The Man Behind Bigger, Stronger, Faster

Thanks for taking the time
to talk to The Rake. I throughly enjoyed the film.
How did you get into film, particularly documentary film making?

Well, it’s interesting, I didn’t
ever want to make a documentary, but my brothers and I had been talking
about the whole steroid issue, and I was already a filmmaker at the
USC film school. I was also probably the only filmmaker who is
a power lifter (I can bench press 500 lbs) so between lifting weights
and making movies and it was the kind of the time to put them both together
I guess.

When did you decide that
this was a documentary you wanted to make?

Part of it came from talking
to my brother Smelly about this guy in the locker room. He was
laughing that this guy Andrew was on the juice and we started think,
well maybe there’s more to this and we started discussing it.
Before that my producer Alex and I were discussing doing a film together
about the subculture of bodybuilding and body obsession but we really
didn’t have our finger on what the subject matter would be, something
to do with the gym you know? But it all kind of came together
to be about steroids and American culture through talking to my brothers
and talking to my producer.

Tell me about the process
of making the film, how did you bring people on board? How did
you initially finance the film?

Well it’s pretty simple, Alex
Buono our producer worked out in Gold’s Gym with me and we were talking
about this project. I was actually selling memberships there just
to pay the bills (as a filmmaker you’re not always on the top of the
world money wise) so it basically came about that he wanted to produce
it. So I went over to his house basically every day and a friend
Tamsin Rawady who is a documentary filmmaker got attached to the idea
as well. We all started to develop the idea together as a team
so we spent about 3 months writing the treatment and my producer Alex
gave it to his agent rob who also represents Jim Czarnecki, the producer
of Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11. Jim read the treatment
and fell in love with it so he got on board to produce as well, but
he lives in New York so he was more of a supervising producer.
From there we basically went out and started raising money and Jim kind
of served as our insurance policy to get the film done on time and make
it all happen.

How did the film change
from inception to the final cut? Are their interviews you wanted
to get but couldn’t? Any additional points you wanted to make?

You know it’s funny from the
original treatment to the final cut the film changed a lot and I’ll
tell you the original treatment was so well written and thought out
so the question was: how can we get this on film? So we went through
this whole process of interviewing all these people and we thought a
movie about steroids just wouldn’t cut it so we set it up to be about
cheating in general. After awhile we realized that the steroid
issue was so big and complex that we had to come back to it so we ended
up cutting the film back so it ended up pretty close to the original
treatment. As far as interviews, we obviously wanted to interview
Arnold [Schwarzenegger], Hulk Hogan, and Sylvester Stallone but a lot
of times there are some things people don’t want to talk about.
It was something we just had to put our heads together and figure out
how to tell the story without actually having those interviews.

This film puts you
and your family under a lot of scrutiny, how did you initially pitch
the film to them? How do you think they will be impacted by the
film’s release?

Um, I used completely hidden
cameras and they don’t know that I made the movie [laughs]. Basically
my brothers wanted to talk, they had a story they wanted to tell and
in talking to my mom I just said, "Hey, you know I want to do this
movie about steroids," and she said, "Oh, so you want to involve
your brothers, so I guess you’re going to talk about how you guys are
all natural even though everyone else is taking steroids." I
told her that there were actually a lot of things in the movie that
she probably wouldn’t like and she said, "Yeah, I’m fine with everything,
I don’t really care."

You
know I would always ask my mom to be in my projects and if I told her
I needed someone to play the crook she would be like, "No I’m not
going to be in it!" Now that I finally get her to be in one
of my movies it’s actually quite a bit different different than she
expected. I think in the end that if you really watch the movie,
she likes the way it helps our family communicate.

I was really struck by how
exhaustive the film was in terms of the number of interviews you did,
the lengths to which you went to make one point another, are there parts
of the film that you would have liked to include but couldn’t for lack
of time? What ended up on the cutting room floor?

We had a cut that I thought
was actually really good, it was 2 hours and 15 minutes which is really
long for a documentary. You know I was watching Bowling for Columbine
and noticed they could have cut a minute here and a minute there and
put in other stuff. So when I tried to pack the documentary full
of stuff at like an hour and 49 minutes it was way too full. Even
now it’s kind of a dizzying pace but it’s just the right tone and you
don’t get too confused. What I didn’t realize when I was first
making the movie was that sometimes you just need to breath, you need
a couple beats for people to digest the information."

What’s next for you?
Any more projects in the works?

I’m working on a TV pilot about
Gold’s Gym basically, it’s sort of the office with wacky characters
that I’ve met in the gym over the years and the little situations that
have come about. I’m also working on a documentary tackling the
subject of obesity.