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Top secret: ASU students make documentary about former Secret Service agent

What would you do if a former head of presidential security approached you?

Victor Vargas, left, Colton Tricic, center, and Janett Salas at the home of Robert DeProspero in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

Victor Vargas, left, Colton Tricic, center, and Janett Salas at the home of Robert DeProspero in Scottsdale, Arizona. 


A group of ASU film students and alumni did not expect to be contacted by the former head of security for the Reagan administration, but two years later, they created a full-scale documentary about his life story.

"The Man Behind the Suit" is a new documentary, created by ASU students and recent grads, about the life of Robert DeProspero, a retired Secret Service agent who was head of security during the Reagan administration. DeProspero is now retired in Scottsdale.

Finding a topic to create a documentary about is a difficult task. Instead of the group going out and searching for a topic to cover, the topic approached them.

Janett Salas, the film's producer and recent ASU grad, said DeProspero reached out during her sophomore year to propose a short film about his life story after he saw some of her video work for the Center for Science and the Imagination online.

"He had what seemed to be an infinite amount of photos and video," Salas said. "As a group, we all thought that the best way to share his life was through a documentary."

Filming started during the summer of 2014 with an extremely limited crew of two people.

"We hadn’t taken our production or post-production classes yet when we started working on this, but we did know about storytelling," Salas said. "I feel like above all else, our ability to tell a story became most important for this documentary, and it took a long time to really narrow down the exact story we were trying to tell."

Victor Vargas, the film's director and a recent film graduate, said before production started, he didn't know the difference between making a documentary and making an action or comedy movie.

"One thing that really caught me off guard was how in a documentary, as opposed to a narrative film, the story is still ongoing and fluid," Vargas said.

Salas and Vargas realized they couldn't create a whole documentary alone, and it was then when Vargas called in for help from his fellow Sun Devils. They recruited six more people, several of whom have a connection to ASU. 

Vargas said ASU students and grads made the documentary possible due to their hard work and dedication.

"When you go to college, the phrase 'networking' comes up a lot, and for good reason," Vargas said. "Being able to connect with students and former students at ASU who are so good at what they do is the reason this documentary was able to come about."

One student they brought aboard was Colton Trcic, who knew Salas from previous film projects at ASU. Trcic said that Salas took a big chance hiring him as the only editor for the film.

"She really took a leap of faith hiring me," Trcic said. "At the time, we weren't really acquainted with each others' work, just each others' work ethic."

With a crew of only eight people, everyone had to pull their weight in order to create a film that broadcasted DeProspero's story and showed what it was like being head of security for the Reagan administration.

Trcic said he felt the pressure of being the only editor on the project, because if something was cut incorrectly or didn't look right, the process had to be re-done until all parties were happy.

"As an editor, you aren't just responsible for putting the director's vision on the screen, but also looking at that vision with a fresh and objective set of eyes," Trcic said. "If you don't like the way something is placed, you have to recut it until you're happy with it and work with the director to come up with creative solutions for the problems that will inevitably arise."

After two years of numerous interviews, online fundraising and editing the film in its entirety, the crew completed the documentary over the summer. The film has already been submitted to different festivals around Arizona and was selected as a semi-finalist at the Los Angeles Cinefest.

"Filmmaking is a vulnerable medium, like any art," Trcic said. "You have to put yourself out there for people to judge and measure your ability. That kind of feedback and learning is what makes it so rewarding. You never perfect it."

The trailer for the documentary has yet to be released, but the film is available to purchase on DVD or Blu-ray. For more information on DeProspero's story, the crew and local screenings, follow The Man Behind the Suit Facebook page or check out the website.


Reach the reporter at jhaynie1@asu.edu or follow @jilli_haynie on Twitter.

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