“The Debut” begins with a quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Just like in bodybuilding, failure is also a necessary experience for growth in our own lives, for if we’re never tested to our limits, how will we know how strong we really are? How will we ever grow?”.
Excellently directed by Michael Del Monte, “The Debut” looks more like a real movie documentary than just a hastily put together bodybuilding DVD. Chad Nichols is interviewed at the beginning of the film, talking about some of the past Mr. Olympia winners like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lee Haney. (“The Debut” makes some mistakes here by referencing film footage from the 1980 Mr. Olympia as from 1965 and the 1987 Mr. Olympia as taking place in 1985).
Nichols talks about Arnold and Haney as “freaks” for their time. He explains that the bodybuilding world always wants to see freaks of nature, no matter what time period of the sport we are talking about. Bodybuilding is always about progression with the competitors getting bigger and bigger each generation.
“The Debut” covers the time period from Monday, September 24th, 2012 to Saturday, September 29th, 2012, the week leading up to the 2012 Mr. Olympia contest in Las Vegas. As the film opens, Ben is in Venice, California in carb deplete mode. He gets in a couple light workouts at Golds Gym Venice with his workout partners Bob and Justin before packing up the family car and driving out to Las Vegas for the contest.
Ben is traveling with his wife and baby boy and they are met in Vegas by his dad.
Ben and his dad talk about how he got started in bodybuilding. When he first saw a Flex Magazine, his initial reaction was “I don’t want to look like that”. However, he eventually started training at a hardcore gym in Canada and his bodybuilding career was up and running.
Ben asked his dad if they could go see the Mr. Olympia contest in New York in 1998 and his dad obliged by buying tickets and taking his 17 year son to the show. The seed was now planted and Ben visualized the goal of becoming a professional bodybuilder and eventually one day competing in the Mr. Olympia contest. “The Debut” is the realization of that dream.
The most interesting part of the film is the backstage atmosphere of the biggest contest in the sport. We have all seen countless training DVD’s of the top professional bodybuilders in the world training but it was really cool to share the experience of the pro bodybuilder who competes in Mr. Olympia contest.
We follow Ben as he attends the Competitors Meeting the day before the prejudging, meets fans at the Olympia Expo and attends the Mr. Olympia Press Conference. It was here where Ben made his presence known by speaking out and telling the current Arnold Classic champ Branch Warren that he didn’t deserve to win the title. You can hear the shock from the audience as most of the Olympia competitors are normally very reserved and hesitant to speak up despite the urgings of hosts Bob Cicherillo and Dennis James.
Ben shares his thoughts on the path he has chosen to take to accomplish his goal of being the best in the world. A very intelligent and confident man, Ben said he never had any doubts about one day making it to the Olympia stage. He admits that the sport takes a tremendous amount of sacrifice and work and he now has to balance that single minded determination with raising a family and building a future.
The film is a little short at less than 45 minutes but it is much more than just another bodybuilding DVD. The editing is particularly good, as when Ben reflects on his wife and child only seconds before taking the Olympia stage at the prejudging. “The Debut” takes bodybuilding DVD’s to a new level of professional film making and I hope this is the first of many more bodybuilding films to come.