Montreal: Clark Ferguson

photo, intro by Jennifer Sparrowhawk

photo, intro by Jennifer Sparrowhawk

Clark is from Saskatoon but I first met him in Montreal over a decade ago, at a Saskatchewan-themed party, no less. I’ve always thought of him as Saskatchewan’s version of Chevy Chase (handsome and funny, but kinder and sadder). He is a talented filmmaker and one of the funniest people I know, even when he’s sad. Check out this young buck.

KC: What kinds of projects are you involved in right now?

I’m mostly making film and video projects these days. I used to be more involved in the visual arts side of things but always felt the pull of moving images and storytelling in whatever visual art project I was working on. Right at this very moment, I’m grant writing for a short fiction titled ‘A Quiet Life’. The project is based on small town Saskatchewan but will probably end up being shot out here near Montreal, where I currently reside—purely out of pragmatics (which is funny). I’ve also recently finished an interactive web doc titled www.shadowofagiant.com and are just now starting to present a short doc version to film festivals. It’s a cross-platform film/web project exploring the toxic legacy of Giant Mine in Yellowknife, NWT, one of Canada’s worst existing environmental disasters (watch it on a desktop somewhere). I am also trying to develop a couple of projects with friends that I’m excited about. They’re all film type projects. Other than that, I’m open for anything else that comes my way. Give me a shout.

KC: What’s your day job? What do you like about it? What’s challenging?

I, like many people living in Montreal, have a number of day jobs. Often, though not often enough, whatever personal project I’m working on, if funded, is my day job. But as that’s not always the case, I also work for a non-profit production company based in Montreal called ‘Wapikoni mobile’ that focuses on making short film projects with First Nations youth on reserves throughout Quebec and outside of Quebec. I also have a small production company called Family Farm Films that I do some contractual film and video work. Plus I moonlight as an Art Installer at an Art Gallery in old Montreal, when I’m available. And, last but not least, I’m a part-time Canada Post Mail Carrier during the winter months. It seems to work.

What I like about it?

Most of this work is generally contractual so I guess I like the diversity and flexibility of it - which seems pretty necessary in a creative life. As for the mailman job I took last year- I wanted to do something new and thought that being a mailman sounded cool. It certainly isn’t cool but it seems to be working out. In fact, I look and feel pretty good for 40. In fact, I have a joke that I tend to use a lot that goes something like this: ‘I’m 40 years old but look 35, act 27 and have a bank account of an 18 year old.’ Except an 18 year-old can’t get a credit card can they? No they can’t.

What’s challenging?

Turning 40 was challenging – even the above-mentioned joke couldn’t stymie that milestone. An ambulance ride, three hospital visits, six 10 mg pills of Ativan, and four psychologist visits later, I seem to have made it back better than ever. I guess that’s what happens as you refuse to age. Other than that, I’ve been pretty lucky being involved with some great projects, through which I’ve met some amazing people and have got to go to some pretty great places and make some pretty amazing friends.

KC: What’s important to you?

That’s the saddest thing these days is that nothing is really that important to me - That’s where the good jokes come from. And that really didn’t start happening until I became a mailman. In fact, you ask any mailman what’s important to them and they’ll probably say the same thing: ‘not much’. And If they say otherwise, you’ll know they’re lying. I’m only sort of kidding. I would say that an important thing for me is making others around me feel good and good about themselves. Good jokes go a long way with that. I guess coffee is good too now that I think about it. And well, not doing things that I would regret seems to make the world a better place for everyone—I guess those are words to live by.

KC: What do you like most/least about Montreal?

I love spending the summers in Montreal more than being here at any other time. I think that’s a common sentiment here. The parks are full of people and there’s pretty much at least one festival happening at any given time. You tend to meet a lot of great people here during the summer. There’s a great art scene here and some really fantastic filmmakers whom make this place their home.

Bilingualism is an important thing here and once you kind of get that, you open up twice the city. That’s an important thing to know if you decide to make this place your home. I think that’s one thing people don’t work on when they decide to come here and they really miss out on some amazing connections.

Watch some Québec cinema. There’s some great films on Netflix and even Series Noire on Netflix is very very good. Check it out.

Least? You guessed it: the winter. The already crumbling infrastructure becomes far more dangerous in the winter. For example, when you have a hole in the middle of a street or a sidewalk that isn’t flagged or covered throughout the summer months, it becomes far more dangerous as it remains without a flag and uncovered throughout the winter months. No joke. The crumbling infrastructure does dishearten one as the drabness of the city tends to come out. Urban decay is pretty tough on a suburban prairie boy from Saskatoon.

Interestingly enough Series Noire, which is a comedy or maybe a dramedy, shows how shabby Montreal can become. And is good TV.

KC: What is your impression of Saskatchewan?

Well my impressions of Saskatchewan are actually more like solidified concrete ideas about Saskatchewan as I was born and raised there and have lived there a good chunk of my adult life. I think it’s always been a good place to be from and I’m proud of being from there. I identify as being from Saskatchewan. Most of my creative narrative ideas revolve around Saskatchewan in one way or the other and I tend to write about the place more when I’m not there. In fact, I sometimes wonder if I’m able to write stories that aren’t related to Saskatchewan. I go back whenever I can for any sort of project or invitation when possible. My family is there and I have a lot of great friends and connections in the place. I think I left Saskatchewan because I just wanted to learn more from other creative people living elsewhere and I certainly have.

I sometimes become incredibly inspired by seeing what happens here in Québec when there is such an emphasis and interest in creating films and television about Quebec. And sure it has a lot to do with language. But at the same time, it’s a thriving industry here that is exported around the world. I often wonder why we, from Saskatchewan, don’t value telling our own stories in film and television. I think we missed the boat on that when SCN was sold off and with the whole closure of tax credits. Because the truth of it is we would eventually also be making good television and films about ourselves, and have more good people who would be able to do that, and we would watch it, and so would others. Maybe someday there will be more and more.

I also like to say that Saskatchewan is subtly overtly racist. I don’t like to say it but instead, it’s an admission about the place. It’s, of course, a reference to the race relations that exist in the SK. I think the most devastating thing that we never talk about in Saskatchewan is that there was the big housing market spike in Saskatchewan about 7 years ago and there was at the same time the push to gentrify the Core city neighbourhoods. However, the city never imposed rent controls in a time that they were desperately required. So you push to make those neighbourhoods more livable and push people out who’ve been living there for years. That to me was overt and planned. That’s an over simplification of course but I think it’s a shit sandwich that Saskatoon should chew on for a couple more years.

KC: (from the Proust Questionaire) On what occasion do you lie?

Well, I’ve lied in about every journal entry I’ve ever been asked to make or voluntarily made. I knew early on that keeping a diary was a disaster waiting to happen. Who in their right mind would ever write down what they thought about someone or something and just leave it…lying around for someone to inevitably find. Not a good life practice. I did however read from a journal that I did not lie in when I was 18 or 19 and boy, I wish I had observed my wise words back then. Do yourself a favour: Don’t bother ever keeping a diary and watch Series Noire on Netflix.