Chat with the Zimbalist Brothers
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, directors Michael Zimbalist and Jeff Zimbalist stop by to chat about their upcoming ESPN 30 for 30 short film "Arnold's Blueprint" which airs Wednesday on Grantland.com.
The short, 10-minute film focuses on Arnold Schwarzenegger's teenage years in the Austrian Army and the years before he was the "Universe's Perfect Specimen," when a young Schwarzenegger seized upon an opportunity to use the sport of bodybuilding to catapult himself to international stardom.
The Zimbalist brothers previously directed the critically acclaimed 30 for 30 long film "The Two Escobars." They are Emmy Award nominated writers, directors and editors, whose films have been broadcast on HBO, MTV, PBS, BBC and BET. Jeff and Michael run the production company All Rise Films.
Send your questions now and join Jeff and Mike Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (4:01 PM)
We've got Jeff and Mike!
this is the second doc you've done for ESPN. What is it about sports stories that you find compelling for documentaries?
Jeff Zimbalist (4:03 PM)
We grew up playing sports and being a really relavant part of our life. We found ourselves being interested in wordly issues. It wasn't until we were adults that we saw they were connected. We see sports as a mirror for society and it's an opportunity to tell stories that are universal to all of us.
Arnold is such a public figure. What did you learna bout him during his process?
Jeff Zimbalist (4:04 PM)
We had a lot of fun. He's a master story teller. We had an opportunity to go back to his stomping grounds. To go back with him and see how much he is loved and revered was just a blast.
Mike Zimbalist (4:05 PM)
I think also he was very particular in talking about this one year about his obligatory service when he was 18. When we look at someone who has had success, you think yeah if he fails, he has plenty to fall back on. But when he was 18, he didn't have anything to fall back on. He was determined to become a great bodybuilder. To us, that brought out to us the everyday man or woman.
How excited was Arnold to tell you these stories? He looked pretty excited talking about his weight lifting habits.
Jeff Zimbalist (4:06 PM)
I think it was a very proud time for him. He's obviously achieved a tremendous amount in his career, but he tells us that there was no more greater achievement than that first championship. His drive, vision, could become a reality.
What about Arnold's story do you think warranted making it into a short versus a long form doc?
Mike Zimbalist (4:07 PM)
In a long form documentary, these anecdotes that can be so powerful can get the short stick. In a long form, the larger narrative is master. You have to tell the whole story. In the short form, you can tell this one anecdote and get inside and give it its space that it really needs.
How hard was it to get a good chunk of his time to sit down with you?
Jeff Zimbalist (4:08 PM)
Not hard at all. He was very excited to participate. We had the full support and enthusiasm of ESPN and Arnold and his camp. This was a story Arnold wanted to tell.
Ryan (State College)
Was there any part of Arnold's story that didn't fit into the film and had to be cut that you anticipated using before the project started?
Jeff Zimbalist (4:08 PM)
Mike Zimbalist (4:10 PM)
His relationship to Reg Park, which is covered in the piece. It's something that we wanted to cover in more detail. But Arnold went on to win competitions and even competed against him. There's an interesting story there about what it means to compete against and win against your idol and the conversations they had.
Will (San Francisco)
What kind of reaction have you received from this short film so far today?
Jeff Zimbalist (4:10 PM)
Tremendous. We have a lot of activity of people watching it and sending it out. I know ESPN is keeping track of views and they should have numbers in the next several hours, I would hope.
How much did you have to sell Arnold on this idea of the documentary?
Mike Zimbalist (4:11 PM)
ESPN had originally approached us to see if we'd be intersted in working with Arnold on the project. We sat down with him and talked about various stories in his life. This was one that clearly stood out to us as a powerful anecdot a powerful story that we wanted to bring to life. There was no selling.
Was that old footage made up or from the actual places?
Jeff Zimbalist (4:12 PM)
It was shot on location and stock footage both.
Ryan (State College)
what challenges did you face with this documentary as opposed to the two escobars?
Jeff Zimbalist (4:13 PM)
I actually think there is more freedom in the short format to take risks stylistically and to break convention. If anything the only challenge was how quick we needed to turn it around.
for a 10 minute film, how much footage did you need to shoot?
Jeff Zimbalist (4:14 PM)
We shot maybe almost 20 hours, maybe also collected archives.
Mike Zimbalist (4:14 PM)
That sounds about right. We interviewed, I think, at least 5 of Arnold's old friends and colleagues, who we weren't able to fit into the final film.
Did you already know some of the story of Arnold's youth or was that all a part of the process of making this doc?
Jeff Zimbalist (4:15 PM)
Yeah, it was mostly a part of the process. It was exciting to find stories so early in his life. That was part of the reason we knew it would be exciting for others as well.
Mike Zimbalist (4:16 PM)
One reason that this story stood out to us as one of the most inspirational about Arnold, was not necessarily that the accomplishments stood out, but the will and determination for him to pursue his dream when everyone around him thought bodybuilding was a complete waste of time.
so it was predetermined that Arnold story would be a short film from the get go?
Jeff Zimbalist (4:17 PM)
That was agreed upon before that anecdote was even chosen, but with that said we're not ruling out a longer project with Arnold in the future.
Ryan (State College)
Any plans to continue working with the 30 for 30 brand in the future? Any projects in general that are in the works?
Mike Zimbalist (4:17 PM)
Yes. We're currently working on feature documentary for the 30 for 30 series that will be released next year.
Jeff Zimbalist (4:18 PM)
Thank you guys so much for asking questions and sending the link and supporting our work.
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