Joshua M. Ferguson, Filmmaker, Writer & Advocate

Joshua M. Ferguson is a Vancouver-based filmmaker, writer and advocate, and the recipient of Ontario’s first gender-neutral birth certificate. Here, they tell FLARE how they made it

Stacy Lee Kong

(Photo: Brendan Meadows)

Joshua M. Ferguson; @joshuamferguson


Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I studied at five different high schools because of the harassment and violence that I faced as an out queer person. Then I did a certificate in media arts at Algonquin College. I completed my honours bachelor of arts at Western University and then my M.A. and Ph.D. at The University of British Columbia. I studied film, gender, critical theory and Asian studies in academia.

What was your BIG break? How did you land it?

In terms of filmmaking and writing, I honestly don’t think I’ve experienced a “BIG break”! Perhaps it’s just around the corner. I’m where I am now because I believe in surrounding myself with the right people, who I like to call my champions: My husband, Florian, my family, my friends and creative collaborators and my agents. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities in film and literary work without people supporting me to the place of success in my life. As an advocate, receiving Ontario’s first gender-neutral birth certificate was a big moment. My determination has definitely been a factor on both counts. Never give up pursuing what you want; the powerful combination of determination and surrounding yourself with champions is key.

What would you say has been your most significant setback, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?

The biggest setback has been that, for many people, I don’t exist when it comes to pushing for inclusion. Non-binary people are rarely seen and included in our society. In the film industry, there is undeniable inequality when it comes to the positions men hold compared to the positions available and offered to women. However, where are non-binary people in this movement? I find myself having to push to have non-binary people included in conversations about gender parity, because it isn’t just men and women working in the industry. Hello! Non-binary are here, too. I’m all for equality and the parity, but one of my goals is to explicitly enunciate non-binary existence and inclusion in the industry, both in front of and behind the camera.

Name one piece of career advice you always give.

Create your own path forward. You don’t need to do what your parents did, what your siblings are doing, what your friends do. You don’t need to compare yourself, or your path, to others. Make your own way if that’s what you want, and don’t let anyone hold you back.

What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?

The worst career advice I’ve received haunts me, but it fueled my fire. Someone once told me that I have too many pots on the stove. The metaphor aside, having many different, yet intersecting, professional projects is a powerful practice, and it is my life. I never wanted a straightforward and clear career or a singular profession. I intentionally walk down different paths professionally, as a filmmaker, writer, artist, advocate, and I keep many doors open because I know this will allow me to ignite my dreams. Many people will say that this divides my energy and weakens my focus, but having a hybrid professional life creates a multitude of opportunities for me and the people around me.

Who is your favourite person to follow on social media from your industry? What do you love about their social feeds?

Lena Dunham. She’s the definition of determination. She is raw, honest, open, loving, empathic, curious and so incredibly talented.

How would you describe your industry in terms of representation and inclusivity?

We are in a watershed moment for trans representation and inclusivity in the film industry. I know from experience that major studios want to involve trans people, including non-binary people, when telling our stories. But, I think these studios are still trying to figure out how to include us. It’s a rather easy answer: Hire us. Involve us. Cast us. We are directors, producers, writers, actors, cinematographers; give us the chance to be in the room to show you how much of an asset we can be.

What’s the most pressing issue facing non-binary people in your industry right now? What would fix it?

Currently, the industry has a very narrow idea about what a trans person looks like and this includes non-binary people. I don’t see any assigned male at birth non-binary people in the media. We are completely underrepresented, almost invisible. I want to see more of us. I want the picture of non-binary people to show our varied and diverse reality. The reality is that we exist and these curated and created worlds should include us. We are the experts on our lives and we’re now being invited into rooms and onto creative teams.

Looking to the future, what excites you the most about your career?

My first book, Me, Myself, They, and my two films in post-production, Henry’s Heart and They Are Joshua, excite me about where my career is heading.

Me, Myself, They is being published by House of Anansi in spring 2019. I share many personal stories that I’ve kept private until now. The book is a hybrid memoir and philosophy of life that I share about viewing the world from a non-binary perspective because life isn’t black and white, binary-based, it’s so much more complex, fascinating, interesting, fluid and constantly evolving. I hope to humanize my identity with my story so that people around the world can find connections and similarities because, after all, we are ALL human beings.

Henry’s Heart, my final short co-produced and co-directed with my husband, Florian Halbedl, is a queer love story told across time and set to be completed and premiere at festivals in early 2019.

They Are Joshua, a feature-length documentary, co-directed by Florian and my dear friend Jules Koostachin, is set to premiere at festivals in 2019. The film is a different kind of transition story with a full-circle victory, made possible by obtaining my non-binary birth certificate, that focuses on the important reconnection between who I was as a child and the person I lost and only came into being over the last few years.

What worries you the most about your career?

I worry most about the industry taking non-binary people seriously. We aren’t just a spectacle, a passing fad or a new thing. We’ve been here forever, and we have important stories to tell.

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