By Anne O'Connor
TOWNSEND -- Over the past year, Ward Clark has requested over 3,000 items from the library. Only 20 were books; movies topped the list.
Calling him a film buff would be an understatement. Connoisseur maybe, or perhaps fanatic would be closer to the mark.
The self-professed night owl spends several hours a day watching movies. Sometimes his wife Catherine joins him; sometimes not.
During the years their two children were old enough and still willing, the Clark family went to the movies twice a week. He figures that sweet spot in time lasted about a decade.
Since 2000, he has kept a spreadsheet for his own reference. When he found out that 128 of his favorite films were in the Townsend Public Library collection, he started a new venture, with an unexpected nudge from the library director.
When Stacy Schuttler did not have enough time to watch a series Clark recommended, she put the DVDs on the front desk, labeled it "Ward's Pick" and posted on Facebook. A tradition began.
Now, a display in the center of the barrel-vaulted main room features "Ward's Picks," movies that Clark gives an 8 or above. A bookmark in each DVD shows the rating. The top grade is 9. A 10 is a 9 that Clark wants to own.
About twice a week, he stops in to spend a half hour or so restocking the display. Because the lower shelves are hard to see, a small chair offers browsers a perch.
"Ward's picks are CONSTANTLY going out!" wrote Laureen Cutrona, who often works at the front desk. "People will go directly to his section to see what he has picked out and depend on his opinions."
The second Thursday of each month he leads the "Townsend Public Library Film Club." A regular group of six to 10 people usually show up, Schuttler said.
When legislators arrived in town for a library breakfast, Ward was in the spotlight. He spoke about the importance of the library.
His moment of movie fame came after he read on the Nashoba Valley Voice website that a film company was looking for extras this spring for the Christmas film "Spruces and Pines." He jumped on it immediately, shooting out an email and photo at 10:30 p.m.
He was chosen and reported to Ayer on a mild day in April with his wardrobe: hat, parka and boots. His first role was on the street. He walked away from the camera, again and again.
Then, it was a wardrobe change, a red cotton sweater. He milled around, completely silently, a coffee shop patron.
Movies have been a big part of his life for a long time, but this Christmas-themed version of Romeo and Juliet was his first time on-set.
"It's different when you're there," he said. "The thing that really amazed me was how many people were there, just a huge amount of people."
He figured it took a good 60 to 90 minutes to film 45 seconds that would be used in the final version. In order to get different viewpoints, the actors would repeat the scene and the one camera would be repositioned.
Clark returned for a second day of filming in Ayer but was not chosen to film at one of the Christmas tree farms.
Clark is hard to miss. His long, brilliantly white beard and hair is easy to spot across a crowded room.
"What they want is people who fade into the background," Clark said. "I'm not one of those people visually."
Clark is looking forward to December when "Spruces and Pines" should be released. It should be quite a scene at the library movie club that Thursday.
Follow Anne O'Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.