An Interview With Producer & Director Samuel Turcotte.

Samuel Turcotte gives Bodybuilding.com an insider look at his newest movie 'No Pain, No Gain'; a movie set in the amateur ranks of bodybuilding.
Samuel Turcotte gives Bodybuilding.com an insider look at his newest movie "No Pain, No Gain"; a movie set in the amateur ranks of bodybuilding.

Aight boys and girls, put your gallon of water down, kick off your shoes and enjoy an in-depth interview with Sam.


[ Q ] Name:

    Samuel Turcotte


[ Q ] Residence:

    Silicon Valley, CA, USA


[ Q ] Background:

    Turcotte was born in Miami, FL and raised in Miami and Texas. He is a filmmaker, computer marketing executive and entrepreneur. Turcotte was formerly the Senior Partner Manager of Digital Media & Wireless at Sun Microsystems. He held various positions at Sun Microsystems for seven years and has ten years of high-tech marketing experience in the Silicon Valley.

    In addition to managing key partners in the digital media and wireless market at Sun Microsystems, Turcotte also developed and produced Sun's eMedia Webcast series with over 200 segments on a range of technical and market-focused topics.

    In addition to marketing and technology savvy, Turcotte has an extensive creative background in the media industry, including film, music, broadcast and cable. He is an award-winning filmmaker with over seven years of production experience.

    In music, he produced a pop record album, Baila's "Shall We Dance?," which was distributed by Universal Music via Joan Jett's Blackheart Records label. The album was favorably profiled in Billboard and its first three singles played on over 150 radio stations across the USA and Caribbean.

    Turcotte's most recent effort, the feature film "No Pain, No Gain", which he wrote, produced and directed was just completed and has played at the Palm Beach and Houston film festivals. He won the Silver Award for Best Director, First Feature at the Houston International Film Festival (Worldfest). The film was also recently invited to the prestigious Sao Paulo International Film, the most important film festival in South America.

    Turcotte served in the U.S. Air Force where he earned a Meritorious Achievement Medal for his role in developing an interactive video production studio at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He earned a BS in Radio-Television-Film, an MA in Communications/Advertising, and an MBA in Marketing from The University of Texas at Austin.

    He has taught and consulted for top executives of many Fortune 500 companies including Time Warner, McGraw-Hill and PricewaterhouseCoopers, and also personally trained President George Herbert Walker Bush how to use the Internet.


[ Q ] What's your favorite quote?

    "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
    George Bernard Shaw


[ Q ] Are you a bodybuilder?

    Yes, I consider myself an avid recreational bodybuilder, though certainly not in the league of the bodybuilders in the film. I have never competed, but rather do it because I love it. It's a great rush getting a good pump and I like the look as well. I also enjoy the challenge of power movements like squats. Go heavy or go home!


[ Q ] What's your training routine like?

    I train four nights a week with a split routine:

    I use strict form with 10 reps per set and increasing weight per set with 1-2 forced reps on the last 1-2 sets per muscle group. I also do 30 minutes cardio in the morning 3-4 days a week.


[ Q ] Who are you bodybuilding heros?

    Charles Atlas, Arnold, Lou, Franco, Zane, Platt and the Metzer Brothers. Of the more recent bodybuilders I like Cutler, Ruhl, Cormier, Matarazzo, Kamali, Wheeler and especially Gunter.


[ Q ] In one sentence what is your movie, "No Pain, No Gain" about?

    It's the story of a bodybuilder who longs to be respected for his mind.


[ Q ] Not to bust your balls here Sam but the title "No Pain, No Gain" seems a little cliché. Why the title for your movie?

    Exactly because it is the most well-known bodybuilding phrase. With the title "No Pain, No Gain" people will immediately know the movie is about bodybuilding and not, say, knitting. Though I hear knitting can be quite painful.

    Also, the phrase is a great metaphor for how to approach life in general and is in fact how the hero of the film approaches his own goals, both his bodybuilding goals and his personal goals.

    "No Pain, No Gain" is also my philosophy and attitude towards life and although it is most associated with bodybuilding, the principal applies to any human pursuit whether physical or mental.


[ Q ] What does "No Pain, No Gain" mean to you?

    "No Pain, No Gain" means quite simply that in order to achieve that one must sacrifice. The same principal applies equally to anything from bodybuilding to building a company to putting a man on the moon or finding the cure for cancer.

    Nothing in life comes easy and the greater the goal the greater the effort to achieve it. Making this film was my dream and I can assure you it caused me a lot of pain to complete it, but it was worth it.


[ Q ] How did you come to write "No Pain, No Gain"? What inspired you to make this movie?

    I was inspired to make this film because bodybuilding has played a pivotal role in my life, especially as a teenager. Like the Charles Atlas ads, I was the proverbial 97-pound weakling who got sand kicked in his face at the beach. I started lifting weights in Miami when I was fifteen-years-old with my friends Peter and Jim Connell in their garage with a plastic weight set.

    Within a couple of years I built myself up physically which also increased my confidence and was able to defend myself from the neighborhood bullies and such. I also learned karate.

    In more recent years my brother Michael Turcotte became an expert in sports nutrition and has successfully competed in several bodybuilding competitions. He worked at Champion Nutrition and through him I became friends with Mike Zumpano, the founder of the company.

    Both my brother and Zumpano are extremely intelligent and I was always irritated by the stereotype of bodybuilders being stupid and the ridiculous way the media depicts bodybuilders. This misrepresentation is which is of course increased by the their warped understanding of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.

    Therefore, this film is a way to share something that personally means a lot to me and to help set the record straight about bodybuilding.


[ Q ] Who is the film for and who is your target audience?

    The film is intended for a broad, general audience, both men and women of all ages and backgrounds. Although I hope it resounds positively with bodybuilders, I did not make it as an insider's film. There are a few things that only bodybuilders will get, but those are mainly details. The basic story is universal, but what's unique is that it's set in the world of bodybuilding.


[ Q ] What challenges did you face in getting the script into actual production?

    The challenges I faced in getting the film made were the same any other filmmaker, especially first time filmmakers. Films are expensive to produce, especially if you shoot on 35mm film like I did. We have all read about independent filmmakers making feature length movies for $5,000, but those stories are by and large massive exaggerations and in most cases outright lies developed for PR purposes.

    One thing I chose not to do with this film was to make promises to people that they would be paid later. This is very common in filmmaking and I did not want to be one of those filmmakers. Everyone that worked on this film was paid - no promises, no IOUs, no bullshit percentage points. I am very proud of this and I know that all those involved in making the film greatly appreciated it.


[ Q ] What was the biggest challenge in finding and using bodybuilders who can actually act in the movie?

    In a movie you can fake being a baseball player. You can fake being a race car driver. You can fake being a general or president of the United States. However, you can not fake being a bodybuilder. Certainly if you work with a regular actor you can get them fairly big in perhaps a year.

    However, getting an actor big enough to play a tough guy in an action movie and getting them huge, symmetrical and ripped, in other words looking like a real bodybuilder, in any reasonable amount of time is pretty much impossible, even with steroids.

    Therefore, my universe of talent from which to choose was limited to real bodybuilders. You could imagine the challenge of casting a boxing movie if you could only select from real boxers.

    So, what I did was find bodybuilders who had the look I wanted, but who are also similar personalities similar to the characters they portray. Then, as a director I worked with them to "act" like themselves in a natural manner.


[ Q ] What level of bodybuilders is depicted in the film?

    The story centers on an amateur bodybuilder trying to win a regional competition, such as the Contra Costa or the Cal. The bodybuilder stars are depicting the caliber of bodybuilding that they have already achieved.


Left: Jake Steel (Dennis Newman) mocks Mike Zorillo (Gus Malliarodakis).
Right: Jake Steel (Dennis Newman) strikes a classic Greek pose.

    Gus Malliarodakis has won the Contra Costa, the Sacramento and placed high in other top amateur competition. Dennis Newman has won the USA, the Cal and the Teen USA.


[ Q ] What obstacles did you face in showing the change of the actors body composition - off-season to contest time?

    This issue caused me a lot of concern while I was writing the script. The story covers about six months of time, so although we're not talking about the massive change of a full year, there was still considerable change we needed to depict.

    The main way I ended up handling it when filming was to shoot in reverse. As every bodybuilder knows, it's much easier to get a bodybuilder to gain bulk via water retention, fat and such than it is for them to lean down.

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    So, we shot the final competition scene first which was also just after star Gus Malliarodakis competed in a real bodybuilding competition. Not only did this allow us to get him at his peak look, but then during the rest of filming he did not need to go through the stress of dieting. In fact once we shot the competition we encouraged him to pig out.

    We never got Gus actually fat, because he tends to stay very lean year round, so we also used layered clothes and padding to make him look bulkier. You would also be surprised how much posture can effect how you look.

    We had him slouch over a lot which added to the sense that he was a dumpy. To give his face a plumper look we used makeup which made him appear flaccid and pale. Lighting, camera angles and even choice of lenses also make a big difference.


[ Q ] What was it like working with Dennis Newman and Gus Malliarodakis on the film?

    Gus and Dennis were both very professional and extremely dedicated. However, since I have been around bodybuilders my whole life it was easy for me to relate to them, but I think the rest of the cast and crew were apprehensive. They came to the set expecting huge, arrogant idiots with no acting ability.


"You're my nemesis!" exclaims Mike Zorillo (Gus Malliarodakis).

    They were pleasantly surprised when Gus, Dennis and the other bodybuilders turned out to be humble, loyal, hardworking, team players. As a director I found Gus and Dennis' performances to be excellent and their skill and versatility as actors evolved rapidly.


[ Q ] How did Julie Strain find her way to the set?

    Julie Strain is a friend of Lana of Lana's Egg Whites ( www.lanaseggwhites.com) and Lana is a childhood friend of Gus Malliarodakis.


Julie Strain.

    When I was casting for scene on Venice Beach that establishes the wonderful craziness of the Muscle Beach area Lana suggested Julie who brought her sister Lizzy and a bunch of their friends such a fitness super-model Carmen Garcia.


    Bodybuilding.com writer Carmen Garcia. Read her articles here.

    I wish I would have met Julie sooner because I would have used her in more of the film. She is a great lady with a striking, unforgettable look.


[ Q ] What is your attitude towards steroids and how did you address the issue of steroid usage in the film?

    Although I am not opposed to steroids, I think they are over-used by most professional athletes, not just bodybuilders. I also think "steroids" have been so over-simplified by the media that it has left the public truly ignorant of what they are and are not.

    The media depicts steroids as pure evil and lumps all performance enhancing drugs into a single group and calls them "steroids." As anyone who educates themselves about performance enhancing drugs knows, there are different risks and benefits to each just as with any drug from aspirin to heroin. These effects also differ from person to person based on their age, sex, physical condition and many other factors.

    I think one of the chief risks of performance enhancing drugs relates to combining them and to the amount of each used. There are many professional athletes who spend well over $100,000 a year on dozens of performance enhancing drugs, from testosterone, growth hormone and insulin to Nubain, Clenbuterol and Synthol.

    Each of these drugs has very different benefits and risks. Many of these drugs have legitimate medical use, but are frequently used by bodybuilders and other professional athletes at ten or more times the dosage that would be used for mainstream medical reason.

    Frankly, I think the most dangerous things used specifically by bodybuilders are not really performance enhancing drugs at all, and are certainly not steroids, but rather diuretics and Synthol. The pitfalls of these two substances is well-documented. Synthol, in particular, is perhaps the most dangerous substance used by bodybuilders, and technically it's actually not even a drug. Additionally, I think Synthol has ruined the look of many bodybuilders.


Gregg Valentino is suspected of using synthol... weird. I would have never guessed that!

    Given the complexity of the issues regarding steroids and other performance enhancing drugs it was challenging to come up with an approach to dealing with them in the film. Certainly, to avoid dealing with issue would not be acceptable, but finding a balanced approach was difficult.

    One of the main characters in the film uses steroids to excess and we depict that extensively. There are several scenes in the film where he uses steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. There is also a scene with a steroid dealer which depicts the wide range of performance enhancing drugs and their uses.


[ Q ] Do you feel the movie is an accurate account of "real world" issues in bodybuilding today?

    Overall, I think the film is an accurate portrayal of the current sport of amateur bodybuilding, the range of bodybuilders at that level and the issues they face. Although we strove for realism, "No Pain, No Gain" is not a documentary about bodybuilding and we were not intending to cover everything about this great sport.

    While the film does have a point-of-view, it does not beat the viewer over the head with a heavy message. It's a dramatic comedy, which essentially means it is supposed to be fun to watch. It is not a kiss ass love letter to the sports of bodybuilding, but a sincere, fun, over-the-top story of characters set in the world of bodybuilding.

    I am sure there will be die-hards who will find things to complain about, but that is true for any film which covers a topic with strong devotees. However, I believe it has credibility, in part, because it is not a film by an outsider looking in, but rather a film by a bodybuilder and bodybuilding fan since childhood.

    We also solicited the input from many bodybuilding experts, including experienced competitive bodybuilders, sports-nutrition experts and trainers.

    These included the two bodybuilding stars of the film, Gus Malliarodakis and Dennis Newman; the founder of Champion Nutrition, Mike Zumpano; my brother Michael Turcotte, an experienced sports-supplement developer, nutrition expert, trainer and bodybuilder; and countless others.


[ Q ] How do you feel your depiction of bodybuilders differs from other films?

    Bodybuilders are typically depicted in films and by the media as stupid, arrogant, roid-raging idiots, i.e. muscleheads. This depiction relies on and reinforces the stereotype that big guys are dumb.

    Clearly, we know this is not true as bodybuilders must have an in-depth understanding of the physiology of the human body, as well as mastery of the grueling physical training and dieting. Bodybuilders are the ultimate athletes, but the media treats them exactly the opposite.

    One could easily imagine a film which would sarcastically ridicule bodybuilding at every level. "No Pain, No Gain" treats bodybuilding in a fair and balanced manner. It extols the many positive aspects of bodybuilding and deals with the negative without in any way condemning the great sport. At the same time the film does not take itself too seriously.

    Bodybuilding is hard work, but it certainly has a colorful and flamboyant side and "No Pain, No Gain" revels in it.


[ Q ] How has the support of the bodybuilding community been for the film thus far?

    We have received strong, positive support for the film from the bodybuilding community. Champion Nutrition has been a huge supporter from the beginning along with Charles Atlas Corporation.

    Gold's Gym provided us access to one of their largest gyms which we used in several of the scenes of our fictitious Mekka Gym. They also co-sponsored our talent search for extras and featured extras for the Mekka Gym scenes. Iron Grip sent us truckload of weights to use on the gym set we created.


Another typical day at the Mekka Gym in "No Pain, No Gain" with two-time World's Strongest Woman, Jill Mills.

    Champion Nutrition, along with Valeo, M.D. Labs, Optimum Fitness, Lana's Egg Whites and others donated enough sports-nutrition products to fill our nutrition store set and gym scenes.

    All these companies along with Bodybuilding.com, Otomix and others donated tons of gym clothes and accessories which we used throughout the movie. Prince Harrison's Optimum Fitness donated the posing trunks used in the competition scenes.

    View our other supporters...

    Also, the Olympia showed an early version of the movie trailer which we created when we had just started shooting the film. They showed in on the big screen before the Mr. and Ms. Olympia finals and during the Mr. Olympia pre-judging. A lot of bodybuilders saw it there and we got some great feedback.

    Learn more about this year's Olympia weekend...


[ Q ] Why are you creating a "No Pain, No Gain" comic book?

    Bodybuilders are real-life superheroes. Most comic book superheroes, from the classic Batman and Superman to the current crop of immortal crime fighters all look like they have spent a lot of time in the gym. It also seems that having less than 5% bodyfat is a genetic standard for superheroes.

    Therefore I think it is only fitting that a comic book should be developed to extol these real world men (and women) of steel. Also, both the sport of bodybuilding, both the training and competitions, are colorful and outrageous and lend themselves well to a comic book.

    The comic book will follow a similar storyline as the movie and involve the same characters. However, the current film has adult content that many people would not consider appropriate for a comic so we will tone down those elements. It will still be outrageous, sexy, intense and fun, but without the profanity, nudity and explicit drug use.

    We are also considering producing a unabridged "director's cut" of the comic which put these elements back in and maybe even pump them up a bit. I am collaborating on the comic book with artist Billy Garretsen.

    For more on the comic go to www.no-pain-no-gain.com/comic.


[ Q ] Tell us about the Charles Atlas animation in the film.

    Many people's first exposure to bodybuilding were the Charles Atlas cartoon ads featured in comic books from the 1920s to the present.

    The classic ad depicting the stereotypical 97-pound weakling getting sand kicked in his face by a bully at the beach and then building his physique through the Charles Atlas "dynamic tension" bodybuilding course and then going back to the beach to kick the bully's ass, win the girl and become the "Hero of the Beach."

    We took this ad and recreated it as an animated cartoon. We did this with the support of the Charles Atlas Corporation and its president Jeff Hogue. The animation opens the film and precedes the opening credits. It's an unexpected but certainly fitting way to start the film, especially given Atlas' positive attitude and world-class showmanship.


[ Q ] Awards and film festivals?

    "No Pain, No Gain" was an official selection of the Palm Beach International Film Festival and the Houston International Film Festival (Worldfest) where it also won the Silver Award for Best Director, First Feature.

    It was also just selected to be screening at the prestigious Sao Paulo International Film Festival in Brazil, the most important film festival in South America and one of the top festivals in the world.


[ Q ] Where can bodybuilding fans go to see the movie and when?

    They can see the "No Pain, No Gain" movie trailer on the website and hopefully soon at a movie theater, cable channel and video rental store near you. We are currently working to secure a worldwide distribution deal and believe it will have a long life on DVD, but also hope to get some theatrical and cable showings.

    The timing of all this is hard to predict. The film was just completed and it typically takes many months to get a distribution deal and then more time to get into the various tiered distribution channels.

    The market for such a film is huge and much larger than most people realize, plus Arnold being elected Governator and the steroid controversy, as well as the on-going health-fitness craze make it extremely timely.

    To see the trailer go to www.no-pain-no-gain.com/trailers.


[ Q ] Do you prefer being behind the scenes and what are the benefits?

    I enjoy all aspects of filmmaking and bodybuilding. For "No Pain, No Gain" I wrote the story, co-wrote the script, as well as produced and directed it. However, filmmaking is always a collaborative process and I worked with many talented people who are profiled at www.no-pain-no-gain.com/film


[ Q ] What are you planning for your next film?

    My next film is tentatively titled "The Paperboy" and is a very dark, edgy drama about a 15-year-old paperboy who learns about life through the odd experiences he encounters on his paper route in Miami, Florida.


[ Q ] How would Sam Turcotte like to be remembered?

    Well, I am a tad young to be thinking about this now, but I hope in my life I will make many films about a diverse range of topics that both entertain and inspire people. Along the way I hope my pursuits support and enable the careers and dreams of many others.


    Sam Turcotte.

Conclusion

Thank you for your time Sam. I really appreciate it.

For more information on the movie visit: www.no-pain-no-gain.com - I'd enjoy hearing readers thoughts on the movie. Email me at Isaac@liftstudios.com.