challenge when you're dealing with something
like this is sort of how to organize it and put it together
in a coherent way that sort of serves all the goals that we've
talked about.
And so I think what we've done is we've made some tweaks as
we've gone through process of trying to organize it a little
bit tighter, and I think that's how it's gotten a little bit
shorter, and the intro at the beginning sort of serves that purpose.
Mr. Chaudhary: And you figure out new things for your toolbox, you know,
like whether or not it's the intro thing, or, you know,
all of a sudden we're like, oh, these split screen montages
really get us through.
We actually had a funny idea for a montage, and the pilot --
people talking about how it's evolved --
there was actually -- you know, I was trying to explain to
people I wanted to make this show, and it was like, well,
why don't you just put one together and show us.
And so we did, but it hasn't been aired, because it was just,
you know, so people could take a look at it.
But, there's a sequence in there where we condense how a bill
becomes a law into a very quick couple of minutes.
Take it away.
Mr. Earnest: The bill itself was the star of the show Monday when it began
its journey from Capitol Hill to the White House to become law.
♪♪(music playing)♪♪
First, the bill was presented to Speaker Pelosi for her signature.
Mr. Chaudhary: This is the health care bill, by the way.
♪♪(music playing)♪♪
(bell dings)
Mr. Earnest: Then it was taken to the Eisenhower Executive Office
building by the Clerk of the House.
(bell dings)
The Parliamentarian of the Senate.
(bell dings)
From there, the Executive Clerk -- (bell dings) --
took it to the West Wing to be signed by Vice President Biden
in his capacity as President of the Senate.
Speaker: Your signature goes here.
Vice President Biden: All right; let me slide this over here.
Mr. Chaudhary: His is the best office to shoot it in.
It's the only one that has got these beautiful blue walls, you know.
I think originally I thought that it would be a lot more kind
of like bits like this in West Wing Week,
and it's just turned out to be too difficult to execute them on
a regular basis.
You know, this one was easy because since it was just a
pilot, there was no real deadline on it,
so I could have more fun with the editing process.
Ms. Schulman: This next question comes from Mary in Atlanta, Georgia.
Does the White House videographer,
I think she's talking about you, have the same rigorous schedule
as the White House photographer?
I know they have more than one photographer,
so are you looking for an assistant videographer?
If so, Mary is available.
Mr. Chaudhary: Oh, I wish, Mary.
Actually, how soon can you get here?
It is Thursday.
I would say that the chief official photographer,
Pete Souza, is probably with the President 95% of everything he does.
I would say I'm with the President 75% of everything he does.
So there are a lot of occasions in which I can rest my heels a
bit while the photographers are out there still slogging away.
The only other thing that I would say is --
although, there is the additional editing work, so,
you know, I'm able to work in the confines of my office when
I'm not struggling to keep up with the President.
Mr. Earnest: Sorry, no, no, go ahead, I didn't mean to interrupt you.
The other thing that people may not know about Arun is,
Arun is actually the first White House videographer in history.
So he's really been a trailblazer in terms of making
this job what it is and sort of using the new tools of the
Internet we're obviously demonstrating here today and
using sort of a small camera and that sort of technology to
really provide a new window into the White House for people at
home and people all around the world, but also for historians.
So it's really -- it's interesting to see what Arun has
done with a job that literally didn't exist before.
Mr. Chaudhary: It's just the right moment, isn't it,
just where the technology is meeting the public appetite for
this kind of material?
Mr. Earnest: I think it's both of those things.
I think that it also has to do with sort of the President's own
commitment in terms of really trying to look for new ways to
engage people and to inform people about what's happening,
but it also is -- it's turned into a vehicle where you could
really harness the unique talent that you can bring to this job.
Mr. Chaudhary: Good try.
Mr. Earnest: This is one of those rare occasions where there is
literally nobody else at the White House who can do what you
do on a regular basis because of the skills and talents and
experience that you have.
So it makes it -- it's an interesting way to sort of see
how government is trying to live up to 21st century technology.
That even in sort of the stodgy government confines that we can
look for new ways to push the envelope in a way that sort of
serves the public interest, so good stuff.
Ms. Schulman: Erica Gudsmenson chimed in.
She wants to know how many times --
Mr. Chaudhary: Where is Erica from?
I get interested in this stuff.
Ms. Schulman: Erica didn't let us know.
We don't know where she's from.
She wants to know how many times you record your voiceover before
it's perfect.
Mr. Earnest: It generally depends on how much sleep I've gotten the
night before.
I'm confident that there is a --
Mr. Chaudhary: And what he's had for lunch -- (inaudible).
Mr. Earnest: I'm confident that there is some sort of statistical relationship
between the number of hours of sleep I've gotten before,
the night before, and then the number of times I have to redo
the audio.
Mr. Chaudhary: Time of day, too.
Morning you'll knock it out.
Mr. Earnest: Yeah, the morning is a little easier.
By the afternoon, I'm dragging a little bit.
But generally, the scripts -- obviously,
the segments are five or six minutes long.
If I've -- well, this is the other thing, preparation, right.
Having read the script a couple times in advance,
spent some time editing it.
Mr. Chaudhary: I can tell.
If he's read it, I can tell.
Mr. Earnest: It makes a huge difference as well.
So, but, you know, we get through pretty quick.
Mr. Chaudhary: This is a way in which Josh is very similar to the President.
You know, when we're doing tapings, he is self correcting.
It makes my job very easy.
He'll be like, I'd like to do that again.
You know, it's not a question of me being like,
let's just try one more, three more, you're great,
you're going to be good, this is going to be --
you know, not a lot of cajoling and old-timey directorship.
It's straight ahead, we get it done.
We get it done in 12 to 15 minutes.
Mr. Earnest: Yeah, that's about right.
That's about right.
Mr. Chaudhary: Stem to stern.
Ms. Schulman: Melissa Aggelston from Durham, North Carolina asks Arun,
what's your favorite type of White House event to shoot and why?
Mr. Chaudhary: You think she means like of the whole thing or on campus?
Mr. Earnest: What would be the ones on campus,
and then the best of them that you filmed off campus.
Mr. Chaudhary: The most fun things to shoot on campus are definitely outside
and with members of the public.
So things like the Easter Egg Roll or when sports teams come
in, because there's just a lot of excitement and people who
normally aren't here come in.
And the best way to really -- and maybe this is in some ways
it's just a personal enjoyment, but the best way to really enjoy
your time here at the White House,
because it's so much work, and, you know,
people are so tired when they're working so hard,
is to see it through other people's eyes who come in,
you know, and you can sort of really get energized by how
excited they are to be here in the people's house.
Mr. Earnest: And there's a good segment like that in this upcoming week's
West Wing Week.
Mr. Chaudhary: Yes.
Mr. Earnest: So, check it out.
Mr. Chaudhary: We will not give it away.
Mr. Earnest: Well, let's do the --
Mr. Chaudhary: That was really hard to shoot, and the light in there is crazy.
It's coming in from all angles, and I get stressed out.
Mr. Earnest: What about off campus, what is the best event that you shot
off campus?
Mr. Chaudhary: The best things to shoot -- you know, the best,
and it was actually a best trip.
The best trip was our trip to Prague to sign the New START
Treaty, and I think it was because no one had signed one of
these treaties in a long time, so there weren't as many rules
as there are like a G8 or a G20 where it's like, you know,
all the official photographers stand here,
all the official videographers stand here.
You know, it was just Medvedev's videographer and I kind of
wandering around doing our thing.
And so that was amazing.
And one of, I think, the most interesting things is to get to
see in my job is world leaders interacting on a very mundane
and basic level.
It can be really wonderful to watch them, you know,
just be the people that they are,
because we only get a chance to see them in these very,
you know, vaulted circumstances.
And I think that extends to a lot of things I enjoy shooting
with the President in general.
Not the grandiose, but the sort of, but the normal.
I think people don't realize, you know,
how much being president, how your surroundings are sort of
unglamorous so often.
You know, you don't walk in through the front of a building.
You walk in through the back, and you go into the freight elevator.
So there's a lot of that that happens and kind of --
it's a very interesting take on what the presidency is.
Ms. Schulman: All right.
We've got another question that's just come in from
Lorraine Fort.
Mr. Chaudhary: Did we already have a Lorraine?
Mr. Earnest: I think we had a Louise.
I don't know if we had a Lorraine, though.
Mr. Chaudhary: Oh, I was thinking about Louise.
Ms. Schulman: Will you still answer her question?
Mr. Chaudhary: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
We'll see.
Ms. Schulman: Lorraine has a couple of questions.
What's the most important thing you've learned about politics,
and she continues to say, based on your inside view,
do you think that the coverage of the President is accurate,
and if not, in what way?
Mr. Chaudhary: Oh, you know, I couldn't really speak to that,
that second question.
I think what journalists do and what I do is totally different things.
You know, the journalists are there to cover for the public on
a daily basis, you know, exactly what the President's positions
are on things, and I'm able to take a long view looking at what
it will mean for history, which in some ways --
wow, which in all ways is a different job.
For instance, you know, today we were in the Oval Office shooting
the Emir of Qatar speaking with the President, and while all my,
all the press videographers just lock in on what was being said,
I have the freedom, because I'm trying to just sort of get the
historical impact of it, to also shoot them while they're
shooting the President.
So I'm able to kind of literally and figuratively zoom out and
take a long view on things.
If I was a press person, I just wouldn't be able to.
So I think we're in the same places a lot,
but we're doing very different jobs.
What was the first part?
Mr. Earnest: What was the first part?
Ms. Schulman: The first part was --
Mr. Earnest: Kori is pulling it up here.
Mr. Chaudhary: She had already moved on.
She tried to work ahead.
Mr. Earnest: What's the most important thing you've learned about politics?
Mr. Chaudhary: Oh, that's a really interesting question.
You had something you were going to say.
I'm going to think about while you say what you were going to say.
Mr. Earnest: Well, the thing that I was going to say is when you were talking
about journalists and the important role that journalists
play at the White House, there was some commentary when the
West Wing Week first came out about whether the West Wing Week
posed a threat to journalism somehow,
whether the White House was going to use this as a way to
circumvent the White House press corps in some way.
And I think that looking back over the course of the last
year, it's actually pretty clear that that's not been --
that clearly wasn't the attempt at the beginning,
and I don't think that's born out to be true.
I think what we've seen is there is a very important role for the
professionals that work very hard to cover the White House
seven days a week, 365 days a year,
and who do a very good job of analyzing the President's position.
It certainly doesn't mean that people who work at the White
House agree with every story that's been written about the
President, certainly not, but it's clear they have a very
important function in our democracy.
And I think some of the tumult that we're seeing around the
world, some of that has been rooted in this desire for a
truly free media.
And I think that there is tremendous value in that,
and I think that what the West Wing Week does is it wraps up
the President's public activities in a different way.
And I think if anything, it supplements the perspective that
journalists bring to the table, the professional journalists
bring to the table in terms of covering the White House.
So I actually am gratified that we, you know,
that our experience has yielded a circumstance in which it's
pretty comfortable that those two things can coexist and
provide greater and richer content from both perspectives,
for people across the country who are just trying to learn
more about what it is that their president is doing.
Mr. Chaudhary: Yeah, absolutely.
Ms. Schulman: If you're just joining us, there is a very active conversation
happening right now on Facebook.
Go to to join the chat.
I'm scanning a lot of your questions and comments,
and we just got one from Parker Moore who writes from Montreal, Canada.
Mr. Earnest: Foreigners are dialed in today.
Mr. Chaudhary: Yep.
Ms. Schulman: Yeah, a whole bunch.
Mr. Chaudhary: What time is it in Montreal?
I'm just kidding.
Ms. Schulman: So, this is a question for Arun.
What sort of background do you have in videography,
and did you attend university for cinematography?
Mr. Chaudhary: For cinematography, no, but I did go to film school,
in which cinematography was a subject taught.
I have a fiction film background,
started mostly in undergrad and theory, actually,
and then I had to go to NYU for graduate school,
which is a general course.
So it's a directing curriculum.
But inside that, you do shoot a decent amount, thank God,
because 13,000 hours of shooting for Barack Obama later,
approximately, I think, I've been doing a lot of shooting,
and that shooting has gotten a lot better just based on practice.
I'm not a natural cinematographer.
I do okay, but it's not -- it is not my immediate impulse in
looking at a film world.
So practice has made perfect, you know,
the campaign plus all this running around these last two
years have really helped me focus my craft that way.
And now I do think I can, you know,
hold my own with just about anybody.
Ms. Schulman: There's a lot of talk about the music used in West Wing Week.
MaryAnn Rhea asks, have you ever considered changing it to jazz?
People are asking where it comes from.
Any insight?
Mr. Chaudhary: Absolutely, I can speak to that.
The President's own Marine Corps band is performing that,
and luckily for all you different genre lovers,
the President's own Marine Corps band can rock --
if you've watched West Wing Week a lot,
you'll see them in the background playing jazz,
playing rock, you know, laying down classical with Yo-Yo Ma.
That was actually a great thing that happened a couple episodes ago.
So we have a lot to choose from.
I think that there's something comforting about hearing the
same kind of clarion call in the opening,
and I'm not looking to change it that much.
Mr. Earnest: It feels very patriotic, doesn't it?
Mr. Chaudhary: And it feels downright patriotic,
as is watching West Wing Week every Friday.
Ms. Schulman: This next question comes from Mary Smith in Phoenix City.
Mary asks, who had the great idea of putting an unscripted
twist at the end of each video?
Love it!
And generally speaking, a lot of people are talking about that,
the last unscripted moment.
Do you have any favorites?
Mr. Chaudhary: Tonight's is going to be good.
Alan Simpson.
Mr. Earnest: First of all, we call it the sting,
which I think is a great example of industry lingo that I've
learned from Arun.
So we have a lot of fun with that.
Mr. Chaudhary: We put in there the sting.
Mr. Earnest: The sting.
Mr. Chaudhary: And it's been in there since the beginning.
I mean, it's been something we've always wanted, because,
I mean, you know, talking about all these things you want to
include and you don't get a chance to,
like those obviously crown the list.
And so I think we would have all felt disappointed if we had come
up with a vessel for this that couldn't include those moments.
What's a favorite one?
President taking it to the Easter Bunny is pretty strong.
I really like that.
I'm trying to think of other really good closings we've had recently.
Mr. Earnest: We should have organized and had a couple of those on tap.
Mr. Chaudhary: We really should have had a couple of those on tap.
Mr. Earnest: I think the best ones are the ones that --
one of the things about working at the White House is that there
are a lot of surreal moments working at the White House.
Certainly walking through the gate every morning, I think,
could even be classified as a surreal moment.
But there are lots of things that seem surreal.
And so I think those are the best stings,
the ones that aren't obviously funny,
but do sort of reflect sort of the unusual nature of the
historic opportunity we have to be here every day and to work
here every day, and to work for this president.
The stings that capture the best, I think,
are the ones that -- this would actually be an appropriate time
for me to insert a good example, but I don't have one off the top
of my head.
Mr. Chaudhary: Use your hands here, and I'm playing a clip,
and you're imagining it in your head.
President is in front of the resolute desk in the Oval Office
with a bunch of kids who've won a bunch of prizes in math,
and then a young man asks the President,
"Can I ask you a question?"
And he's like, "Sure."
And he goes, "Do you know what the foci of the oval in the Oval
Office are?"
That was, I think, my favorite sting now that I'm thinking
about it.
Mr. Earnest: That's a great example of a surreal one, too.
Mr. Chaudhary: Yeah.
Even the President's look was like, why, what, what's, what,
what is happening?
Mr. Earnest: The President of the United States in the Oval Office being
asked a mathematical question about ovals.
So that's, I think --
Mr. Chaudhary: That's not bad.
Mr. Earnest: That's pretty surreal.
Mr. Chaudhary: Yeah.
Ms. Schulman: This question comes from Sienna Shields.
Have you ever considered an East Wing Week following the First
Lady and her staff from Flushing, Michigan?
Mr. Chaudhary: Yes, absolutely have considered following her in Michigan or --
this young lady is from Michigan?
Ms. Schulman: Yeah, Sienna is from Michigan.
Mr. Chaudhary: Absolutely have considered it.
Do want to do both a strict First Lady West Wing Week and a
strict Vice Presidential West Wing Week.
So we'll see when we can fit those in.
Mr. Earnest: Have to get to work on that.
Mr. Chaudhary: Yeah.
Ms. Schulman: What's your favorite thing about West Wing Week?
It can be a moment.
Mr. Chaudhary: After it's posted and for a couple of days I don't worry
about it.
Mr. Earnest: The favorite thing about West Wing Week.
I think the thing I like about it the most is that there is a
certain amount of freedom that goes with it.
This is something that hasn't been done in previous White Houses.
So much of what we do at the White House on a regular basis
is tradition bound or bound by precedent,
and this is what they've always done.
So we need to sort of conform with the rules about the way
that it's been done before or at least acknowledge the rules
about the way that something has been done before.
So it's actually fun to work on something that is a little bit
more organic, that is a little bit newer and fresher in which
we can dictate the precedent a little bit,
we can dictate the history of something a little bit.
And so having the opportunity to access a little bit of a
creative outlet given the other aspects of essentially my day
job at the White House is very, very satisfying for me.
Mr. Chaudhary: You know, I'm unbelievably grateful for all the creative
opportunities that I'm given on West Wing Week.
I feel like when people see it who know me, they're like,
this is sort of exactly like something you'd put together,
like how is that possible.
And the answer is what Josh is saying --
it is this new thing at the White House,
and people have been very open-minded about how we can
keep it creative and keep it interesting.
It's been an unbelievably great experience in that regard.
Ms. Schulman: Okay.
Melissa Aggelston, we asked a question from her already,
but Arun, do you have any tips for budding videographers?
Mr. Chaudhary: Yes.
You know, definitely don't worry about the camera as much as you
worry about the microphone.
Don't shoot all the time.
If you're shooting all the time, you're not looking at what's
going on.
Shoot shots.
You know what I mean by that?
Break down what you're looking at and shoot it into the
establishing and then you what you need to put the scene together.
Don't just have one meandering experience through the whole thing.
And always be listening.
That's pretty good, right?
Mr. Earnest: That's really good.
Mr. Chaudhary: And always be closing!
That's a different movie.
That's a different movie.
Ms. Schulman: Speaking of closing, we are about out of time.
Happy birthday, West Wing Week.
Thank you all for joining us.
We'll be posting this video shortly on in
case you missed anything.
You can check it all out on demand.
Just go to
And thanks.
Anything else?
Mr. Chaudhary: I would like to say that I can't believe it's been a year,
but I feel like I've felt every single day of that year.
Mr. Earnest: Totally true.
Don't forget to check out this week's episode.
It will post around midnight tonight.
Mr. Chaudhary: Uh-huh, Open for Business.
Mr. Earnest: It should be good.
Ms. Schulman: All right, thanks.