March 5, 2010
Leaving no stones unturned
When a sport is described as “hypnotic,” it might be considered so because you can’t turn your head away, or because it’s so tedious you’re sent into a comatose state watching it.
For Ethan Brosowsky, when he uses the word to describe curling, it’s the former. Which explains why the 29-year-old L.A.-based actor and producer has become somewhat obsessed with the sport. So much so, he’s been following the U.S. Olympic men’s team around the United States for years documenting a behind-the-scenes look at their experiences. His work brought him up to Vancouver for the 2010 Games.
“Curling is enthralling, fascinating, addictive,” he gushed during an interview at the Vancouver Olympic Centre, where the 2010 Winter Games curling matches took place. The centre, in Hillcrest Park, was one of nine official Olympic sports venues that were either created or renovated for the Games.
So how does a “nice Jewish boy” from Roslyn, N.Y., end up being obsessed with a game more likely watched north of the border?
Like many Americans, Brosowsky became more and more intrigued with the sport over the past few Winter Olympics. He first saw it during the 1998 Nagano Games and then joined those who began to watch when the Games came to Salt Lake City in 2002. By the time the Turin Games were on air, millions of viewers were tuning in, and fans started lining up at curling open houses around the country. Brosowsky was bitten by the Olympic bug.
“I thought, if I was an Olympian, this is what I would do, because there was no way I was going to be an Olympian otherwise. Now I know I won’t be an Olympian this way, either,” he laughed.
When Brosowsky first became interested in the sport, he looked online for a club in Los Angeles, but only found a listserve of people talking about it. He joined the group, sharing opinions about curling, though he’d never curled in his life.
“My friends thought that was pretty weird,” he said, “but I’m used to that.” His comments online got him some surprising publicity when, during the 2006 Games, he was contacted by New York Times writer Katie Zezima, who was covering curling’s growing popularity. After the interview, Brosowsky decided to set off with a camera and start doing his own research.
His travels have taken him through California to New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maryland and New York, capturing what he calls the “zeitgeist” of curling.
“I wanted to see what it takes to be an Olympic curler,” he explained. He was impressed by how little ego the curlers possessed.
“Sportsmanship is like the ideal,” he said. “It really feels genuine.” He also is impressed by how “truly amateur” the sport is.
Skipped by John Shuster, 27, three of the four U.S. team members, as well as the alternate, are in their 20s. Shuster is bar manager at a curling club, Jason Smith, 26, is a technician, Jeff Isaacson, 26, is a science teacher, John Benton, 40, is an engineer, and alternate Chris Plys, 22, is a student.
Brosowsky admitted it’s been hard arranging everything himself, and a lot of the money for travel comes out of his own pocket. But he’s had help from other individual producers and smaller companies and whatever he can make through his production company, Suspension Media. He’s been able to get access and credentials through the U.S. Curling Association, as well as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. When traveling, he relies on contacts to set him up with places to stay.
As to what the focus of the film is going to be, Brosowsky doesn’t know just yet. “When you’re doing a documentary, the story reveals itself. When you watch the footage [of which he has 120 hours] you get the idea you want to convey.”
But he acknowledged that the theme will highlight the individuals and relationships behind the scenes. Of particular interest might be the struggle the U.S. team had in this year’s Olympics, winning only two of their nine games. At one point, Shuster was taken off the team (later to return).
“I can’t imagine how that happens,” said Brosowsky. “It’s not like there’s someone who put the team together who comes down, taps you on the shoulder and says, ‘Sorry, you’re out.’ The skip himself put the team together.”
As to Brosowsky’s own experience on the ice, he got to finally try curling for the first time in 2006.
“Of course, I fell my first time,” he laughed. Later that year, he fell again, this time breaking his coccyx. It put him out for four months. “It made me miss curling even more.”
If all goes well, Brosowsky’s documentary will be out in 2011.
Baila Lazarus is a freelance writer, painter and photographer. Her work can be seen at orchiddesigns.net.