James Hergott

1.  How did you get started into fitness and what are some of your personal accomplishments?

-I was really skinny during my teenage years.  I started working out when I was 16.  I went from 119 pounds to 170 in a year just from training and diet.  That completely changed my attitude in life.  I realized I was not a victim but rather that I could control my destiny.  I applied the same outlook to my school work and went from a D student to  having the top male score of my graduating class.  From there it unleashed a monster in that I saw a direct correlation between my efforts and accomplishment.  That instilled the confidence to go after my dreams of being a filmmaker and I moved to California.  

My first movie was a low budget independent that did well at Cannes in 2005.  As a result I got a US theatrical release.  From there I got into writing, directing and producing projects about UFC fighters.  This included a TV show for Mark Cuban's HDNET (now AXS TV), a documentary I filmed in Iraq in an active war zone about an MMA event put on to entertain the troops and a documentary about Georges St-Pierre, the UFC champion who at the time was the most popular athlete in Canada.  Around this time I moved back to Canada.

2.    At what point did you think blending fitness and filmmaking would be a good idea?

-I saw a flyer in the local hometown of Cobourg that I grew up in for Winston's natural contest and although I had never considered entering a bodybuilding contest I thought it might be a fun challenge.  So I set the goal and competed and got bitten by the bug as a result.  Simultaneously I had gotten involved with aspects of the fitness industry through my MMA/UFC projects.  I went to the Mr. Olympia and made several connections and ended up getting involved with "Generation Iron" as the business director.  I had contacts at Cineplex theatre chain and got the movie into theatres in Canada.  I also hosted and introduced the NY and LA premiere which had all of the top Olympians and several other celebrities attend.  I promoted the movie in Canada in Montreal and arranged for OPA competitors to do a posing exhibition at a NY film festival.  My passions for bodybuilding, fitness and film were fully fused and I came up with a new concept which ended up being 'Radical Body Transformation’.

3.    What exactly is the radical body transformation?

'Radical Body Transformation' (RBT) is a show that initially was to be kind of a 'Pimp my Ride' for fitness.  The idea to take people and hook them up with a coach, and supplements and follow their journey to stage.  I took on people form all walks of life, everything from out of shape first timers to IFBB pros.  The idea being that no matter the level, everyone aspires to make improvements and to get to the next level.  The show quickly morphed beyond that as it really became about the individuals.  I found so many people who compete or desire to compete who have been through amazing adversity and I found it really moving.  In many ways it reconnected me with how I felt when I  was in high school and fitness made me realize the power of personal development.  The show became something much deeper and more powerful than I expected.  It's the story of ordinary people using fitness to accomplish extraordinary things.  Its about the struggles we all face and that we can overcome if we set our mind to it.  The show organically became the embodiment of the philosophy I learned early on.  Instead of trying to exploit the industry or show the gossip or negative aspects it was about the positives and all these incredible people I met who's lives had been changed through fitness.  

-The show continues to improve with each episode and will with each iteration as it naturally evolves and I learn how to better execute on all levels.

4.    Did you ever expect it to be this big and how much further do you want to take it?

-There was a moment in season 1 when I was interviewing a guy who had been bullied and overcome that and lost 150 pounds and it was the day before he was competing in bodybuilding.  He broke down and cried while I was interviewing him.  In that moment I realized the show was bigger than me, the transformations were more so emotional than physical.  I just wanted to make a show that fused my passions of bodybuilding and filmmaking, I never set out to have an impact on people.  I wish I could say that I had foreseen that but I really hadn't.  And then when people see the show it inspires countless others.  I realized that the show was having a positive impact on peoples lives and that gave me way more satisfaction than whatever the show does financially or exposure wise.  The ability to help people became the focus and then everything came together much clearer.

I have no idea how the show will do in terms of revenue or popularity, but once I saw the impact it was having on people's lives I became obsessed with the idea of growing it as much as possible.  I want it to become mainstream because the stories are much deeper than just bodybuilding or fitness, they are stories about self actualization and taking ownership over ones life and therefor controlling the outcome.  To me that is such an important message and I feel compelled to push this as far as it can go!

The project faced a lot of scepticism early on.  People didn't know what it was or what I was doing.  13 episodes have now been released and I think its clear what the vision and intention is.  Slowly but surely the project has been embraced by more people and the message has spread.  Much like following the training program of a coach going into a contest you have to "trust the process".. I had to believe in this when many others didn't and keep the faith.  I did and now that Ive got more and more great people behind me I am even more determined.  I mean even the OPA I am sure was understandably sceptical of what I was doing filming at the shows but now that my work is there for everyone to see here I am talking to you.  I break down barriers everyday but there are many more to break down.  The mainstream is much harder a nut to crack then the fitness industry.  I hope people with in the industry will join in supporting me because the more this project grows the more the sport will grow and the more all involved will benefit.  Its important to understand we are like family and rather than fighting each other we have a bigger fight on our hands, that fight being years of misconceptions about the sport and the people in it.

5.    What has been the most impacting transformation you have experienced with an individual?

-There was a women who I was about to interview who confided in me that she was sexually molested as a child.  She had only told her husband.  She wanted to talk about it on camera because fitness saved her life and she used it rather than medication to overcome her anxiety.  She asked if I thought this was the right thing to do.  I told her that she could help so many people by telling her story who might feel the same way but don't have an outlet to express themselves. As she opened up about this on camera it took everything to not get emotional and to direct the interview.  Even the trainer, who didn't know about this started to break down.  I just kept thinking "you have to hold it together because this is something this women needs to tell".  Since then the stories have gotten even more profound.  Already just starting this second season the stories are even more emotional.  It just confirms for me that this project is something of value to society and to those involved.  It pushes me everyday to take it farther.

6.    What makes the radical body transformation special over other transformation programs?

-I don't watch other shows but from what I understand they are exploitive and about overweight people competing to get into shape or something similar.  This show is about people overcoming obstacles because they are doing it for themselves.  Its not a challenge or a race or a competition.  Its about being the best they can be.  Also I went through my own situation.  March 8th 2013 I almost died from a burst ulcer 6 weeks before a Winston natural show where I was on the poster.  I spent a week in the hospital and the experience reinforced what I already believed from my teenage transformation, that life is short and we control our destiny.  I entered the contest anyway, which was crazy and against what the doctors wanted.  I just never want to be a victim.  I feel everything in my life, good or bad is the result of my own choices and therefor I have the power to control the outcome.  That philosophy permeates through the show and it attracts like minded people.  Its really about their journey and what is possible if you set your mind to something.   It shows the stories and the struggles that are overcome.  That these are intelligent people from all walks of live, who often face great adversity to get to the stage.

7.    Do you follow up with these individuals after their transformations and how successful are they at continuing their fitness journey?

-In some cases we are following people from season 1 into season 2.  Overall it seems to become like a family, you can see the people involved past and present supporting and encouraging each other.  There are so many positive people attracted to this project who are self motivated people with a great outlook that I can honestly say that I am honoured to have had them become part of my life. We have had people who did their first competition on the show and gone all the way to nationals.  It becomes infectious because the whole things seems to grow everyday.  

8.    Are there ever individuals who are not able to maintain their motivation to complete their transformation? And if so, what would you say is the main reason these individuals do not continue?

-Unfortunately yes. Dealing with so many people you quickly start to learn who is going to make it and who isn't and the signs. The ones who don't make it start making excuses, they deflect responsibility, they have a million reasons why.The ones who are successful don't see the glass half empty.. they don't complain, they just figure out a way to get around the problem.  Basically it comes down to owning responsibility. And thats not just in terms of fitness but success in all areas of life.  We had one women on season 1 who is a single mother of 4 kids, who works full time in finance and competes at a national level.  Going into nationals she had a broken shoulder in two places.  Did she drop out?  Nope.. and in my interview with her she talks about how she could have done more, that she cheated on her diet at times and other things.  She completely owned her situation.  That is someone who will succeed no matter what.  People like that inspire me.  As soon as I get an email applying for the show and the person says they are fat because of their husband or some other reason I know not to take them on because they wont make it.  Their head isn't in the right place.  Another red flag is the word "can't"  It's all mental.

9.    What is the main message you want to get across to the viewers?

-The editor I have doing the majority of the episodes was not involved in fitness at all.  He thought bodybuilding was dumb meatheads.  One of the things that quickly struck him was the emotional stories involved and the quality and variety of individuals.  It dispelled a lot of his myths to the point that he is emotionally invested in the project.  The main message is, taking responsibility for your life is hard because it means you have to own your mistakes, but when you do that you realize that you are ultimately in control.  If you want a certain body you can have it.  And if you can do that with your physical being imagine what you can do with your mind!  We have single mothers on the show who work full time, have 5 children and compete at a national level.  There literally is no excuses not to be who you want to be in this life.  And if you aren't doing it because you are afraid to take the risk then I have to tell you that time is finite so the bigger fear is to go through life and to not be what you want to be and to later regret it.  

10.    Do you have any future upcoming projects that we should be expecting?

-I'm all in on this project.  Not only does it satisfy my passion for bodybuilding, fitness and filmmaking but one thing I didn't expect in that it would spread a greater message of self determination.  I want to see how far I can take this and promote the positives of bodybuilding.  I'm extremely passionate about it and it is personally satisfying on many levels. I feel I am making a difference.  That I am adding something positive to the water supply of humanity rather than polluting it.   If I leave this earth and have impacted it in more positive ways than negative and left it better off than without me, no matter how small the fractional impact, I have done my job.

11.    Who would you say has been the biggest influence in your career?

-First of all my father Harold.  He grew up in EXTREME poverty, dropped out of school in grade 9 and lied about being 16 (he was younger) so he could work in a factory. With his first paycheque he brought groceries home to his family. 

My father grew up in Hanover Ontario which is very small and rural but despite not having any money or education or mentors he dreamed of being an airline pilot. He worked hard, got his pilots license, became an instructor and finished his schooling. His first flights were dangerous flights in the Arctic with sub 0 conditions. He eventually made it to captain in Air Canada where he was a pilot for 30 years.  He basically was the precursor to my belief system that its not where you start but your mindset that determines your outcome.  I have met many successful people in different areas of life who are similar. 

Another key figure is Tarquin Gotch.  I was an apprentice to him early on when I was 20 or so and still in Canada.  He was living in California at the time and had Executive Produced 'Home Alone' and a bunch of major films.  He taught me how to write a screenplay and I learned how to tell stories.  I think what separates this project from many others is my ability to tell the stories and to pull them out of people.  Those who apply to be on the show are there to be a part of it, they can't be expected to be a producer.  I have to be a pop psychologist of sorts to pull the stories out and figure out how to best tell them.  Tarquin taught me some key things about storytelling which I hold to this day.  It's all about finding the individual's journey.