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Q & A: Filmmakers Michael McNamara & Judy Holm on Ice, Sweat and Tears

Firgure skaters. When they step out onto the ice and the music starts playing, they make it look so beautiful, so graceful, so easy. But behind the competitions, what the fans don't see, are athletes who push themselves to the absolute limit, spend countless hours inside cold rinks, and risk severe injury every time they lace up (think Jessica Dubé's facial lacerations due to partner Bryce Davison's blade at the 2007 Four Continents Championships in Colorado Springs).

Ice, Sweat and Tears - a documentary by filmmakers Michael McNamara and Judy Holm airing tonight (March 7) on CBC at 9 pm - explores the world of figure skating; the science, the practice, the triumphs and set-backs for Canadian Olympic, World and Canadian Ice Dance Champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, two-time World Champion Patrick Chan, and pairs medalists Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers during the 2011-2012 season. With feature interviews from Canadian skating legends Scott Browning and Elvis Stojko, as well as coaches/choreographers Lori Nichol, Marina Zueva and Christy Krall, this doc goes behind the curtain for an up close and personal look into a sport loved and watched by many.

Watch a preview of Ice, Sweat and Tears:

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We spoke to filmmakers Michael McNamara and Judy Holm about their latest doc exploring what it takes to become a skating champion.

CBC Live: What inspired you to goes behind the scenes and follow figure skaters during a season?

Judy Holm: One of the things that inspired me was that I've been a life-long figure skating fan. I've followed it forever. We knew it would be a lead up to the Sochi Olympics, so we pitched it to CBC with the idea that figure skating is something that people tend to feel one way or the other about it, sometimes without actually watching it [or]] taking a look at what's really involved in figure skating. So we pitched it as what does it take to be a figure skating champion; behind the frills of the athleticism of what these figure skaters actually do.

Michael McNamara: Judy and I are, as well as producing partners, we're also life partners and so anytime there's a Winter Olympics or a World Figure Skating competition, she disappears for a while and buries herself in front of the television to watch all of those skating highlights. She's really quite devoted to it but I really didn't know a sow cow from a quad. In making the film I learned a lot more about it. Our intention was to kind of introduce... figure skating for people who love it or for people don't know anything about it at all.

What was the most interesting thing you learned from creating Ice, Sweat and Tears?

MM: I was really, really impressed with the level of athleticism that these people have, the men and women, they are just in incredible shape. They train incredible hard, constantly. So, it was really a treat to watch them at work and I certainly gained an enormous amount of respect that I probably didn't [have] before. It was a new level of respect for their athleticism.

JH: One of the most delightful things that I think we did [was with] ice dancing coach and choreographer Marina Zueva. I remember was I was a kid watching her skate and she was the most delightful, off the wall, outrageous... Such a delight to spend time with. She is completely idiosyncratic. There's no one else like her. From the way she approaches things to the way she talks. We really enjoyed getting to know more about her. And of course she has the position of being the coach and choreographer for the number one and two ice dancing teams in the world. So it was interesting to watch how she approaches that, how she deals with the two teams, and the ongoing challenges that beings.

What sort of challenges did you as filmmakers face during the making of the doc?

MM: Certainly in the case of any fan, they already know what happened at the end of the season with each of these characters, so what I think is going to keep them tuned in and interested is the amount of intimate detail we managed to get, the kind of tension off the ice as people are waiting to go on, the kind of work that they to getting themselves psyched up both physically and mentally.

JH: We've gotten to know these skaters and we can barely stand to watch them now [in competitions]. They are like our kids now (laughs).

Ice, Sweat and Tears airs tonight (March 7) at 9 pm on CBC



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