One of the surprise hits on the film festival circuit this year has been the documentary Weiner, the all-too-revealing inside look behind the failed New York City mayoral campaign of former Congressman Anthony Weiner that took home the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Enhancing the aural impact was HOBO engineers Chris Stangroom, Stephen Davies and Julian Angel, who each played a key role in the film’s audio postproduction.
Directed by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, Weiner is currently playing in theaters and on VOD, and will premiere on Showtime in October.
Working alongside supervising sound editor and re-recording mixer Tom Paul of Gigantic Post, New York, the HOBO team was focused on the film’s dialogue and sound effects, preparing each component for the final mix by Paul. As with most documentaries, the vérité style of the film and the varied audio sources used, proved challenging for dialogue editor Stangroom.
“A lot of the audio sources we were dealing with came from old news footage, cell phone cameras and the filmmakers themselves were shooting in guerilla style,” Stangroom said. “We needed to clean all that up – the harsh drones, crackles and blaring sounds of city life. More so than other film genres, nobody pays attention to the audio in docs unless something sounds wrong. Making sure all of the source audio was as clean as possible was paramount.”
HOBO has worked on numerous other indie documentaries including Documented, The Education Of Mohammad Hussein and Breaking A Monster, as well as several reality TV series, including Discovery‘s popular series Gold Rush and AMC‘s Making of the Mob. They most recently teamed with Paul and Gigantic Studios on the indie films The Seventh Fire and Tomorrow We Disappear.
While Stangroom was immersed in the dialogue, HOBO’s Davies and Angel worked on the overall sound effects, which meant confronting a wide range of extraneous noises and layering subtle, yet crucial, ambiences of city life soundscapes to create a natural mood that allows viewers to focus in on the story.
“Julian and I concentrated on finding the right city ambiences to use, and layering them so they sounded natural and believable,” Davies said. “The challenge sonically was to make it all feel like one cohesive world.”
Never was that more key than in the scene involving Weiner yelling into a bullhorn while marching in New York’s Caribbean Festival, a particularly noisy and crowded event held every summer in Brooklyn.
“The parade scene was complex because of the extreme noise level,” Angel noted. “Weiner is yelling into the megaphone, the crowds are almost louder than he is, and booming music from the floats are everywhere, and yet somehow we had to clear out all of that noise and focus on what Weiner was actually saying, and more importantly what the scene represents in the context of the film.”
HOBO President Howard Bowler added, “Filmmaking is a collaborative job with every company contributing creatively to make it work,” he says. “Through sound, we help to pull audiences into the story and keep them entertained and engaged.”