Post-production house HOBO Audio in New York City announces that Senior Audio Engineer Chris Stangroom completed work on a new documentary feature, Documented, written and directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, and co-directed by Ann Lupo. The film takes an unflinching look at Vargas’ decision to become the most famous undocumented immigrant in the nation.
“This film depicts, in a very personal way, Jose’s journey at a young age from the Philippines to the U.S.,” says HOBO’s founder, president and former punk rocker Howard Bowler. “His story highlights and humanizes the immigration issue in a way that many people can relate to.”
Documented was an official selection at AFI Docs Film Festival in June, and will make its international premiere at IDFA in Amsterdam. Vargas is 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 New York Times Magazine disclosing his own undocumented status.
“I knew from the beginning that a handful of scenes were going to be problematic from a noise standpoint,” Stangroom says, “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.”
Beyond fixing isolated audio problems, Stangroom understood the needs of the project on a deeper creative level. “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.”
To help elevate the experience of the film, Stangroom enlisted the aid of sound designer Chris Davis to help fill out the parts in the film that felt empty or unfinished. They recorded Foley effects such as footsteps, crinkling paper, and motorcycles speeding by to deepen this movie's sensory experience.
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,” he says. “They not only met them; they made the film as a whole better. I could not have found better creative collaborators."
Bowler says that helping Vargas and Lupo 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,” Bowler says. “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.”