By Greg Carlson
Matt Myers died unexpectedly on August 20 while exploring Iceland with Dr. Jacqueline Bussie, his partner of 38 years.
We are still trying, without success, to make sense of it.
His large circle, which touched both coasts and for the last decade met in the middle in Fargo, North Dakota, mourns his loss. Like many, I received the terrible news in a state of stunned disbelief. Matt had an appetite for life, for love, for creativity, for adventure, for movies, for the future, and most of all for Jacqueline that was so large it negated anything as unthinkable as his absence from this world. He had been practicing his craft for a long time but in so many ways was just getting started.
It was a stroke of good fortune that Jacqueline and Matt found a house in the 1100 block of 8th Street when they arrived in 2011. My family lived on 7th, and the close proximity meant just a two or three minute walk, door to door. As Jacqueline settled into her role at Concordia College, where I teach film and media courses, Matt befriended me and we bonded over our mutual admiration for movies big and small, new and old, weird and weirder. When he learned I had never seen his friend Richard Elfman’s “Forbidden Zone” (Matt was executive producing the sequel), he immediately gave me a copy.
Matt’s fondness for Halloween manifested in unbridled enthusiasm for neighborhood trick or treaters, prize-worthy decorations (including Norman Bates’s dear mother in an upper window), and his elaborate, camera-ready costumes. You could count on him to make every October 31 sweeter than the last as he greeted little witches, ghosts, and goblins with an ear-to-ear grin and a cauldron of candy. One year he was every inch Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula, complete with fangs, cape, and star-shaped sunburst medallion. Adam West’s 1966 Batman was another perfect choice. My favorite, however, replicated the bandages and dark glasses illusion of the Claude Rains Invisible Man as he (dis)appeared in 1933.
In her touching tribute to Matt, Jacqueline wrote that his “love language was food.” Anyone who had the pleasure of tasting Matt’s cuisine knows that he could have been a world-class chef or restaurateur had he not loved making movies so much. I sat at Matt and Jacqueline’s table several times and still can’t tell you what was more fantastic: the food or Matt’s determination to do special things right here, like the independent feature filmmaking of Joe Maggio’s “Supermoto” or an advance screening of Stefon Bristol’s “See You Yesterday.”
Matt’s gift for making connections was substantial. As a producer, he valued results and big picture thinking. The Fargo Film Festival owes him debts of gratitude for facilitating several unforgettable events. Matt brought Hal Hartley and John Waters to the stage of the Fargo Theatre. And when George Romero politely declined our invitation to travel from Toronto to Fargo -- health considerations prevented the journey -- we hatched a plan with Fargo Film Festival Executive Director Emily Beck to take the party to Canada to present the Ted M. Larson Award, the festival’s highest honor.
Matt made all the arrangements. George Romero agreed to record a short greeting that would be shown during the festival in lieu of an in-person acceptance. The night before the appointment, Matt McGregor and I were walking on Yonge Street when I received a call from Matt.
“What are you doing?”
“Just wandering around. What’s up?”
“George would like you to join us for dinner.”
After I picked up my jaw, we hurried to Romero’s apartment to embark on what would turn into a two-day audience with the legendary filmmaker. Matt was under no obligation to invite me and McGregor that evening, but his largesse and spirit of inclusion resulted in one of my most cherished experiences. Matt transformed what I thought would be a brief and somewhat formal interaction into an intimate, freewheeling conversation that stretched across hours. There were cigars. There was whiskey.
I have taken comfort in the words of Matt’s friends as they have expressed condolences to Jacqueline through social media. I have learned more about Matt as a mentor, a teacher, a collaborator, a dreamer. Many have remarked on his generosity, his brilliant sense of humor, his joie de vivre, and his sharp intelligence. But my own favorite quality was his fierce devotion to Jacqueline. It is, after all, what brought him to Fargo in the first place.
Jacqueline’s friends have set up a GoFundMe page to assist with the significant medical and legal costs incurred by a death abroad. Any gifts in excess of those costs will be donated to ELCA World Hunger, the primary charity Matt designated in his will.https://gofund.me/e50d7af0
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