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Quick Chat: Hobo’s Howard Bowler talks about his pot reform campaign

By Randi Altman

The president of audio post house Hobo in New York City has a passion project, and it involves legalizing marijuana — you know, weed, pot, grass, Mary Jane, kush, bud. That stuff. The “End Prohibition Now” PSA campaign, which was funded, produced and posted by Hobo, supports reform in marijuana enforcement policies.

The campaign is made up of TV, radio and Internet ads targeting states that will be voting to legalize marijuana. Hobo (@hoboaudio) has made these spots available for free to broadcast outlets and organizations interested in spreading the word about this issue. All of the spots can be customized for different regions. Check out the video spot here, and the radio spot here.

Let’s find out why this is such an important topic to Hobo and Bowler, and how they went about conceiving, producing and posting the campaign.

You funded this campaign yourself?
Yes. The more I learned about the origin of prohibition, the more I realized these laws have a complex political history that is not based on science or health, and yet their social impact is huge. Last year alone 700,000 people were arrested on Marijuana related charges. Think about that. That’s more than for all violent crimes combined. It makes no sense.

So I could see that there was a lot to this issue and that the current efforts of organizations like MPP (Marijuana Policy Project), NORML, LEAP, and DPA (Drug Policy Alliance) could benefit from professional creative marketing support.

Why is this such an important message for you to spread?
Two members of my family were arrested, and although the charges were eventually dropped it was costly to get them out of the system. The whole experience made me wonder why marijuana was illegal in the first place. What I found out about the history of prohibition got me angry, and then it got me thinking.

You acted as creative director on these. How did you come up with the concept, etc.?
I’m very interested in history, politics, science, culture and the arts, and all of these subjects intersect with marijuana. Take for example this line from one of the radio spots, where a voiceover actor portraying President Richard Nixon says, “Everyone of those bastards out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish.” That’s a direct quote from a secret White House recording made during a discussion on whether marijuana should be legalized. I didn’t make it up. It’s the most fertile creative soil I’ve seen in a long time. There is so much material.

How did you work with the animator/editor on this? The animation was new, but given a vintage look?
We worked with editor Matt Hartman on the visuals. He had to get very creative since we had very little money to work with, so the public domain footage was actually vintage. A Google search turned up the usable footage we needed. He edited with an Avid Media Composer and did the motion graphics in Adobe After Effects. Everyone who has seen the spot tells me it was eye opening. I thank Matt for the excellent job highlighting those pesky facts.

Are there more spots to come? 
There are a lot more in the works. Many at Hobo have been contributing to the creative effort. Chris Stangroom (VP at Hobo) has written several of the spots. Julian Angel and LoudPack Zack have contributed music. All the guys have helped with the mixes.  It’s a team effort.

Can you talk about the mix and what gear was used?
Pro Tools|HD, various plug-ins, VO recorded with a Neumann U87 mic. The music was recorded with Pro Tools.

GP PSA 1 Five Classes

Anything else we should know?
We learned throughout this process that when one is passionate about a subject that passion can turn into power. We even wrote a song about it that we plan to release at a later date with the line, “Guided by the light of justice, with a gospel ever strong, we welcome you to freedom with a liberation song.” When it comes to ending prohibition that sums up everything we’re doing.

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