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Men With Brooms
by Angela Pressland
"When I was in Los Angeles recently, I told people I was doing this thing about curling. It was as though I had farted. They didn't know where to look." - Paul Gross, Toronto Sun, 4th November 1999
At the time Paul made this comment, the Men With Brooms project was still in its infancy. He admitted to knowing nothing about the sport and confessed to calling his brother if he needed any information. Paul knew enough, though, to realise that the big screen climax would not have to be filmed in slow motion because "in curling, the team is small and it's already in slow motion!"
Eighteen months later , and having spent a post-Stratford 'holiday' holed up at his farm with co-writer John Krizanc, the movie was in production with filming taking place in and around Toronto. And Paul knew a lot more about curling, too - it's understood that he even had the bruises to prove it!
Paul said that his film was "no more a curling movie than The Full Monty was about men stripping". Men With Brooms revolves around four ex-members of a curling team who are reunited when they return to town to attend the funeral of their former coach. This was very much a human-interest story set against a curling background. Paul described the movie as "a documentary/comedy/tragedy" and his cutline for the poster was: "Men With Brooms - a sweeping epic!"
Not only did Paul appear in the film (he played a character by the name of Chris Cutter) but he also wore his new directorial hat. He told Chris Allen of CKUA that he thought the best way to deal with this dual role would be to spend a couple of days behind the camera and then to slide into things when the set had its own rhythm.
If you are going to make a film about curling, Canada must surely be the best place to do it. The sport is played across the country and Canada boasts most of the best curlers in the world. Indeed, the news of Paul's film caused great excitement amongst the curling fraternity. The Toronto Curling Association was asked by Whizbang Films to organise volunteers as extras for the movie. They viewed this request as "one of the greatest promotional opportunities the sport has ever had in this country" because they like to think it's their "duty to the sport to help out". But then curlers are like that - loyal and very dedicated.
Paul persuaded some of the sport's famous players to take part in the movie's 'round-robin cashspiel'. This idea was put forward by Men With Broom's technical consultant George Karrys (an Olympic silver medal-winning curler himself, no less), who thought Paul's movie was a great thing to happen to curling. In fact, he predicted it "could be just huge".
For Paul, for curling and for Canada, we all hoped it would be!
In March 2002, Paul sent this message to fans about Men With Brooms:
Curling on the World Wide Web
Here are some of the curling-related websites that we visited:
World Curling Player's Association - a very comprehensive site with lots of news and details about curling events. Check out the 'Behind the Broom' section to learn more about the dedication of the curlers to their sport.
The Sports Network - one of Canada's most popular websites.
Slam! Sports Curling - excellent all-round coverage of the big events and latest news.
In the Hack - packed with news, scores and chat.
Canadian Curling Association - links to clubs and associations, rules of the game, how to start curling, the history of the game and a Hall of Fame.
The Toronto Curling Association - club news and links to other sites. The TCA was asked by Whizbang Films to provide volunteer extras for Men With Brooms. Check out their challenge - it may give you some idea of the scale of the Paul's production!
International Curling Information Network Group (ICING) - a wealth of information here including, for the scientifically-minded, an explanation of what makes a curling stone curl and also some amusing Shakespearean curling quotes.
"Sweep, you fat and greasy citizens"
Yes, it's a hitherto little-known fact that one of Shakespeare's favourite pastimes was a Saturday night out at the local curling rink. In March 2001 the PG-L joined the efforts to recruit hundreds of extras to act as audiences in Men With Brooms and in case the brave volunteers didn't know their brooms from their bonspiels, we put together a few helpful pointers on how to prepare for the experience. Just sweep right this way for the advice we prepared for them . . .
Men With Brooms DVD Region 2 (Europe, including France, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Arabia, Japan and South Africa) at amazon.co.uk
Men With Brooms Video from amazon.com