A Sit-down with Sundance Filmmaker Terence Nance

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For BGLH by Rinny of MissRiot.com

Terence Nance’s film, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, was recently selected to screen at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT this upcoming January.

Introduce yourself.
T:
My name is Terence Nance. I’m 29. Dallas, TX- Born and Raised, Boston- Undergrad and NYU for Grad School. Paris France for 2 years after school was finished.

I’m an Artist / Co-founder and Creative Director at Media MVMT a film production company (media.mvmt.com) and Embassy MVMT an artist development company (embassy.mvmt.com). Media MVMT is a production company that makes films, music videos, and a web-series called MOCADA TV. MoCADA is the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art, in Brooklyn. We partnered with them to produce the series that profiles Artists, Cultural Organizations, and Businesses. The show aired locally in Brooklyn on BCAT and will be released online in 2012.

We produce music videos as well (which I direct) for musicians: Pharoahe Monch, Blitz the Ambassador, L4 are a few we’ve worked with. We’ve also produced music for television shows. In 2012 our we are moving into producing more long-form content.

Many of the women in the teaser for your film were rocking natural hair. Is it safe to say that you are a fan of natural hair?

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty • Teaser from Terence Nance • Terence Etc. on Vimeo.
 

T: The biggest fan of all time. I actually think that there would be some sort of world revolution if Oprah, Michelle Obama and her daughters, Beyonce, Rhianna, and Susan Rice all went natural on the same day.

I don’t discriminate; hair can be dope in a variety of ways as long as your hairstyle isn’t in any way a product of self hate. I used to teach High School and I’ve had several very disturbing conversations with young black girls that confirm the fact that self hate is a pandemic among the next generation. That self hate definitely comes out in their decisions about their hair and how they view natural hair.

That said, I know several Black women with straight hair who look fly and love themselves so one must be careful with generalizations.

As a guy who rocks a head full of natural hair, have you received any interesting responses to your appearance?
T:
Ohhh the stories I have to tell… Generally when I go to The Continent (Africa), no one thinks it’s real which I find to be the most ironic thing in the world.

Here are 2 quick ones.
1. It’s 8 am I’m waiting on a music video shoot to start in Bed Stuy, a 20 year old black woman walks up to me and asks if she can touch my hair. I say yes she aggressively inserts all 10 of her fingers in it. She throws her head back, her eyes roll to the back of her head, and she starts to lick her lips and grunt… some more weirdness ensues, she walks away smiling. Everyone around is in a state of shock.

2. Me and My Ace, Grow have similar hair. We are on the N train going to the city. The N or R train which comes from Coney Island through Briton beach and Bensonhurst. An older guy runs up to us and excitedly asks, “are you guys ACTORS!” we smile and say no. An older white woman of un-placeable age joins in on the convo and excitedly opines, “I thought you all were going for the CAVEMAN LOOK.” Heads shake… eyes roll
I guess the moral is that it provokes extreme reactions.

How did you find yourself in the business of making films?
T:
I came to it very late. When I went to undergrad, I was a visual art major. I still consider myself an artist and not necessarily a film maker. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is my first feature film, I also make music (under the moniker Terence Etc) and work with other media. When I was in undergrad I went to South Africa for 9 months and I made a film called Exorcising Rejection and it was at that moment that I decided to work with cameras and editing in my work. The film was shot on a point and shoot camera and I impressed myself so that pushed me forward.

I’ve read that An Oversimplification of her Beauty actually started off as a documentary of your own experience in dealing with love. What is the story behind that?
T:
It was non-fiction but not documentary. I was re-enacting. It was my non-fiction. My truth. An incomplete truth.

What were your original intentions in making this film?
T:
I started the film in school in 2006 and It was largely an impulse at first. I thought the film would be 5 minutes long I had no intentions or know-how to make a feature film. I had a lot of omni – directional creative energy at the time, I was making t-shirts, and walking around the city with spray paint stenciling the word FLY everywhere.

Around then I had what I thought was a complicated situation with a woman, that inspired me to write the film. So my original intentions probably amounted to some sort of need to consecrate or validate a dying romance.

But I took so long to make the film that I needed to formulate some new intentions to keep me going so. I was probably also attempting to depict an archetypal ambiguous romantic-ish relationship within ‘the swarm’ (people who are of color, in non-corporate occupational situation- for fulfillment as much as for compensation.)

At the end of the day the movie is about how I felt about her. On some level I do feel the film was Goddess worship. It’s a prayer to her.

I read that you actually cast the person of your affection as herself in the film. How did that play out for you when she discovered the film was about her?
T:
I can’t really tell you that because it’s in the film.

The teaser painted a fairly intense picture of the reality of love and relationships. Since producing this film, has your outlook on love and relationships changed?
T:
Well at the time I had a very concrete moral compass, Now I’m back and forth on the practicality of ALWAYS doing the right thing for everyone involved, maybe sometimes you should just do you. I’ve never actually tried that in the way that I’m talking about, so maybe it’s just that the grass is greener on the other side.

What advice do you have for other artists of color?
T:
The first thing is learn your craft to competency but learn your voice to mastery. There are not as many people in our community as you would think who are technically proficient at the technical skill of making films, I honestly feel for artists of color we really need to focus on learning the tools of the trade and understanding them in a way that facilitates their optimal use. Learn how to light, learn how to compose, how to do a match on action cut, how to do a breakdown and schedule, etc. etc. it’s just a matter of increasing your vocabulary, you will construct better sentences the more words you know.

As people of color I don’t think we can afford to Woody Allen / Kevin Smith the game and focus on the non – technical aspects of filmmaking because we don’t have the privilege of having an endless amount of technicians at our disposal, as Writers / Directors of color we need to be auteurs with a whole understanding of the process from script to screen.

That said. Knowing how the camera works won’t get you far, once you are technically proficient you must posses your own entirely unique voice as an artist, and you must master that voice.

Second, make some art! Completing the work is often the most difficult thing. Additionally, you must complete work that firmly positions you as an artist with a voice as opposed to a technician making trivial entertainments or spectacles. We don’t live in a meritocracy in the world of media the person who arrives with the work first wins. I think a lot of great artists have a problem finishing things or finishing things consistently. Master your craft and voice through making art work and finishing a lot of it. Be prolific, If you build it the people will come. Not that I’m anyone to be making this challenge but I want to personally challenge anyone who is filmmaker to write and direct a feature film that is distinctly your voice, in the next 20 months. We can no longer say this is unrealistic. The next cultural frontier for people of color is filmmaking.

It’s important that we work as a community, we can’t get anywhere if we are all working unconscious of each others work and resources. I am a co founder of a filmmakers collective called Cinema Stereo (cinemastereo.org) and we are attempting to do just that. Collectivize as a means of elevating all of our work to more visible platforms.

Describe your ideal girl.
T:
They are all described in the movie.
But I guess my Ideal person is just dope, what they are doing with their life, their time, their energy is dope. They are prolific, ambitious, giving, knowledgeable, curious. They probably smell like some combination of sandalwood, Egyptian musk, cocoa butter, coconut oil, and maybe some lavender. They are responsible, emotionally healthy, physically healthy, and mentally healthy, they value their time and spend it wisely, they are doing what they love.

They’re an artist, athletic / active, open, they can dance, they can sing, they are autodidactic, they are unflappable, independent, confident, CONFIDENT, aggressive, communal, they are growing and invested in their continual growth, they are secure in their hue, they are competitive in a healthy way, maternal, disciplined, determined. They’re probably one of those people who posts pictures of Solange, and animated gifs of the Pyramids at Giza on their Tumblr, or they’re in one of the pictures those people post. They eat to live, They are witty, quick of the mind, quick of the tongue, opinionated, progressive (politically), well informed, spontaneous, cultured in the way I was, centered, loyal,
It also helps if they like me.

How can we find out more information about An Oversimplification of Her Beauty?
T:
For now you can go to media.mvmt.com/oversimplification
We are still raising funds to complete post-production oversimplification.mvmt.com/fundraising to donate

I’d like to extend a huge Thanks to Terence and his team at MVMT! I wish them all the best at Sundance!

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Black Girl With Long Hair

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila, founding editor of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008), social media and black beauty enthusiast. When I'm not here, I'm blogging at my new mommy site, babyandblog.com

 

29 thoughts on “A Sit-down with Sundance Filmmaker Terence Nance

  1. I love this interview so much, it’s so poetic that I almost want to print it out and reread it from time to time. The movie also looks really good, congrats congrats to being selected for Sundance. I wish you the bestest!

    I’ll just say that he’s beautiful, his hair is beautiful, love is beautiful, black is beautiful.

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  2. dear terence,

    i am your ideal woman. please locate me asap.

    sincerely,

    one of those girls who posts pictures of solange & the pyramids of giza on her tumblr

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  3. love his description of his ideal woman :-). I’m seeing someone but I totally smell like sandalwood and coconut oil…currently residing in Haiti…working for an agri-business…chasing my dreams and sir, your words made me want to keep working at being a better me.

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  4. SO happy to learn about this young man and his art. I especially appreciated his advice for other artists of color; it was really on point. And as someone who is so tired the same old Hollywood b.s., I’m really looking forward to seeing this film in its entirety. Best of luck to you, Terence! Thanks for this interview.

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  5. Totally digging Terence.
    His interview was dope on so many different levels.
    The teaser looks awesome. He, his hair, the actresses, their hair…all look awesome.
    “57821″ is one of my favorite tracks on the ArchAndroid album.

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  6. WOW! Imagine if if Oprah, Michelle Obama and her daughters, Beyonce, etc went natural. Don’t know if it would be a fad or a revolution, but WOW

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