Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wide Eyed in the Field: Duane Ferguson

Duane Chivon Ferguson is an actor, writer, director, producer, editor, cinematographer, singer, and poet. He was born in Harlem, New York and raised in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. He first developed his creativity performing in plays at his alma mater, Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York. He also performed on various stages in New York and did repertory work with The Positive Youth Troupe and The Citykids Foundation. On camera, Duane has hosted various episodes of magazine shows and has appeared in numerous independent shorts. He is currently a member of Wide Eyed Productions in NYC. His life is all about the chase....whether it be after the dream, the fantastic, or the joy of being surrounded by his friends and family. He dedicates all of his efforts to his lovely daughter, Soul. [You can keep up with Duane on Twitter, and check out more of his work on youtube and Vimeo. - Ed.]
  • Let’s just get this out of the way: You won an Emmy last week. What was that like? Can you tell us a bit about what you won for?
What was it like? Well…. I remember last year at the NY Emmys, a couple of good friends and colleagues won their Emmys. One won his second; another won her first. I remember thinking, “You know what? Next year... I’m winning one.” I kinda put it out there, like a mantra. I then was given the opportunity to create a segment for CUNY TV's Study With The Best. The segment featured poetry written by members of the City University of NY community; we call it ‘Digi-flow’. This particular one featured Wide Eyed's former Artistic Director, Tim Butterfield, a Brooklyn College graduate. The segment was then featured in an episode that was nominated…and ultimately won the category of Education Program/Special.
CUNY Vice Chancellor Jay Hershenson, Study with the Best producer Duane Ferguson, senior producer Nehama Miller-Kohn, & CUNY TV Executive Director Robert Isaacson, NY Emmy ceremony (Photo by Vincent Verdi)
When we were announced as the winner... It was one of the proudest moments in my life. I loved it, not only because I kept my promise to myself, but because the team of producers I worked with all worked their asses off and it showed. It’s one of the best examples of teamwork I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience.
  • You have been quite active in recent months with The Inspired Word spoken-word poetry series. How did you become involved? When did your love affair with poetry begin? Do you find yourself most inspired by anything or anyone in particular?
Well, one day I was damn depressed, and I said to myself, “Self… stop being so damn depressed. You know what you need? Jesus.” I didn’t have his number on speed dial, so I decided to do the next best thing and Google ‘open mics NYC’. One of the top hits on there was Inspired Word. So on a whim, I just went. On the day I decided to sign up, it also happened to be a slam night. So…I just said, ”Screw it. Do it”. I didn’t win that night…but it was a hell of a lot of fun, and now months later I have another family.

Photo by Michael Geffner
Poetry was something I had always dabbled in, but never had the guts to really perform. I remember performing a poem I wrote years ago when I was with The Citykids Foundation, and I remember the response it got. It was phenomenal. Added bonus, I performed on the same stage that day with poet Amiri Baraka. That always stuck with me. I was always a poet, but I somehow neither had the opportunity nor the courage to do it, which was super ironic since I had already established a comfort level with performing on stage at an early age.

Ever since I’ve began performing with the ‘Word’, I’ve gained so much more confidence. I started playing guitar in public…When I hit the mic, no one knows if I’m going to sing, play guitar, do poetry or just whistle patriotic songs through my nose. I love performing. But I love watching performers. Whenever I see a poet, or comic, or singer, or musician move the crowd, not just vocally but with energy…. It’s just such a turn on. It’s like whenever I watch a company member, or any actor for that matter, move an audience. It’s the same thing. That’s where I draw the most inspiration: from other bad-ass performers.
  • Under the umbrella of your production company, Baba Soul, Ent?, you’ve been generating “digi-poems” in collaboration with other local poets and creating shorts like I Am: Keep Your Hood Up in memory of Treyvon Martin. Can you share with us what your mission is with Baba Soul? What inspires you to undertake the projects that you create? 
I want to be able to provide a showcase for people with a voice. Like I mentioned, I love performers. If I see one I particularly like, I essentially accost them, and tell ‘em stuff like, “Damn. I love your shit. I’d love to work with you on something one day.” Most of the time I have no idea what that would look like, but I don’t care. I just want to put it out there. Because of digital technology, artists have no more excuses as to why they don’t have a digital or showcased forum for their art form. I just want to be able to not only help show their work, but to inspire other cats to do the same. I particularly want to take advantage of my skill as a camera operator and editor…who also happens to act, write and direct.

  • We may be a little biased, but we think you’re a very talented actor. Do you have any plans to be on the other side of the lens sometime soon? 
Hell yes. The whole point of me doing digi-shorts and poems was for me to stop bitching about not being cast and do my own stuff. I just never found the right opportunity to cast myself, because sometimes I think too much like a director and would imagine other actors in roles that I write. I have to stop doing that crap. I’m gonna write myself out of a freakin’ job.
  • Can you share anything with us about any upcoming or additional projects you have coming up? 
Speaking of acting... I am working on a feature film that I’ve been cast in, thanks to [fellow Wide Eyed member] Carly Knight who had the foresight to refer me to the filmmaker. Because of her, I’m acting again. That Carly… always looking out. The added bonus is I’ll be sharing the screen with her, too. That’s awesome.

I also wrote a webseries that I am hoping to get up and running this summer, and I actually cast myself in the lead role. So I am hoping to add to the fine Wide Eyed tradition and follow in the footsteps of Andrew [Harriss], Neil [Fennell], Jake [Paque] and Trevor [Dallier] as company members who have graced the digital screen [in their own webseries]. Plus, I’m kinda hoping I might get to jump on stage with those crazy Wide Eyed kids again. It’s like the NY lotto. Hey…ya never know.

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