So, of course, when you bring your cameras around, they don’t always want to do an interview, especially at the end of a long, hard day. They want to nap, or eat, or spend time with their families. Throw in hot weather, like you have in New York and Texas, and you have a very challenging situation. But because you’ve laid the groundwork and gotten to know these guys, they realize the magnitude of the situation. All of them were inspired by Pumping Iron, and now it’s their chance to be immortalized onscreen for the next generation.
It boils down to mutual respect. Respect for what they’re trying to achieve and respect for the film that’s capturing the journey.
When did you start filming?
Principle photography began last spring. We started in New York with Kai and Victor. We shot them training and just going about their day-to-day lives to show people how these pro bodybuilders do it.
And when did filming wrap?
We did the bulk of the shooting leading up to the Olympia and then at the Olympia, as that’s the culmination of all the training and preparation. Then we did pickups a couple months later. The last scene was at Bev’s Powerhouse, which was cool, because that’s where we started.
In the past four issues of FLEX, we’ve gone behind the scenes with Victor, Hidetada, Roelly, Branch, Dennis, and Ben. Which brings us to the last two guys, Kai and Phil. Now, Kai was actually the first guy you shot...
Yes, and it was very interesting that we started with Kai. We spent some time with him before we started filming—we wanted to make sure he understood the mission and was comfortable in front of the camera. He’s a true artist by nature; if he weren’t a bodybuilder, he’d be doing some other form of artistic expression. There are many layers to him. He’s very multi-dimensional. The more time we spent with him, the more we uncovered. Everyone was drawn in by his personality. He makes a really good impression because he’s so passionate.
At the same time, the Kai sequences were very challenging because you’re talking about over-100° days in the middle of July in New York. It was brutal! And here you have Kai walking around the streets covered up from head to toe, wearing his black hoodie. We were all thinking the same thing: “How is he doing that?” Once we got to the gym, I told everyone to stay out of his way. The key—and this went for all the guys—was to make sure that they didn’t change for the cameras. We wanted to capture everyone in their natural environment, being themselves, being real, with as little compromise as possible.