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.

Friday, April 19, 2013

"Buddy System" in Action: Jake Paque & Trevor Dallier's StagNation Productions

Buddy System – the web series created and starred in by Wide Eyed company members Jake Paque and Trevor Dallier – launched on April 10th with a public screening at Manhattan’s Stone Creek Bar and Grill. We caught up with Jake and Trevor to discuss current and upcoming projects for StagNation Productions, their film and media production company. Be sure to check out Episode 1 of Buddy System on youtube (you can also watch it below)! 
  • Please tell us about how this web series was conceived. What inspired you to create Buddy System
JAKE: Trevor and I started kicking around these characters of BB Roo and Trent Dulcimer and we loved their dynamic: BB, this music video writer who gets fired and doesn’t really know how to do anything else, and Trent, a person who works for a fictitious company called Buddy System that helps people re-enter the workforce. We spent hours riffing on situations these guys could get into, so with the help of our director Kurt Rodeghiero, we built a home for them in our web series Buddy System. We also desperately wanted an opportunity to work with some friends whose work we really respected, but the industry doesn't always provide that opportunity. So we just did it on our own and it was immensely rewarding. 

TREVOR: I think Jake’s point about wanting to find a venue in which we could work with as many of our favorite people as possible was a huge draw for me. And that is to say, that our company, StagNation, was also formed with the same hope in mind. We thought that this concept would allow us to write scenarios fitting each person we know specifically. After completing filming on another project, we were hooked and knew we had something good going for us in StagNation. 
  • This worked out to be somewhat of a bi-coastal creative process for your team. Can you share with us some of the technicalities of that? Would you say it worked in your favor? 
JAKE: We had all of our post done in LA. It was a decision we made with Kurt, knowing he wanted to work closely with our editor Jeremy Bird. Once we decided that the edit would be done out there, it just made sense to have the rest (color correction, sound etc.) done out west as well. The experience was actually pretty cool. We were able to stay updated by watching edits and adjustments via private youtube links and videos stored in Dropbox. We were in the loop every step of the way. Saw dozens of versions of the episode and were able to make adjustments. It definitely worked in our favor and allowed us to establish relationships with industry pros we might not have met otherwise. 

Photo by Lauren Marsh Photography

TREVOR: We also had our hearts set on making sure that Kurt was able to direct. This was a tough decision (upping the cost of the production), but we really felt he was an integral part of both the storytelling and the production as a whole. He had such a huge influence on the production, from script edits, to story ideas, to helping us find a great crew and working closely with our DP, Nolan Maloney, we have to give him major props! 
  • Can you tell us a little bit about your plans for future episodes of Buddy System? What’s the next step in the production process for you? 
JAKE: We have the next few episodes written and in pre-production. There is a ten-episode arc that we'd love to be able to produce all of. The first episode has already helped expand our audience base and we're really pleased with all the feedback. We also hope that Meet and Greet intrigues potential financiers that would be interested in investing in Buddy System or future StagNation Productions. The immediate next step is acquiring further funding, locking down locations and booking the crew/talent for episodes two and three! 
  • You produce the Stagnant Thoughts podcast. Can you tell us it about that? What inspired you to create a podcast? What excites you about it? 
JAKE: The Stagnant Thoughts podcast is an opportunity for us to check in with our friends in the entertainment industry and let others know what they're up to. The podcast medium has always excited me. I love the back and forth, riffing and storytelling that comes out of each episode. The unspoken goal of the Stagnant Thoughts podcast is to bring to light some of murkier elements of the entertainment biz. There are a million places you can go to hear what famous people are doing, but the majority of artists are struggling, scrapping to get the next project. I wanted our podcast to discuss the successes and failures of the emerging artist, while making sure the guests talk about things that are important to them. We love the opportunity to share our friends’ voices and hopefully give people a laugh. For instance, the Goro Fighting reference in our most recent episode...

TREVOR: Adding on to what Jake said, podcasts are a perfect venue to describe what independent producing is like for us as a personal experience. I feel like when I was younger, I would have latched onto a program like ours to get a feel for the real world of independent arts. I hope we can both inspire and educate our listeners. I also hope they laugh with us in our rants about Goro fighting and “fixing things in post” (which will never happen, by the way). 
  • Can you tell us about other projects you have in the hopper? 
JAKE: We have a ton of things we're interested in producing… sketches, shorts and ultimately a feature. These are each on individual times lines, but I'll say for certain, our youtube channel will be filling with content very soon. The response to Buddy System has been phenomenal and we promise to continue bringing that level of entertainment. 

TREVOR: All I can say is that I am extremely excited to be working on our upcoming projects, in all facets, and I hope to learn and grow as a producer and an artist. Our viewers will not be disappointed!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

At the table: GORDY CRASHES

photo by Sky Seals

The next staged reading in our *free* "Winks" series: GORDY CRASHES by Wide Eyed's resident playwright Sam Byron. Check out the the Facebook event here.