|BodybuildingPro.com Interview: Mike Pulcinella
BodybuildingPro.com Interviews Mike Pulcinella
Filmmaker Mike Pulcinella has produced the excellent "Raising the Bar" documentary which brought something unique to a bodybuilding DVD market which consists largely of strict training DVDs. The original Raising the Bar featured his brother Dave and his journey to win the 2004 Mr. Delaware competition. Mike speaks about his original production in this interview, as well as the new "Raising the Bar 2" DVD and his opinions on bodybuilding and other aspects of his life.
The original "Raising the Bar" DVD. Click below for a complete review.
==> Raising the Bar - The Battle for the 2004 NPC Delaware State, East Coast Classic DVD REVIEW
- What is your full name?
Michael Joseph Pulcinella
- Where do you currently reside?
- What is your background?
I was born in the working class neighborhood of Southwest Philadelphia to
Angie and Alred Pulcinella. I'm the oldest child. Dave is three years younger
and Christine is eight years younger than me. I've always been interested in art
and music. I was an art major in high school and worked as a professional musician
on and off for about 20 years, although I was never able to quit my day
job? as a printer in our family business, Southwest Graphics. Maybe after people see
RTB2, Hollywood will be knocking at my door! Just kidding...I'm not holding my
- You have a voice suitable for film narration. Do you practice that or does it
Some of it comes naturally. I went to St. Barnabas Catholic grade school and one
year was picked to be the disembodied voice of Christ in the Easter play. I hid
behind the altar and spoke softly into a microphone. It echoed through the
church. At the end of the play when I peeked around the corner of the altar,
people were crying. I was hooked!
Like anything else in life, raw talent isn't enough. I think it's perfectly
analogous to bodybuilding. You can have the greatest genetics, but if you don't work
hard at it you won't win contests. I was the lead singer of many of the bands I was
in and I practiced every day. Now I work at voiceover. I listen carefully to the
great VO artists to pick up some hints and in my documentaries I do many takes until
I get the inflections just right. Still, I feel I have a long way to go. I think
that my voice is getting better as I age. It's one of the few things that is!
- Are you a bodybuilder?
No, I'm not but Dave has taught me some aspects of the bodybuilding lifestyle that I apply to my daily life. I hit the gym regularly and eat 6 or 7 small meals a day. Because of this I am in much better shape than most people my age.
- Are you a fan of bodybuilding?
I was not a fan of bodybuilding before Raising the Bar. I didn't understand
it. Part of my personal exploration in RTB1 was to discover what is was that my
brother was doing all those years. As I found out what went into it I gained a
huge respect for the athletes, although I must be honest and say that I am still
not a big fan of the sport itself. I find the highly subjective nature of the
judging to be extremely frustrating. In the 200 meter dash the runner that crosses the
finish line first wins. End of story. In bodybuilding the winner is determined
by the ever shifting preferences of the judges. I have a hard time with that.
- What was the first DVD "Raising the Bar" about?
It's only in retrospect that I've been able to figure out what either of the RTBs is “about”. I try not to think about it when I am shooting. Once I gather all the footage I review it and see if I sense a theme.
When I look at RTB1 I see myself trying to understand the strange sport that my brother has devoted his life to and attempting to show the difficulties and make it all understandable for anyone else who is not familiar with bodybuilding. The real bottom line is...I was just trying to make something that would make my brother laugh, and then it turned into something else!
- What is the second DVD "Raising the Bar 2" about?
Now that it's done, I think RTB2 is about sacrifice. It's about the sacrifices that people make to excel at something out of the ordinary. I think that Dave's experiences with our family and his relationship with Jenn that we see unfold in RTB2 can be universally understood by anyone who commits to any discipline that requires a large amount of time and energy.
- Why did you pick the title "Raising the Bar"?
I was struggling with finding a title for a long time and couldn't come up with anything good. Then I noticed that Dave used the phrase in his pivotal speech about drawing the best local competitors “out of the woodwork”. I liked it and thought it applied to the theme of the documentary as well as having a cute double meaning with weight lifting.
- How did you come to think of the ideas for "Raising the Bar"? What inspired you to make these DVDs?
Like most great ideas, it happened by accident. My 14 year old daughter's camcorder was gathering dust and I thought it would be interesting to take some video of Dave a few times during his preparation for the 2004 Delaware State /East Coast Classic and see how his body changed. As we went along I was lucky enough to have several dramatic things happen on camera, including Dave nearly being banned from competition on the day of the show and then both he and Jennifer winning! The story just fell in my lap!
After the warm reception of RTB1 by the bodybuilding community we thought, "Why stop now?”. Dave was going to take his chances at the National level and "Raise the Bar” for himself yet again and we thought I should be there to capture it. Once again several dramatic events unfolded right in front of me, including the unfortunate death of Anthony Darezzo at the 2006 Masters Nationals in Pittsbugh. Tony's sacrifice for the sport he loved was very moving to me and I hope I honored his memory and did him justice in the documentary. RTB2 is dedicated to him.
- Who is the target audience for your DVD?
My brother and my buddy Joe! I always want to make Dave laugh because he makes me laugh so much and Joe is my best friend, a smart guy who is curious about the world. But he's not a bodybuilder. So I try to walk the line between making an insider kind of doc that Dave would like while at the same time explaining a few things about the bodybuilding world for Joe, the outsider. I think it helps me keep a nice balance.
Radio and TV announcers are taught not to think that there are millions of people listening to their voice, but imagine that they are talking to just one favorite person that they are comfortable with. I made the RTBs with Dave and Joe in mind as my audience and I knew that if they both liked it then so will many other people in and out of the bodybuilding community.
- What challenges did you face in getting the concept into actual productions?
The challenge in making a doc like this is in how much time it takes. This kind of project, where you wait to see what happens, like in the famous doc Hoop Dreams, is much more labor intensive than when you have a thesis and plan to go out to prove it like in An Inconvenient Truth or Supersize Me! I shoot and shoot and shoot without a plan, keeping my eyes open, amassing many hours of footage hoping that something significant will happen. Then the digital tapes must be downloaded to the computer, reviewed, categorized and organized. It's like panning for gold. You sit through hours of nothing to find a moment that says something about your subject. String enough of those moments together and you MIGHT have a story. Then again, you might not.
It's exciting...but exhausting. I've lost muscle mass and gained a little pot belly from sitting in front of the computer every night for the past several months! After RTB2 is finally done I'm going to get myself back to the gym on a more regular basis. I have a new girlfriend who's a few years younger than me...if you know what I mean!
- What aspects of competitive bodybuilding are depicted in RTB2?
In RTB2 we touch upon the difficulty of finding a good workout partner, the psychological games that competitors play with themselves, the logistical nightmare of traveling while trying to maintain contest shape and the ever present threat of injury and death. For the novice bodybuilder it's a great way to see what it's like behind the scenes at a national level competition. But mostly it's about how being a bodybuilder affects relationships with your loved ones.
- How did the bodybuilders in the DVD feel about being filmed in the production?
Most were oblivious to me, especially on contest day. They had more important things to worry about! In the gym everyone was happy to see me there with my videocamera because now I'm "that guy who made Raising the Bar!” I had a few show-offs and people who played to the camera but for the most part I cut them out.
Of the non-bodybuilders, the people at Costco were very paranoid to see me show up and they wouldn't let us tape. That's okay because I hear Jay Cutler already did a Costco segment in one of his videos. He beat me to it!
I also was detained at the Philadelphia International Airport for looking suspicious while I was trying to get some background footage of planes taking off and stuff like that. They took me in the office, listened to my explanation, reviewed my footage and let me go. I was cool with it because, as I told the Sky Marshall that day, I am glad that they are there doing their job and keeping us safe, although I'm sure I'm in the suspected terrorist database now!
- What are your opinions on steroids in professional bodybuilding and was this topic addressed in the DVD?
I'll tell you what I think but this is my opinion and my opinion only because no one would talk to me about steroids.
I don't think you can have bodybuilding without steroids. Bodybuilding is about pushing the human body beyond its natural limits. Yes, it's dangerous but so is boxing and skydiving and equestrian competitions and downhill skiiing. You don't see anyone trying to ban horse jumping after Christopher Reeves became paralyzed. So why the hubub about steriods? The problem is in the hypocritical way that drugs in general are treated in this country. The hazards of steroid use are exaggerated by a media frantic for controversy. Alchohol and tobacco kill far more people than steroids ever will but they are legal. If I want to enhance my body I'm a criminal but if I want to drink and smoke myself to death, it's fine, as long as the government gets its cut.
==> CLICK HERE FOR MORE STEROIDS INFO
- Do you feel the movie accurately depicts behind the scenes bodybuilding as it exists today?
I do. One of the things Dave I were striving for was to show the reality of the bodybuilding lifestyle without self-conciousness or artifice. It's hard for me to say how well we did that, I'm too close to the project, but whenever I felt that we had become too aware of ourselves and weren't being "real” I cut that part out.
- How do you feel your DVDs are different from other bodybuilding DVDs produced?
I try to put a little more thought into my DVDs than the average bodybuilding video. If we have a workout segment I want it to have a reason to be in the doc and move the story forward and not just be a gratuitous grunting session. I like the craft of editing and think it's exciting to watch a well edited piece so I try to keep things moving with my cuts and I take extra care with my choice of music. How I edit the video is influenced by the music. In the end I want to have shown something about human beings and what they do in an entertaining way that reaches beyond the world of bodybuilding and communicates something that everyone can relate to.
- Have you received much support so far for your DVD productions?
I have gotten so much great feedback from people who have seen RTB! I don't think I could have tackled this new project without the memories of that support to bolster me.
- When will the DVD be released?
I'm just ironing out some technical problems right now but it should be available by the end of June.
- Do you prefer being behind the scenes and what are the benefits?
I always hated being the front man for a band. I much preferred to be in the rhythm section cranking out the groove and making the front man look good. You don't get all the glory, but you don't have to take the heat when it flops either! Dave's the front man for RTB and I like it that way.
- Do you have any plans for future bodybuilding DVDs?
Veteran female bodybuilder Vicki Nixon and I have been working on a documentary about her life story. She has been through a lot of emotional and physical pain in her life, yet is still going strong. It will be a very inspirational DVD.
- Do you have anything else you would like to add?
I have to give a shout-out to Jim Manion and Gary Udit and to Repetrope Studios who allowed me to go freely wherever I wanted at the Masters Nationals in Pittsburgh. That is a rare thing and I was very grateful.
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