New York-based audio post house HOBO recently collaborated on Documented – a powerful new documentary feature written and directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas and co-directed by Ann Lupo.
“This film depicts in a very personal way Jose’s journey at a young age from the Philippines to the U.S.,” HOBO’s founder and president Howard Bowler explained. “His story highlights and humanizes the immigration issue in a way that many people can relate to.”
Documented, which was an official selection at AFI Docs Film Festival in June and will make its international premiere at IDFA in Amsterdam, tells the story of its director, Vargas, an acclaimed reporter whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, Washington Post, Rolling Stone and Huffington Post. He made his own headlines in 2011, when he wrote an essay in the New York Times Magazine disclosing his own undocumented status. The film takes an unflinching look at Vargas’s decision to become the most famous undocumented immigrant in the nation.
“I knew from the beginning that a handful of scenes were going to be problematic from a noise standpoint,” said Chris Stangroom, senior audio engineer. “Specifically, a scene at a Mitt Romney rally in Iowa during the 2012 presidential campaign where the audio was recorded with heavy amounts of compression – so much that each time Romney stopped speaking the general noise from the venue would boost up very loud.”
“Our first round of mixing on this film was a simple stereo mix, but as we examined the tracks, I realized we were losing the impact of some dramatic moments because of the audio quality,” said Stangroom.
Stangroom enlisted the aid of sound designer Chris Davis to help fill out the parts in the film that felt empty or unfinished. They foleyed effects and added ambiances, such as footsteps, crinkling paper, motorcycles speeding by – sounds that deepen the sensory experience of the film.
According to Vargas, that hard work paid off. “HOBO has been an ideal partner for us from the very beginning. Howard and Chris understood our challenge from the get-go,” said Vargas. “They not only met them, they made the film as a whole better.”
For Bowler, helping the directors realize their vision was a moving experience. “What was particularly inspiring was both their determination to tell Jose’s story and their desire to have an impact on the world around them,” said Bowler. “One of the reasons Documented turned out so well is that Jose and Ann were able to translate their passion very effectively to the film.”