With several training videos under your belt, you’re no stranger to the camera. But were you prepared for the size of the Generation Iron crew? Vlad had upward of 10 people on his team.
At times it seemed like even more than that! It was an amazing spectacle. We were walking the streets of Brooklyn and people were looking out their windows and coming out of their buildings to see what was going on. People were saying, “They’re filming that dude with the muscles who’s always carrying bags of food.” Normally you don’t see a film crew that size in the project streets, so it was interesting seeing their reactions.
The goal of the documentary filmmaker is to capture subjects in their natural state. Did having the cameras and all those people following your every move affect you at all?
Yeah, as much as I want to say it didn’t, there were a lot of times when I struggled to keep my concentration. It’s a tremendous demand to focus on what you need to do. I definitely learned firsthand that it can be very challenging, particularly those times you think you’re prepared but realize you really aren’t. There’s a certain amount of practice one needs in order to be natural and comfortable with that many unblinking eyes on you—and that’s one thing about the camera, it does not blink, ever! It’s like having people come to your house—you want to clean up and put away your dirty laundry, so to speak, before they enter your home so you don’t expose parts of yourself you may not feel comfortable putting on display. But it’s like you hid the dirty laundry behind the door, and people are there in your home, looking behind the door and seeing it. Now it’s revealed to the masses, so there’s a certain amount of trepidation that comes with the experience. That feeling of vulnerability can cause a lot of anxiety. Will people understand and accept me? Will the fact that a professional bodybuilder is not driving a $100,000 car reflect poorly on my status, or on the expectations people have of a two-time Arnold Classic winner?
How did you deal with that?
You want to be the athlete getting ready for the biggest and most important competition of your life, and that’s all—you’ve invested so much in being ready for that moment you’ll be called upon. There’s a part of me that recognizes the responsibility of being in the spotlight. As I’m committing myself to making my dreams tangible, I have to be aware of the fact that people are paying close attention to my actions and words. The audience may need to hear a much more powerful message than just how many sets and reps I do. In that moment, there could be individuals watching who are willing to make themselves available to you and whatever it is you have to say, with more respect and attention than they might give their own parents at any given time. I didn’t grow up with a father in my home, but through TV, movies, and various other mediums there were other role models. That’s why I have to give props to the Bill Cosbys of the world for giving me a point of reference I could draw upon in my own life—be it fostering a loving relationship between me and my niece, or being with other people who make my life more fulfilling— even if it was only something I was watching onscreen.
But getting back to the question, the shooting days were at times very long. While you’re trying to get this work done, you want to make sure you’re concentrating on doing what you—the athlete aiming to be the best in the world—should be doing. The last thing you want is to not place well at the show. I didn’t want it to be a case of thinking afterward, “My parts were great, but I didn’t do well in the show.” I felt continually torn between serving two masters. I thought, what would [six-time Mr. Olympia] Dorian Yates do? Would he allow distractions to interfere with his goals? Then again, you realize that this is a golden opportunity, a million-dollar moment, and you’d be an absolute idiot to let it pass you by. So you put your best foot forward and do whatever needs to be done.