You'd think from the framing that Donald Trump had already won the election.


For the simple reason that when both Republican and Democratic nominees are pictured together, Trump is almost always on the left side of the image and Hillary Clinton is on the right.

As a film director, I watch the on-screen composition of the U.S. presidential debates with great interest. As every filmmaker knows, the effect of a film on the moviegoer is often subliminal.

Famous are the old Coca-Cola ads in which an image of a bottle of Coke flashed on the screen just long enough for the subconscious mind to signal to the brain that a nice cold Coke would taste great right about now.

Because we are a left-right society, and read from left to right, we are conditioned to regard the person on the upper left of the screen as being more powerful than the person on the right of the screen. As recent graduate of the University of Southern California’s respected School of Cinematic Arts, this is something I learned at school, and over time found to be true.

Of course there are exceptions, but take a look at movie posters such as “Gone With the Wind,” “Raiders of the Lost Arc,” and “Casablanca.” Go with your gut reaction and feel the power of Clark Gabel, Harrison Ford and Humphrey Bogart.

Indiana Jones, movie poster, Facebook, Harrison Ford
An 1984 Indiana Jones movie poster featuring Harrison Ford and Kate Capshaw. Photo courtesy of Indiana Jones on Facebook.

Images of the presidential nominees on Google images numbered 2-1 with Trump on the left and Clinton on the right when I counted last. I wait with anticipation the final televised debate on Oct. 19 — I hope Clinton will be on screen left looking right this time, because so far she hasn’t been.

My sister recently sent me a gift of three campaign buttons. It was disappointing to observe that in the two buttons with images, Hillary is looking left, which puts her in the position (in old Hollywood terms) of the 'leading lady.' I look forward to a time when our new president will be portrayed on the left, looking to the right.

While presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is much more than a leading lady or a leading man, it is important that photographers and journalists alike acknowledge the power that viewers subconsciously award those who dwell on the left side of the screen.