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Colin Ferguson Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Colin Ferguson

This is an interview from November 22, 2010 with Colin Ferguson from the Syfy movie Triassic Attack and the Syfy show Eureka.

Directed by Colin Ferguson, Triassic Attack is about the Native American owner of a kitschy roadside museum who accidentally brings to life three dinosaur fossils. Now really annoyed, the giant dinos wreak havoc on the small town and the local university. Triassic Attack stars Raoul Trujillo (True Blood, Tin Man) and Steven Brand (Scorpion King).

Question:
You've done acting, you've done directing. What's next for you? Anything that you also want to try out?

Colin Ferguson:
I don't know. I'd love to keep doing what I'm doing. I'm really enjoying the combination of it. I'm really enjoying being on both sides of the camera and hopefully I can continue to be on both sides of the camera. I find that with directing you get in earlier, you can protect the story longer, get into more conversations about it and I find that really rewarding. So I'm actually really excited where things are and I hope it sort of stays as it is for a bit.

Question:
Can you tell me a little bit about your holiday special for Eureka? What's going to happen in that? Anything exciting?

Colin Ferguson:
Yes, actually just on the previous question I got to say I'd like to start a show. That's something that I'd like to do. I have a bunch of meetings and ideas and have been sort of talking about that, so I guess that's new That'd be interesting to see something from the ground up. So I guess that's what's on the plate for me with that. As far as the Christmas episode goes it's really, really fun.

People have said who have seen it - I haven't seen the finished - with all the special effects in it. They say it's the funniest episode we've done. It's basically getting into the science of Christmas. If there are reindeers who fly - if there are reindeers that can fly how did it happen? If there's a sleigh that could fly how would it happen? How do you get around the world? It's Eureka sort of attacking Christmas in a really fun way and it has a great ending to it.

Question:
Can you talk a little bit about Triassic Attack, because I think we don't really know much about it?

Colin Ferguson:
Right, basically, it's what happens if a giant flying Tyrannosaurus Rex flock will attack Oregon? And it's sort of a one liner for what happens in that. And there's a Native American community that comes together and they use their connection to the past to sort of solve and save the day ultimately.

Question:
How did you get started on working that project?

Colin Ferguson:
I was talking to Karen and Tom in New York and they said that they wanted me to come and do a movie for them, which was Lake Placid 3. And I said, "That'd be great and I'd love to do that and then direct one right afterwards." And I assumed it would be a bit of a fight. I assumed it was going to be a bit of a war to get that, and they said, "Sure, that's fine." So I did one then went right into prepping the next and then shot the next, so I did it all - gosh, I guess it's, not last summer but the one before. And did it all in Bulgaria and it was really great. The great thing about Syfy is - the network that is, is they really do keep you working. It's not an old studio system but if we had an old studio system it would be this. They let you direct. They want you to act in other stuff. They want you to sort of stay branded in a sense. And it's really nice and sort of gives you a good sense of security. So on the desk side of things it's been really great for me.

Question:
What was it like filming in Bulgaria?

Colin Ferguson:
It was great. This was the first time I directed without knowing the crew, because it's one thing to direct a show that you're the lead of. Everybody knows you. You know the show. You know the sets. You know the personalities. You know how it goes. So that's - in some sense it's easier and sometimes it's harder because you have to do two jobs, but going to Bulgaria not knowing anybody was the first sort of, I don't know, I think feather in my cap if I could say that. 'm proud of it, for what it is - our popcorn movie on a Saturday night. It was a lot of work. It was fantastic to work in another language in another culture in another country.

And I made the right decision by shooting in summer I can tell you that. From my friends who have gone over and shot in the winter, I think David Hewlett did one called something like Snow Yeti and he, I mean, the story is they all got lost in the snow and the mountain and I'm thinking that was the last thing I'd want to do. But what's fun about it is they're still working in film instead of HD. It's really fast. It's really down and dirty. It's really gorilla filmmaking, which is a great energy to work in. So the good news is - the bad news is that you don't have all the toys in the world. The good news is that there's no one looking over your shoulder. You can do what you want and that's really great.

Question:
How did you get started into this industry? Was it always something you wanted to do? Did you have a passion for it or can you give me a little background on yourself?

Colin Ferguson:
Yes, I don't come from a performing family or anything. I come from a pretty conservative family out of Montreal. And so I wanted to as a kid, but sort of an idol dream. You think, "Oh, that'd be great, and I'm not going to, you know, do that. I'm not going to end up doing that." And I was in college and I needed money, and so I sort of found myself - because I'd do anything for money.

I was a poor kid so I found myself doing comedy in bars just because I sort of had a facility for it - which is ironic because I was a really shy kid, but greedy. So, my greed trumped my shyness. And then I sort of just started doing that and then I was in Second City while I was in still university and by the time I got to the end of university, when you sort of have to make a decision about what your life is going to be, I found myself with enough in my backpack, in my little bag of tricks that I could sort of go, "You know, I'm going to - I'm actually going to take a shot at this," and that was the decision. It was right after university after having done sort of four years of improvisational comedy and Second City. I figured, "Okay, I'm going to give it a shot."

Question:
Of all the episodes of Eureka you've done, do you have a favorite episode or storyline?

Colin Ferguson:
There's a bunch that sort of stand out as sort of watershed moments for us, and it's usually personal stuff. Like in the first season there was a little episode called The Games People Play, because that was written by a friend of mine and so that was amazing. Alexandra La Roche, who directed Up in the Air this year - it's in the back ten. It won't air till next summer. That one is the episode that explains the poster and that was her first step as sort of the director. She's been our script supervisor since the first season.

So she's been our script supervisor for four years and has been instrumental in holding the show together. And when someone from the inside gets a leg up and gets that chance and then knocks it out of the park like you knew they would, that's sort of really special for us because you sort of feel like, we're all grown up. And it sort of reminds you that you're all a team sort of pushing to do stuff that you've never done before. So that was amazing from this year, that one for us. And I probably would say the Christmas episode because I really like working with Matt Frewer and I don't get to do that a lot.

And it was - Matt Hastings, the director - good, good friend of mine. It was the end of the first season. We shot it as Episode 10 - 4 10, so at the end of the first ten we had no money left because we had done such big stuff on the first nine that we did. So we had six days to do it. It was a run and gun. It was hilariously chaotic and he just knocked it out of the park. It's really, really funny. So probably those two from this year stand out for me. And of course the ones I direct, but of course those stand out to me. I was - just the ones that I didn't direct are those two.

Question:
For Triassic Attack, could explain the creature design and the visual effects process on the film?

Colin Ferguson:
The funny thing about shooting over there is you shoot it on film, but whenever you're shooting a piece that has a visual effect in it, you use the red camera. So it's a bit trying, because, you got to - let's say you're on steady cam and you're coming up to a piece that has a visual effect. You got to take the body off of the steady cam, put the red on it, shoot the piece without the visual effects and then take it off and put the other body back on it. So you really got to be careful when you're shooting to not waste your day, you know, transferring bodies around. As far as the design of the creatures we discussed with Juan, the guy who sort of runs it all, and actually the film stock we used was based upon creature design.

We sort of worked backwards like that because it's a day movie, right. There was not a lot of night stuff so there wasn't a lot of shadow stuff. So because it's day we used the more yellow look for the film so that when you went to the creatures we could use a brown and - not a brown brown but, more of a dirt color instead of like - we didn't want to have bright, bright day in the middle of summer in Bulgaria, then bright light bones. We didn't think we'd get as much fear or fun out of that or fright. So we went with a more yellow look for the thing and then the more brown look for the creatures and we modeled them off of what the real ones would look like. We know what they look like so we just used those.

Question:
You've directed episodes of Eureka and this new movie, could you talk about the difference between directing episodic versus a TV movie?

Colin Ferguson:
Yes. Yes, sure. What I said some before was that the crew was new. The thing about shooting television is you all have a common language. You shoot - we've shot 66 episodes so there's a shorthand and a really quick way of sort of, "Oh, we're coming into this set again." We know how to shoot it. And we know how not to shoot it. You make a lot less mistakes and consequently you can get more bang for your buck when you're doing television and our expense check.

You can also make mistakes in an episode and fix it a month later. You know, like "Whoops, that didn't work out," or, "Oh, we missed this piece." There's a little bit of latitude. On a movie it's what happens is what you get. You're not going back for reshoots so you have to be a little more on it. The prep is better but there's - again there's no one looking over your shoulder, whereas in TV there's a lot of money on the table so you have consequently people who are making sure that mistakes aren't being made, whereas, you can really bail during one of these movies.

You can really do a bad movie because what are you going to do? You're going to go back and reshoot it? Not likely, so I find it freeing to do the movie. I find it sort of more like camp where I would say TV is more like sort of growing up in a small town with a bunch of people, because you just know each other for years and years, whereas the movie of the week is definitely show up, military operation and then you all go your separate ways. So those are some of the differences.

Question:
I'm assuming that you've filmed the Eureka Christmas special a little while ago. Was it weird to be surrounded by all that festive stuff and was it difficult to get into the Christmas mood sort of that far ahead of Christmas?

Colin Ferguson:
No, it was actually - not strangely easy but because it was the last episode before our five-week break, it was very festive. Everyone was very excited, great mood. We shot it in June of this year so the trouble obviously is trying not to sweat when it's supposed to be freezing, but that was work - it does work into the story so it wasn't as hard as that.

But it - no, it was really fun and that's - it's great to bring Frewer back, Matt Frewer, for episodes like that because he's such a breath of fresh air and he's such a good guy and he's so funny and he's so sort of lovely to be around. But if anybody on the show embodies Christmas it's pretty much Matt. So I think between those things, coming up to the break and having Matt there made it sort of infinitely vested for us.

Question:
What can you tell me about Taggart's role in this particular story?

Colin Ferguson:
Well he's - I believe it's a santologist is what I believe the term was, and he was doing all sorts of research on proving or disproving Santa Clause, but he was out to know everything there is to know about how Christmas would work if it was there. So that happens all the way through it. And of course the standard sort of Eureka stuff, but it's - instead of end of the world or fright stuff, it's way more fun stuff that we did with the special effect, and way more sort of comedic stuff. It's sort of the bent - we went with it and I guess we're also partnering with Warehouse 13 if I remember correctly.

The two of us are doing a night together where they have a Christmas episode and then we have a Christmas episode or vice versa. So it's sort of nice that we get to do a Christmas episode and for us it was great and we talked about it when we were shooting it, but, who are we kidding? Who's going to air every Christmas on Syfy for years? Right, like for years so it's sort of neat to be a part of that because we all had those when we were kids, those movies that every Christmas rolled around and you're all dry but part of you is like, "That's so great that it airs every single year." So hopefully it works and hopefully it'll be a part of a littler legacy like that. We're excited about it.

Question:
You mentioned about Matt Frewer coming back. Can you talk about any other guest stars we're going to see in the second half of the season?

Colin Ferguson:
Yes, we have Felicia in for a while. We have Wil Wheaton in for a while. We have Dave Foley in for an episode. We have Wallace Shawn in for two episodes, so God bless the recession, right. Everybody's looking for work so we get fantastic celebrities coming to do the show, which is really fun. I mean, for me having Wallace Shawn on the show was sort of a highlight. I mean, from Princess Bride and everything that he's done it was sort of amazing for me. And of course Wil and Felicia are family at this point, and then Dave Foley is a guy I've known for years and so to get a friend up for the last episode or so was really fun. So it's a great group and I'm really impressed with our casting. The guest stars have been great.

Question:
What would be your ultimate dream role to have in the future?

Colin Ferguson:
A dream role. Good question. I think I'd like to do something big. I'd like to do something, I mean, I know this budget and I know this world. I know the run and gun world. I know how to do that. I'd love to do something big where the budget's sort of enormous and to see what you can do with ridiculous amounts of money. What really changes and, just sort of a dream that way. I'd love to be involved in something like that. I think that would be really fun. And something with, visual effects and Love: Inception. I thought that was great. It made perfect sense to me. I don't know what everybody else is talking about, so I'd love to do something like that. Something really massive would be great.

Question:
Is there someone who you'd like to work with specifically?

Colin Ferguson:
Oh, yes, any great director. I mean, actors are, obviously there's people I'd love to work with but any great director I'd love to work with just to see how they process, what their process is, you know, how they prep, how they shoot and yes, to have stories about them. As stupid as that sounds everybody wants anecdotes, right. "Well, I worked with this guy," and, so Christopher Nolan, and any of the legends of the craft I'd love to spend some time with. That'd be amazing.

Question:
Talking about your directing, what lessons did you bring forward from the episodes of Eureka you directed to your experience directing Triassic Attack?

Colin Ferguson:
Probably everything that I know I would say I learned from Eureka. I mean, I had obviously a good knowledge of what I was doing ahead of time but you spend - I think it's something like I spent 400 or 500 days on set just on Eureka. So - and what we've managed to do with Robert Petrovich, the line producer, and sort of the team we've had is we get a - we get really good bang for our buck on the show. It's a big show and it sounds like we make it for a lot of money but we work hard to move fast, to move quickly, to move efficiently and to know where the money should go. Don't waste it on this - use it on that. Don't waste it on this - use it on that and so I brought that definitely. That I learned through Eureka and we've got a - we all speak the same language on the show.

So what I bring to it probably is I like a nice place to work and I like a hard place to work, so I like people working hard and I like people who are, you know, good to each other and kind and a nice atmosphere on set, an open atmosphere. I'm not much for ego on a set so I learned a lot from Eureka and probably doing Second City way back in the day, it was the ensemble work and how to make an ensemble work and how to make a cast work and how to make a show work. They're not dissimilar, so I've been doing ensemble work since I was 18 and I think that's where I learned that.

Question:
What do you think is behind the enduring appeal of movies and TV shows about rampaging dinosaurs?

Colin Ferguson:
I think - I was talking to CNN about this actually. I think what it is, is it's not serious. There - you don't really get that one that came out this year - was it Piranha? You get one offs every now and then that get released. The movies are very serious and they have to be. I mean, when you're going to put that much money into it you're going to do usually the good version of fill in the blank. And because you're doing the good version of it it's serious. You can make it light but it's the good version of it. I think what the perk of these is, is they're mindless.

You can tune in and it's sort of fun and sort of stupid at times and sort of fun, and you don't have to take it seriously. We hope you have a good time. We hope you enjoy it but it's sort of the perk of not having $40 million to shoot one of these movies. You have to cut corners and I think the fans understand that and they sort of go, "That's great." You know, we get more product and we get it. You got to cut corners sometimes. So I think that's the feel. I'd love to hear from other people to find out what they think, but I think that's stupid.

Question:
If you weren't acting or directing, what do you think you'd be doing?

Colin Ferguson:
That's a good question - I ask myself that every time I go into the off-season. Like I ask myself, "What am I doing first of all, because I'm exhausted?" And then when I start to get rested, it's obviously going to end at some point and what would I do? I don't know. I'd probably go into working charity. I think I'd probably do something that feels real because I spend a good part of my life working in artifice and pretend and, making entertainment. And that has its place but I think if I was going to go into something else I'd really want human contact, and know that sort of changing lives on a one to one basis so they could see it and feel it. I think that's selfishly what I would go into.

Question:
Do you have any projects coming up that you can talk about?

Colin Ferguson:
Well I was in - we were - I was talking about doing this series that shoots in Vancouver, but it just came too fast and I was too tired just doing a couple, four or five episodes on it. So I don't know. I'm actually having a meeting today with my agents to find out what's in the hopper. I don't know if I want to do anything for about a month.

I mean, I know they're going to say we want you to do this. I know that's coming in about an hour but I sort of want to take a month off, maybe travel a bit, maybe just - maybe do some charity work in the off-season to refill my soul a bit because I got to get back to this whole world thing and figure out what's going on.

And, I mean, the other answer to that is they want me to direct another movie like Triassic Attack. I don't know if I'm going to be able to fit it in before I go back to Eureka, so there's that. And then there's guest spot stuff which is obviously always there.

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