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MD Forum Leader Interview with Mike Pulcinella

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  • MD Forum Leader Interview with Mike Pulcinella

    Women's Forum Leader Gaoshang Xiongshou interviews Mike Pulcinella


    For all those aspiring to create a video package for their promotion in the future, I give to you insights and advice from our very own MD TV Community Channel Forum Leader, Mike Pulcinella. Mike, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions for the members of MD.com. I am sure there will be a lot gained from your presence here!



    Gaoshang Xiongshou:
    What are you exactly (videographer, director, documentarian, etc... for those not familiar with you)?

    Mike Pulcinella:
    I think my strength is in editing. I suppose you could call me a "videographer" but only because I shoot my own footage out of necessity. I don't enjoy shooting and I don't really think that my camera skills are "all that" but I do know what I'm looking for and I have learned how to shoot for my editing style so I guess that's the most important thing.



    I used to say that I am "trying" to be a documentary filmmaker. I said that one day a few years ago to a little old African-American lady when asked me what I was doing while I was shooting some footage down at Penn's Landing Riverfront in Philadelphia. She replied, "Trying?? There ain't no TRY, honey. Either you are or you ain't," and she walked away, changing my life forever.

    Gaoshang Xiongshou:
    What is your formal background? School?

    Mike Pulcinella:
    I have no formal background in filmmaking. I never went to film school. However, I was an art major in high school, a professional musician throughout my 20s and 30s and an amateur journalist from time to time. I bring those skills with me every time I shoot or edit. In addition, there are some great storytellers in my family. The pressure to perform at family gatherings was enormous. If you took the floor you'd BETTER had a good story to tell, it'd BETTER be really funny or really sad and there BETTER be a good ending or else you'd get torn apart! Combining art, music and a love of storytelling is what filmmaking is all about so even though I fell into this in my 40s I feel like I've been preparing for making documentaries my whole life.

    Gaoshang Xiongshou:
    What was it that got you into doing video? What made you decide on video as your medium? Have you focused on any other subject types for your productions? If so, what drew you to bodybuilding videos?

  • #2
    Mike Pulcinella:
    It was all an accident! My lazy daughter and a hernia operation got me into this business!

    I bought my 14 year old daughter an inexpensive videocamera as a Christmas present a few years ago and it sat gathering dust on a shelf. During that time I also was recovering from a particularly nasty double hernia operation that kept me out of the gym for months and left me weak and soft. My brother offered to give me the benefit of his years of experience as a nutrition and exercise counselor to help me get back in shape. Basically, he taught me how to be a bodybuilder.

    Though I never took it to the extreme that would be necessary to compete, Dave helped me transform my body and I was completely hooked. I was now in my 40s and in the best shape of my life!


    I then became more interested in what my brother had been doing all those years as a bodybuilder and I slowly became aware of the insane dedication it required. I knew our family had no idea what he went through and I decided to show them. I grabbed the dusty camcorder and told Dave I was going to tape him as he got ready for the upcoming Delaware State contest in 2004. We were recording just for fun, for us and our family and friends. Little did I know the dramatic things that were about to happen right in front of my modest videocamera.



    Comment


    • #3

      I could never have predicted nor planned for Raising the Bar, but there it was, dropped right in my lap. Dave pushed me to edit it and distribute it. I had no idea what I was doing. I made so many mistakes! All I had to edit with was iMovie and a little iMac that didn't really have the capacity to handle these huge video files. But Dave felt we had something special and that we had to show it to other bodybuilders and the world. It just grew from there. It was a huge success in the bodybuilding community but it was as much a surprise to me as it was to anyone!

      Now I have my own videography business. I still am teaching myself and I make horrendous technical mistakes all the time! But I'm also a good editor and I know how to get myself out of a jam.



      I make DVDs of bodybuilding contests, soccer games, strongman competitions and children's' plays and am working on several documentaries at the same time! One of them is an exploration of fringe religion in America and the religious scammers who use it to take advantage of people. Life is strange!


      Gaoshang Xiongshou:
      Tell us a little something about your recent project you just finished. Do you choose your subjects and projects, or do they choose you?

      Mike Pulcinella:

      I just finished Beyond the Pain: The Vicki Nixon Story and we are getting it ready for distribution right now. Vicki is featured in RTB1. After she saw it she came to me with an idea for a retrospective of her 23 year career in bodybuilding. What was to be a simple tribute video turned into much more as I discovered Vicki's dramatic backstory. I slowly convinced her to be more and more open in front of my camera and give the project over to my interpretation completely. She eventually agreed and we are so pleased with the result that we can't wait to put the finishing touches on the DVD so you all can see it.

      Comment


      • #4


        I've gathered together the clips we've released so far and a brief synopsis of the DVD and put it on a MySpace page if anyone is interested...


        So far all of the projects that I have taken on have "chosen" me, so to speak, though I have turned a few down that I thought were not a good match. But mostly I have been very lucky as these projects have fallen in my lap and given me the opportunity to change my life and career at this late date. I am continually astonished at that!


        Gaoshang Xiongshou:
        When taking on any given project, do you have a specific vision for the finished product, or do you and the client collaborate throughout the process?

        Mike Pulcinella:
        I always begin with a vision. It may be a shared vision with the subject, (I prefer to use the word "subject" instead of "client") or it may be my own secret vision that I keep hidden from the subject. However, it's always the footage that tells me what to do.

        We may start out with a specific idea in mind but it's what HAPPENS while we are shooting that determines with the doc is about. Life controls the story. Hitchcock said, "In feature films the director is God. In documentary films God is the director." I'm just God's editor.

        Gaoshang Xiongshou:
        Directors like Peter Jackson, Martin Scorsece, and the Wachowski brothers all have signature styles and nuances behind the camera. Do you have anything that is uniquely yours that is a staple of your work, or do you live in the moment with each project?

        Mike Pulcinella:
        I'm still too new at this to be able to say I have a style. I do like certain kinds of camera angles and methods of storytelling but I feel my real strength is a combination of innocence and expertise. In other words, I enter into every project as the outsider learning about the subject for the first time but I also apply my 46 years of watching movies and television to the finished product. If it doesn't look like the movies and shows that I loved, how can I get it closer to that ideal? I'm still learning and changing.

        Gaoshang Xiongshou:
        What are the telltale signs that people need to look for, that are clear indications that the videographer has no clue what they are doing, or are legitimate?

        Mike Pulcinella:
        I cover this topic in great detail in my video tips thread on the MD TV Community Channel...

        http://forums.musculardevelopment.com/showthread.php?t=24533

        ..but I will synopsize here. The main things that I think make most home videos look bad are:

        1. Shakiness - Stabilize yourself. Stop moving around so much!

        2. Poor lighting - Open a door or a window. Turn on all the lights! Video needs light!

        3. Too much zooming - If you need to zoom in, zoom in. Then LEAVE it there for a while!

        4. Lack of editing - Cut out the boring stuff. If you want people to watch your video, you can't make it for YOU, you have to make it for the viewer.

        5. Cheesy transitions - Is there even ONE "star wipe" in the Godfather? I rest my case! Just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD. I know the software comes with all those cool transitions. They ALL stink and they mark you as a novice.

        The first thing I will notice about a video when someone DOES know what they are doing is the attention to details. They will incorporate into the video all those little things that we usually notice subconsciously. That and good, crisp editing separates the good from the amateur, in my eyes. We have plenty examples of both good and bad in the MD TV Community Channel threads.


        Gaoshang Xiongshou:

        How can people go about not being exploited by those filming them?

        Mike Pulcinella:
        That's simple. If you are being filmed or taped you should sign a "model release" and read it carefully to be sure that it doesn't give the videographer any rights to your image that you don't want him to have. If you don't like the contract don't sign it and don't allow him to shoot.

        For those who would shoot their own videos to edit to put online, what could you tell them - based on what you have seen of other videos - to help them turn out a better finished product?

        Visit the MD TV Community Forum and read through the threads. The information we have there now is like a manual for the video novice and we're adding to it all the time. If you don't see the answer to your question, ask it in a new thread and I or one of my talented "students" will get back to you quickly.

        Gaoshang Xiongshou:
        If you are able to talk about it, what project(s) do you have in the works?

        Mike Pulcinella:


        I'm just beginning the editing of the third and final installment of Raising the Bar. Raising the Bar 3 will take us up to Dave's final contest and beyond as we explore what happens when someone who has defined himself as something for his entire life suddenly decides to give that up...or is forced to. My ultimate goal is to combine RTB1, 2 & 3 into one feature length documentary for wider distribution outside the bodybuilding community.



        I'm also working as the producer, director and editor of a new documentary about an up and coming fitness competitor. I don't want to name names until I get a little further along and have something more to show you.

        Gaoshang Xiongshou:
        Are there any other female bodybuilders you would like to work with?

        Mike Pulcinella:
        I love the bodybuilding milieu (that's movie-talk for "world") because it is extreme and dramatic. Anyone committing themselves to this strange sport will have to make sacrifices that will affect their life and relationships. That is inherently interesting to me and that's why I like making docs about bodybuilders. But I fell into this world by accident. I am not a bodybuilding fan per se. I don't really care who wins the Olympia this year...unless I am making a documentary about him or her!! (Hint hint!)

        The only people I would like to work with, in or out of bodybuilding, are subjects who understand the kind of truthful documentaries I want to make and are willing to be honest on camera. I have examined and re-examined what made RTB1 & 2 work and I think I now know consciously how to do what I at first did by instinct. Anyone coming to me to make a "look how awesome I am as you watch me flex" fluff piece will get turned away. There are plenty of talented videographers doing that kind of thing. I'm not one of them.

        One of the reasons I think my two videos have been so popular is that, even though I admire the bodybuilders I work with, I am not in awe of them. I approach them as I would any documentary subject and I don't think that happens very often in this genre. If I were to be shooting Victor Martinez for instance, I wouldn't be thinking, "Oh my GOD, It's VICTOR MARTINEZ!!!" I'd be considering how best to light him and if he has a soft voice or a loud one so I could decide what kind of microphone to use. Who is this person? Where did he come from, what got him here, where is he going, what drives him...and so on. I think if you have too much reverence for your subject the video you end up with will be shallow and boring.


        The other thing I can't ignore that has contributed to the success of RTB1 & 2 is that in my brother Dave I had the perfect subject AND I had unlimited access. I don't know if I'll ever have that magical combination again. So how much of RTB was me and how much was him? It's a question that he and I kiddingly ask each other all the time.

        Gaoshang Xiongshou:
        What do you look for when deciding on a project?

        Mike Pulcinella:
        Does it excite me? Does it get me jazzed and make me look forward to sitting down at the computer to edit night after night? Am I interesting in seeing what happens next? Because if I'M not, why should I expect anyone else to be?

        Gaoshang Xiongshou:
        Is there anything in particular a person should look to convey to capture and keep the viewer?

        Mike Pulcinella:
        Be sure you have a good story to tell. Get into it quickly and keep things moving. Watch your video over and over until you have removed everything that slows down the story. Once you've removed everything that doesn't belong, compare what you have done to the great movies and TV that you love. If it doesn't look like that, if it doesn't give you the same kind of thrill, you have to figure out why and either go back and fix it or learn from that for next time.

        When I watch a section of a work in progress critically I will notice a few "bumps"; moments that bother me in one way or another, either technically or from a storytelling aspect. The more I watch, the more those bumps will ether fade into the background or become more and more prominent until I dread the bump coming and stand it anymore. Then I take it out. When I watch and there are no more bumps, it's done as best that I can do it. That takes time and a critical eye that must be developed.

        Gaoshang Xiongshou:
        Are there any iconic (or maybe not-so iconic) filmmakers that have influenced you and your style?

        Mike Pulcinella:
        I'd say that there are individual films that have influenced me more than the filmmakers themselves. For instance, I am very influenced by Pulp Fiction (although I don't think it shows in my work...yet) however I can't say that ALL of Tarantino's work turns me on. A few other movies that I think have had an influence me are (in no particular order):

        Duel
        Close Encounters of the Third Kind
        Rear Window
        This is Spinal Tap
        The Shining
        The Elephant Man
        True West (a play by Sam Shepard)
        Taxi Driver
        Raging Bull
        Manhattan
        Groundhog Day
        Laurel and Hardy short - The Music Box

        On TV:
        LOST
        The Office
        Armourcoat cookware commercial from the 70s

        Now that I look at it, that's a strange list, isn't it? LOL! You may notice that there are no documentaries on that list. I can't explain that! There are many that I've love but not many that have influenced me the way these movies and shows have.

        Gaoshang Xiongshou:
        If someone wanted to contact you for their own project, how could they do so?

        Mike Pulcinella:
        Anyone can PM me here at MD or email me at...

        [email protected]

        Thanks for the chance to talk with you all! I love what I'm doing, I love being here at MD. I'm excited about where life is taking me and I hope it shows!!

        Comment


        • #5
          F'ing A

          Muscular Development Forum Rules :.

          This Post May be found offensive & may contain offensive material, consider yourself advised.

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          • #6
            I am curious... what is it about 'Groundhog Day' that influences what you do?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Gaoshang Xiongshou View Post
              I am curious... what is it about 'Groundhog Day' that influences what you do?
              I admire the method of storytelling. The task in GD is difficult. How do you show the same day over and over without becoming too repetitive and boring? Harold Ramis and Pembroke Herring (the film editor) do this expertly. Next time you watch it try and notice how the repetition is done and when they begin to shorten and skip certain elements of the day. It's brilliant.

              Does my appreciation of GD make its way into my documentaries? I'm not so sure about that, but I certainly learned from it.

              I also like the self-actualization aspect of the story. That's something I'm sure you appreciate as well.
              Check out my redesigned video samples page!
              http://mikepulcinella.com/portfolio.htm

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by mike pulcinella View Post
                I admire the method of storytelling. The task in GD is difficult. How do you show the same day over and over without becoming too repetitive and boring? Harold Ramis and Pembroke Herring (the film editor) do this expertly. Next time you watch it try and notice how the repetition is done and when they begin to shorten and skip certain elements of the day. It's brilliant.

                Does my appreciation of GD make its way into my documentaries? I'm not so sure about that, but I certainly learned from it.

                I also like the self-actualization aspect of the story. That's something I'm sure you appreciate as well.
                Indeed I do

                Comment


                • #9
                  Very good interview, GX. Thanks for sharing Mike!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    WOOHOOO!!!! Gotta love Mike!!!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Yeah...and who knew he was under those clothes? yummy!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Cool interview.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          VICKI NIXON IFBB PRO

                          MIKEY!! MY favorite video man in the WORLD today!!!! Mucho talent...heart, and so very gifted!!! Thank you for following me around for 2 yrs and capturing a awesome DVD that i will have as a keepsake for the rest of my life
                          I LOVE U man!!!!

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