Actor, producer, director and musician Gary Farmer received the August Schellenberg Award of Excellence from the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in October. Farmer accepted the award in Toronto.
Farmer currently lives in New Mexico but was born in 1953 in Six Nations and spent a lot of his career working in Toronto. He is Cayuga and Wolf clan. Farmer said the opportunity to receive this award in Toronto at such a large-scale event wasn’t around when he first started acting.
“I spent a lifetime working in Toronto as an actor and went to school at what was then Ryerson University, now Toronto Metropolitan University, and studied photography,” explained Farmer, who also studied film and photography at Syracuse University. “Coming back to Toronto where I spent so many years of my career as an actor, producer, director, founder of media institutions in this country — all of that came back when I received the award.”
Farmer said there wasn’t a lot of space for Indigenous actors at the time he started acting. Farmer helped pave the way for actors and entertainers that came after him by founding and publishing Aboriginal Voices magazine, contributing to APTN’s early beginning and ongoing success, lobbying for radio licensing in major cities across the country, and much more. Farmer is also a musician and recently finished his latest album titled, Fool for Love.
“There was nothing and now there is a lot of opportunity for us to tell our story. It’s good to live long enough to see that prosperity. Fulfills all those years of commitment,” he says. There weren’t a lot of actors at the time. Now we can share our stories. Now we have actors. It’s taken my lifetime to see that happen.”
The seasoned actor’s first role was in 1975 and is still working in the industry on films including Dead Man, Resident Alien and Reservations Dogs.
Farmer said he didn’t plan to be an actor yet acting found him anyways. And that as an actor he tries to understand what the writer is trying to say and knows it is his job to tell that story.
“I knew I wanted to make things better for my family and I discovered the process of acting and theatre through some events I attended. Over time I realized this is how I could make things better. I realized the telling of story is how one can make things better. A lot of people think acting is about ego but it’s not. Story. Words. Language. That’s what acting is.”