Inspiration. Ambition.
Passion. Process. Technique.

By: Geri Cole

Promotional poster for RANDOM ACTS OF FLYNESS

Geri and Terence Nance — creator, writer, director, and co-star of the new HBO Late Night series RANDOM ACTS OF FLYNESS — talk about the trauma in – and of – making art, how his writing takes place before he opens Final Draft, and how we can find success by looking in each other’s faces.

Terrence Nance is a writer, director, actor, and musician. His 2012 feature film AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION OF HER BEAUTY premiered at Sundance and received a Gotham Independent Film Award. He was the recipient of a 2014 Guggenheim fellowship for his work.

His latest project is the HBO late-night sketch comedy series RANDOM ACTS OF FLYNESS – a fluid, stream-of-consciousness response to the contemporary American mediascape. Each episode features a handful of interconnected vignettes which showcase an ensemble cast of emerging and established talent. The show is a mix of verité documentary, musical performances, surrealist melodrama and humorous animation. Nance and his collaborators weave together such themes as ancestral trauma, history, death, the singularity, romance and more.

The six-episode first season explores evergreen cultural idioms such as patriarchy, white supremacy and sensuality from a new, thought-provoking perspective, and is available to stream on HBO Max.

Season 7 of OnWriting is hosted by Geri Cole, a writer and performer based in New York City. She is currently a full-time staff and interactive writer for SESAME STREET, for which she has received Writers Guild Award and two Daytime Emmys. She also performs sketch and improv at theaters and festivals around the country.

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Thanks for listening. Write on.


Geri Cole: You’re listening to On Writing, a podcast from the Writer’s Guild of America East. I’m your host, Geri Cole. In each episode, you’ll hear writers working in film, television, and news break down everything from the writing process to pitching, favorite jokes to key scenes, and so much more. Today, it’s my pleasure to speak with Terence Nance, creator of the new HBO Late Night series, Random Acts of Flyness. The series, which I highly recommend, is a fluid stream of consciousness examination of contemporary Black American life. It’s like nothing else on television. I spoke with Terence about the trauma in and of making art, how his writing takes place before he opens final draft, and how success can be found by looking in each other’s faces.

Geri Cole: Hi, Terence.

Terence Nance: Hi. How are you?

Geri Cole: I’m doing well. How are you doing?

Terence Nance: Good, good.

Geri Cole: Thank you so much for joining us. I’ve been looking forward to speaking with you. You’re in LA right now, yes?

Terence Nance: Yeah, I happen to be in LA. I kind of got stuck here. For the moment.

Geri Cole: That’s all right. You got some sun, though. It’s nice and warm there.

Terence Nance: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, it’s transient. The transient quarantine.

Geri Cole: I mean, hey. I wish I could get to a sunny location right now. That would be much appreciated.

Terence Nance: You’re in New York?

Geri Cole: Yes. I’m in Brooklyn.

Terence Nance: Oh, okay.

Geri Cole: So, yeah. I am very excited to talk to you about your show, Random Acts of Flyness, but also about your whole career and the things you’ve got going on. But to get started with Random Act of Flyness… First of all, thank you for making the show. I feel like you made it just for me. But also I wanted to know how… After watching it, I was like, how? How do they make this show? Because there is… Obviously, if people have watched the show, there is so much. It’s so rich. I’m curious about how much of that is on the page and how much is made in post and/or how much changes in the process of making the show.

Terence Nance: First, much gratitude to you for watching it. I think it always feels good when I meet anybody who feels they can relate to it and it touches them on any level, so I thank you for that. And for telling me that. I’ll bring that back to the family who makes it.

Geri Cole: Please do.

Terence Nance: Also, just thanks to you all for having me on. But yeah, I think it’s about 75%, 80% scripted. If you watch the episode, you would definitely be able to follow it. You’d be able to read along on a script and it more or less corresponds to what you’d be watching. But I do think that there is, like any movie or anything like that, the dimension of editing it, making it, writing it, is articulating what the ideas in a specific dimension, which is sort of immaterial. It doesn’t have a… I think writing is… It doesn’t have a concept of time that’s linear. It’s very unvisualized and I think that’s necessary for it to have enough potential for it to be directed or shot. For it to have enough stuff that isn’t determined.

Terence Nance: I think that once it becomes determined, once it’s in 2D space, on the drives, something else has to happen in the editing dimension that I don’t think is articulable. Especially in the script. But I think that is when it starts work more like a music making process, which I think really is about calling in the spiritual forces, nature, ancestral forces, and just allowing the editors themselves… I’m only one of the editors, but we have several editors… Kristan Sprague and Naima Ramos-Chapman and Jonathan Proctor… who I think do that kind of channeling work to bring aspects out of even the script that you wouldn’t necessarily know were there, but maybe I found were there later. Subtextually or tonally. Things like that.

Geri Cole: Like once looking at it with fresh eyes in the edit, you are able to discover new things that you weren’t necessarily maybe going for but then present themselves?

Terence Nance: Yeah. I think it works a little bit more like how the whole season feels related to itself narratively. I think we definitely made a strong effort to reward the cumulative effect of seeing all the episodes in sequence. Essentially, when you see my character’s relationship with Najja and you see what amounts to pretty minimal beats. There’s not much screen time of our interaction. Then, once you see our final interaction, it feels cathartic or feels like it’s a healing, energetic signature that you only totally understand if you’ve seen the rest of them. I think that that kind of continuity is in the scripts, but I don’t think we knew the extent to which it was the language of the show until it’s being edited together. And then trying to make editing decisions that promote that continuity across the whole thing.

Geri Cole: That actually makes me think of two questions I would like to ask. I’ll start with… I was trying to figure out… I was like, how do they categorize this… not that it necessarily needs to be categorized, but I was like, oh, I feel like it’s a topic-based show. To me, it felt like a topic-based show of different things that you want to explore, but actually the whole season felt like a conversation. And so I was curious if you had mapped it out from the start or did you just find each thing that you wanted to explore and go that direction and somehow they all tied back together to feel like a conversation.

Terence Nance: I think it’s both. I think that there’s… If I’m understanding your question accurately, I think that the conversation that the show feels like it’s having with itself is a reflection of the conversation that the writers and directors are having with each other over the first season. I believe we had a eight-week writer’s room. Eight or ten week writer’s room. That conversation wasn’t only contained to that moment because most of the people had pretty longstanding creative relationships at the very least, if not more connective relationships, so I think that it is a mirror of a conversation that we’re having with each other. And I think that that is… The elegance of it is that simplicity, I think. Because of how essential conversing is and communication is at a personal level, a human to human level, for any kind of transcendence to happen. For anything more major or healing to happen, I think it starts there.

Terence Nance: And hopefully the conversation, quote unquote, or the things we were talking about, whether it’s… I think one big question of the season is to what extent does your body determine your concept of gender and are concepts of gender useful for Black people, like at all? Even if those concepts of gender are transitory. Is it useful at all? That’s a question we’re asking. We’re talking about. There’s no answer. It’s a thing you have to move through, finding better versions of the question kind of ad nauseum and hopefully the way we’re doing that is that in language. [inaudible 00:08:23] cinema is a language. We’re trying to use cinema as the language to make more questions as opposed to… It’s obvious, but as opposed to just talking about it.

Geri Cole: Can we talk a little bit actually about your team of collaborators? Because it seems like you are a team of amazing artists that all just sort of got into a room and then really got to go for things unchecked, unfiltered. Was that what the experience was like? And then, also, what do you look for in a potential collaborator?

Terence Nance: The collaboration shows what it is. Just to shout all of them out on season one. You had Nuatama Bodomo, who’s an amazing writer/director. Darius Clark Monroe. You have my brother, Nelson Bandela Nance, who makes music under the name Nelson Bandela. You had Naima Ramos-Chapman, who’s an amazing dancer/writer/director. Shaka King, who’s an amazing writer/director, who I’ve known for a really long time, who’s got a movie coming out, Judas and the Black Messiah. And so that core group… Jamund Washington is also a producer and a writer on the show. I think that core group on season one, many of whom returned on season two… Mariama Diallo. Can’t forget Mariama. Also amazing screenwriter/actress/director.

Terence Nance: I think that the nature of the collaboration was… I think when you watch it, it can seem open-ended, but it actually… in my reflecting on it over the years, it really wasn’t. There was no time for it to be open-ended, in a way. It was really specific. One reason it was specific is because we had the pilot. The pilot has a lot of those collaborators working it already. Mariama and Nuatama had collaborated on a script for Everybody Dies, which is a film that Nuatama had conceived of and directed and made. And that was a part of the pilot. Shaka had made a film called Lazercism. It was also a part of the pilot. And another pieced called Most Wonderful Time of the Year. And then, obviously, I had directed the rest of it.

Terence Nance: And so it existed. They were like, this is it. This is the show. We can watch it and we could see… We could kind of deconstruct it. It’s made up of these elements. These characters that were, in some way, already reflective of our group. I think that it just became about, once we deconstructed it, like what are the raw materials that make this thing up, quote unquote, segment wise? Even though we didn’t necessarily consider it a segment-based show. But really narratively… characters, tonalities, energy… where do we want this to go over three more hours, basically? That focused, I think, the energy of what we began to create, I think, pretty instantly. Because we just had this thing that we could say we’re continuing this.

Geri Cole: Do you feel like it all has to get filtered through you? As the creator of the show.

Terence Nance: I don’t think it has to, but that’s definitely what’s fun. Part of the fun part of it… I think that my role… The biggest difference in my role is I’m the person who’s there for all phases and has to be there every day for all phases. Which is a pleasure. It’s a challenge and a great pleasure. I think with that opportunity to carry it in a certain direction, I think it ends up having the energy that comes through me. The portal that is me, which isn’t even really me, quote unquote, as one person. There’s all kinds of spirits and energies and ancestors and things like that that I can’t say are all called Terence, necessarily. But I do think that it’s a function of time, in a way, of being there for that swath of it gives me a different perspective than some of the other collaborators who come in and out. I think that’s very important to have that inverse experience. Like somebody coming who hasn’t been around for a few weeks and being like, oh, Terence, what about this? Because I’ve been there every day and it’s like my positionality maybe locks me into a certain thing or it frees me up from a certain thing. I think it’s a nice balance to have that. But I’m also very interested in not playing that role in subsequent seasons and playing different roles.

Geri Cole: Can we talk a little bit about The Flying Runner? Which I really had… I felt very connected to. Because it felt like a shared consciousness in a way. I think that was one of the things that I really enjoyed about the show was that sense of shared consciousness. That there were things that I recognized deeply even though I’d not looked at it before. Can we talk a little bit about that? That sense of shared consciousness? I mean, I don’t know if that was the intention.

Terence Nance: Yeah, I think that… The tagline of the show is shift consciousness and I think that that started and starts with ourselves. Me shifting my own consciousness or allowing it to be shifted. I think maybe in the first season, maybe with The Flying Runner, it was an intuitive decision. Anything I’m saying about it is an attempt to reflect upon something that might not… It might be conjecture. But I do think that it definitely has in it a kind of wish fulfillment that is about what we have been maybe symbolically gesturing at. What we have been able to do in terms of survival. And how we’ve made survival look. Not necessarily effortless, but definitely like science fiction. I think we’ve made… Black people have made surviving KKK, police officers, feel proto natural, feel tragic, and science fiction at the end of the day. Because it kind of can’t… the survival aspect of it can’t compute in our agreed upon communal concept of reality. Reality like Western science reality. Like humans don’t fly, quote unquote, reality. I think that’s where the shared consciousness thing comes in.

Geri Cole: Watching it, I remembered that I used to always dream of flying. Especially whenever threatened. That was my go-to. Whenever threatened, I would fly. And I was like, whoa. That really feels familiar.

Terence Nance: That’s kind of where it came from for me, too. I have a recurring… as a kid especially… recurring flying dreams. You and I are interdimensionally linked. Even just having this conversation means that there’s some relationship that we’ve had at that level… what [inaudible 00:16:13] calls, I believe, [orun 00:16:14]. The invisible layer of existence. The invisible dimension that determines the physical. And so it’s like that collective consciousness, those two words, I think are signifiers of that space of conversation. To bring it back to conversation. Hopefully, if we’re being real about the conversation, we’ll always operate on laws of being that seem only possible in that invisible realm. Because that’s where everything is determined. It’s maybe even more real for us there than it is in the body, quote unquote.

Geri Cole: Another thing that I really appreciated about the show was… and I feel like you make a joke of it. Maybe in episode one, but maybe it was in episode two. That the show is more about affirming Blackness than it is about interrogating whiteness. You were G-chatting with someone and it was like, no, no, no. We’ve done enough of this. The thing that we’re interested in doing is affirming Blackness. Can we talk a little bit about that?

Terence Nance: Where did you read that? Where is it from?

Geri Cole: I can’t remember what episode it was in, but I feel like it was maybe in the first or second episode. You were online. Someone emails you to say, “Hey, we have this sketch and this thing out. It feels like we’re maybe too much about interrogating whiteness.” I’m obviously paraphrasing. And you’re like, “You right.” This show is about affirming Blackness, but we’re not going to concern ourselves with interrogating whiteness.

Terence Nance: Yeah. I think that was really important to us as people. Around that time… That was close after the uprisings of 2015, 2016. Freddie Gray in Baltimore and Eric Garner in New York and Mike Brown. I had been down to Ferguson, I remember. I was making something. I was planning on making something down there. I think I was just really within the grips of the story of white supremacy as it affected my life. As we all were and are. It just kind of came up in my consciousness. I don’t remember exactly where or how, but probably through the teachings of our ancestor, Toni Morrison. That the main function of white supremacy is to distract us from our work.

Terence Nance: I think a big thing about that truth is what is our work? I think I started to understand it as a daily practice, as work, of re-centering on ourselves. Especially myself as a Black man in a relationship with a Black woman. What is it like to heal my ancestral trauma so I can show up to the task of being in a healthy, communicative relationship with someone who’s also suffered her own traumas? That was what a lot of the relationship runner came from, which is this necessity of doing our work. What is our work that doesn’t exclude the internal battle to survive white supremacy, but it de-centers it? It’s a daily thing. I think it just came from the necessity of that. Because that also is survival.

Terence Nance: And also just where do we draw energy? Part of the survival aspect is avoiding the danger, but also it’s about finding the water. Finding the gas. Finding the thing that you’re living for. I think, on some level, the base level, we’re living for each other. We’re living for the thrill of seeing each other’s faces. I think that’s even more clear now that it’s hard to see each other’s faces. I remember thinking one time… I don’t know where I was. Just on a Sunday. A lot of Black people out in [inaudible 00:20:20] or somewhere. Maybe it was even in Brooklyn. I don’t know where I was. It was just looking at all of our faces and I was like, this was how we survived the Middle Passage. Just each other’s faces. There’s just so much to stay around for. Just in being around each other. Just witnessing each other.

Geri Cole: Beautiful way to look at it. Just by looking at each other’s faces. I’d like to talk a little bit about how the show came together and whether or not you had any pushback. It seems like you… and I hope that this is true. Like you got to sort of do and create what you wanted to create. But can we talk a little bit about I guess… It started, yes, as a part of OneFifty and the… like a development process. How did you take it from that development process and get it to HBO?

Terence Nance: The big turning point with it… It had been something I had been thinking about for a very long time. The thing that really made it happen was Tamir Muhammad, who’s an amazing brother of mine, executive producer on the show, and producer himself… I think around 2014, I want to say… I think it might have even been technically before OneFifty. Because Tamir was doing a lot of work with the Tribeca Foundation and was just supporting me and other artists. Other filmmakers. He asked me what my take on the news would be if I did a news type show. I was like, I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t really do anything related to the news. I come from a news family. My father worked in news all of my childhood. He actually told me recently that a big thing that his father, my grandfather, did that formed him was that he watched the news every day. So, I kind of came from that. I don’t know if it created an antagonism towards the news, but I was just sort of… Nah. I wouldn’t do it. But I had this other idea and this is kind of what I would do. I think it’s sort of actually scratching the itch of what you’re actually saying. Even though it 100% doesn’t have anything to do with the news. Especially since it’s not about current events or anything related to that.

Terence Nance: And he saw it. He saw the vision. He was curating OneFifty to, I think, be a studio. I think his take on it was very much phrasing it as development in earnest as opposed to development as charity or virtue signaling towards a concept of quote unquote diversity. I think that that was really important for the energy of what I was bringing, which was this was something I’m making anyway. It doesn’t need quote unquote development, meaning that this particular thing doesn’t need the perspective of people who make a great living articulating what is appropriate for television, which I think has value in many environments. I didn’t have particular value in what we were doing. Because, as you said, most people’s reaction is how did this get here? And so it required a dismissal of what is passable in television to articulate itself as what it was. I think that Tamir was very… That’s the thing he got. I think that’s the thing that he took into the networks and said, “This is what we’re doing.” A thing that is deeply disinterested in being passable for television but is deeply committed to portaling through a play space. I think that it’s less a show than it is a space in a way. I think that that play space hopefully is about the play space of our collective consciousness and the conversations happening there.

Terence Nance: And so it wasn’t ever really pitched in the sense that because it was already… it was constructed of things I had been making, it was very demonstrable. Like this is what is. Obviously, Everybody Dies existed. Nuatama had made it. Most Wonderful Time of the Year existed. Sexual Proclivities existed. Some of the stuff we ended up shooting was… [inaudible 00:24:57] that already existed. Music in the Mountains existed. It was putting that stuff together to demonstrate what it would be like. With the tonality of this is happening. Do you want to create space on your network to do it? And shout out to HBO. Shout out to Aaron Spina and Nina Rosenstein. I think they saw it and… They understood how, I think, it complements what they are attempting. As curators themselves. To have a wide swath of perspectives. They have Bill Maher and John Oliver and High Maintenance and Animals at the time and all these other things. I feel like, hopefully, Random Acts represents a set of perspectives that are our own and very different than the other ones that were present there.

Geri Cole: I’d like to talk a little bit about success. This is something that I like to talk about often because I feel like there’s an idea of success… or rather, it’s always unclear. Am I in the success? What does success look like? What does it mean for different people? Especially specifically with Random Acts because you guys won a Peabody, which feels like it’s a signifier of success. But I’m curious as to-

Terence Nance: That’s an amazing question.

Geri Cole: … how you understand success.

Terence Nance: I thought a lot about that. Before Random Acts. In the years before that. Ever before finishing Oversimplication. I put a lot of time trying to write down what my definition of success was. The operational definition I had for many years was success to me is fluid access to the resources necessary to fully realize anything that I want to make at the scale I want to make it when I want to make it. Fluid access to those resources for both myself and everyone in my community. So, I would like… Anybody that asked me that, I would say that. It was very meditated upon. I haven’t identified what level of naivete is within it, but I know it’s there. It’s one of those things that I’m like, it’s not totally that. It’s something definitely… I think part of the naivete there is that that success is very much about the body. Being in the body and production and articulating, which is out of balance.

Terence Nance: I think one part of Random Acts that taught me that is it’s a very unprecedented show aesthetically because it’s… and that required unprecedented mode of production that I would say was pioneered by my executive producers. By Kishori Rajan, who produced the pilot with Kelley Robins Hicks, who also produced the pilot, and Jamud Washington, who obviously is a head writer and EP’d the series. I think that they had to… and continue to have to, honestly… innovate a mode of making that does not exist in order to make a thing that does not exist.

Terence Nance: I think part of what success has to be now is a constant innovation of our mode of making. I listen to [inaudible 00:28:28] a lot, but he says this thing about Black people need the philosophy for life because all of what our life is now is based on Plato and Aristotle and shit people said a long time ago that were on the level of quote unquote philosophy. The whole theater of government or governance or civic life or education is all based on philosophies. I think that what success is and what I think they have developed and what I’ve been hopefully a part of developing… and I think the work is really theirs as executive producers. As producers. [inaudible 00:29:09] experts in it… is developing a philosophy for creativity and construction of that creativity and institution building to support that creativity that sustains us as a people in healing and in health, which sounds easy, but it’s almost impossible. No one is even attempting it.

Terence Nance: I think one thing that made me realize partially why my original definition of success was naïve was because I didn’t know what the actual process of getting those resources was that I was talking about in that definition. Deploying them in order to make a thing. Now, I kind of know and understand that the process is highly colonized and depraved and destructive of human life. And all life. It is militaristic. It’s based on the military, which is why when you go on a film set, everybody is using military terminology. Copy this, copy that. Everything is a little military code sounding. Because the energetic of the process is about industrial military production in some sort of way. It’s like you’re making bombs for a war effort. So, I think that’s the success now. That’s the charge of success is a remaking of the process. It’s the work of a very specific type of people. And I call them out. I call Kishori out and Kelley out and Jamund out because they’re on the front lines of that in the context of what I’m making… we’re making. But yeah. I think that’s what success will be once we’ve sustainably remapped it, recreated it, and can share the process. We’re trying. We’re trying.

Geri Cole: That’s why I was so excited to talk to you. Because I was like, they’re doing something else and I want to learn all about it. I do want to talk a little bit about some of your upcoming projects. For example, Master, which is a feature drama that I think you’re EP-ing on. I guess I also want to talk about if you see yourself as a mentor or someone who can open doors for other people now or just still as a, I guess, collaborator.

Terence Nance: Yeah, I’m definitely a mentor. I consider it necessary to name that as a role. It’s something that I… It’s my responsibility to contribute. I think it’s all of ours. To find all the spaces in which we can share knowledge with people trying to do at whatever age or anything. Even outside of this concept of young people and old people or anything like that. I’ve been mentored by people much younger than me. In different moments. Even if just for a moment. I’ve been a mentor to people much older than me. In different situations. I’ve learned a lot. I’m only here because people like Hank Willis Thomas took me under his wing and hired me to edit different things or just consulted with me in different moments. Just because he saw something in my work. And so I think it’s important to always approach living life as a member of a community. That’s really the only reason to be doing it is to be around… Again, back to looking at each other’s faces. That’s the only reason why we’re doing it.

Terence Nance: I think that Mariama is a person who… writer and director of Master. When we met initially… I don’t even know when we met. It was many years ago. She worked at [inaudible 00:33:00] doing grant writing for many years and was always writing. Always making short films. The joy of watching her flower creatively as an artist up close is just deeply inspiring. It’s like that thing of why are we here? What’s the gas? What’s the water? That’s the water. I think that, in that situation, I wouldn’t phrase it necessarily as… I mean, Mariama is an inevitable… I’m not the one enabling anything in that way. There would never… I learned just as much, I’m sure, as she has learned from being around me and my process all these years.

Terence Nance: But I do think that the endeavor of making a feature film requires having positive energy, people who love what you’re doing and love you and want to see you succeed. How many people do you think you need? You need [crosstalk 00:34:06] Just quadruple it at the least. Quintuple it. Just to make sure. Because it’s a harrowing journey and I think that… Master got put on pause for the pandemic. It’s the thing that couldn’t be stopped. It can’t be stopped, obviously. Picking back up and continuing production this month, actually. Just to even watch that. Just to watch a movie… a piece of cinema that’s deeply concerned with continuing the tradition of cinema survive and thrive despite it all, it puts gas in my tank for sure and I’m privileged to be a small part of it at the end of the day as an EP and do what I can to help.

Geri Cole: I know we don’t have a lot of time left, but I do also… because this is a show about writing… want to talk a little bit about if you have a ritual and/or process that you feel comfortable sharing when you sit down to write. And/or what’s your favorite thing about writing?

Terence Nance: That’s a good question. We have time. I don’t have a hard time to go anyway. I’m trying to build more rituals into my life and my creative process. I don’t traditionally have anything that I must do before I start writing. To me, there isn’t borders between things. Writing, making music, or working out. All this stuff is the same energetic movement in a lot of ways. When the thing actually gets in final draft, that’s admin work. That’s not writing, really, to me in my process. I think it’s more experiencing things and whatever moment of reflectivity I’m having, being able to hold that. Save it. Remember it. Whenever the moment of reflectivity happens.

Terence Nance: I think that, to me, the value for me personally… and I think I’ve learned this in interacting with different people in the industry of making movies, making art. The value… Maybe the only demonstrable value that I can ascertain from a movie is the extent to which it can provoke reflection. Because the moment… and I’m going to share I guess… I met somebody who said… a white person… who said that when they saw Get Out, that it made them think of the only Black person who went to their junior high and relive that moment and realize that this Black kid… that this is what they must’ve felt. To me, that means that movie succeeded beyond… It did its work. It did its healing work. Because it made… I mean, obviously, not just this person who I met, but it made a lot of people reflect on something that they never would have reflected on had they never seen it. They never would’ve had that moment of empathy backwards in time and had to meet themselves with this new reflection.

Terence Nance: A moment of reflection, I think, is a contagion in a way. It only exists in the movie because it existed for the person who made it. I’m sure… just to carry out the Get Out reference… that Jordan Peele had some moment of reflection. Maybe it happened in therapy. Maybe it happened while he was on a walk in the park. Where it was like, this is how I felt. This is how I felt when I was in these environments with all white people in a Black guy’s body. When they looked at me, this is the violence I felt. When they would touch me and say, like, oh, did you play football? You must’ve been a fullback. This is what I felt. I felt consumed. And this is what it did to me. This is what it did to my relationships. This is what it might be doing to… could do to anybody’s relationship in my situation. He was able to articulate that with enough clarity and enough… He was able to articulate it in the language of cinema, which I think is the true test. Can you translate that reflection into cinema in a way that it’s legible?

Terence Nance: To me, that is writing. That moment of reflection, I held onto it enough to translate it into cinema. That doesn’t always… That translation is… Sometimes it’s happening in final draft. Sometimes it’s happening on the day. Sometimes it’s happening in edit. Sometimes it’s happening in how you choose to present wherever. But there’s a huge, I think, level for me of ritual now in trying to invoke or make space to allow that moment of reflection. I think that’s what any ritual that I could have could be useful. Definitely, I think, nature is our greatest teacher. Not that nature is different from us, but our communion… my communion with other beings, I think, is important to opening that possibility of reflection. And so I think any ritual that could invoke that, whether it’s just being with nature in the simplest ways consistently… prayer is probably important in what I’m trying to get to.

Geri Cole: I always feel like it takes faith and a lot of things just to get through the day, but then also any creative endeavor takes a large amount of faith. In the people that you’re making it with but also just moving forward in trying to create things. I also would like… I’m interested to know what some of your hard won lessons were. By that I mean, I guess things that you appreciate now that you wish you had appreciated before.

Terence Nance: That might be an offline conversation. Man. I think it’s always people. The wealth of the world is other beings. Other sentients. Your own wealth, my own wealth, is only the quality of my experiences with other people. The quality as a metric, but also the tonality. The light quality. The vibe of it. You really can’t overstate how valuable the present moment is with any loved one. You just can’t overstate it. Youth is wasted on the young, so it’s like, in youth, you think that those moments are infinite. I’m not even that old yet and I know that. I can’t imagine what I’m going to be reflecting on and wanting this moment back. This moment of stillness. This moment of displacement even. In whatever interactions I’ve had. I think that, slowly, it’s created this moment of everything that’s always happening just feels so charged. So riddled with gratitude. It always boils down to that. I think that the moments when seemingly nothing is happening, everything is happening. Especially in relationships that I’m no longer in. Or just don’t have… Even basic things. Like I’m across the country. I can’t see them. Not like anything necessarily all that dramatic, but freedom of movement is different now, so.

Terence Nance: But I think if the spirit of your question is more things that… lessons that were hard won as it relates to the whole endeavor of trying to make art that costs millions of dollars is… I’ve had a lot of trauma over the last few years attempting to make films and TV shows and things like that that I’m still processing it. I’ll probably be processing it forever. I don’t know exactly how to even frame it, but I guess there’s a few things that I do know, which is that any day I’ve been able to be there doing the work, even if nobody ever sees it, it happened. It moved energy for the people who were there and it changed things. It was a gift. That’s pretty clear.

Terence Nance: It was really hard for me to release my whole ego dance around being the super original, creative, avant garde director person. To release that concept of myself, it had to snatched from me and it was pretty… It was necessary. Somebody told me once… I was doing something that was reasonable, objectively reasonable, in terms of advocating for my ideas. Objectively reasonable. In the sense that I’ll belabor it. It was like, Terence… I want to do this. This is the idea. I want to do it this way. This is why… I’ve done a research paper on why. Your research paper essentially amounts to, but we’re paying for it, so we’re doing it this way. My research paper is I’m bringing in all this stuff.

Terence Nance: But at the end of the day, the thing I got taken to the side with was like, Terence, the narrative of you… part of why you’re fighting this so hard is because you think if you do it that way, it will break… you won’t have integrity. It will break your integrity. Or you will cease to be who you are. Which is this white thing. It’s like a white concept. This great avant garde creative director person. In the moment, I was kind of like, yeah, but the shit that they want to do is terrible. You’re literally telling me… And these people were like, I know. It’s not great but that doesn’t discount the fact… The thing I learned was that my resistance to it was still sourced in this ego thing. Even if generally the tonality of my protestations was reasonable. I wasn’t flipping tables. I want to make sure everybody knows that. I don’t flip tables. I was advocating with my research paper, basically.

Terence Nance: But I think that that was a hard won lesson to be like, oh, I can kind of just show up and be like, cool, whatever y’all want to do. And just show up and be like, if that’s what you want to do, cool. Whatever y’all want to do. And when action happens, what actually happens isn’t me or anyone else. It’s some other shit. It’s something totally out of my control. In the best way. Because it’s channeled through. And the ancestors handled it. I just have to be there. It took me a long time to learn that I just have to be there, really, and it’s going to do what it do. It’s not going to… It doesn’t require this fight. The fight thing… at least half of it is some I have been colonized by a concept of… even, to the previous question, the praise I had gotten about what my style is, who I am, what I represent. Now, what I understand myself to represent is, yeah, I’m going to show up and then, when it actually comes through between action and cut, it’s not even totally me. It’s some other shit. I can’t even tell you what it’s going to be, but it’s going to be great.

Geri Cole: I feel like that’s a good place to wrap it up. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. I really, actually, want to schedule a part two to just talk with you more because I’m very excited about the work that you’re doing and it’s inspiring and I really… I feel like you guys are doing something else and I appreciate it.

Terence Nance: Thank you. I appreciate you.

Geri Cole: Thank you.

Geri Cole: That’s it for this episode. On Writing is a production of the Writer’s Guild of America East. Tech production and original music is by Stockboy Creative. You can learn more about the Writer’s Guild of America East online at And you can follow the guild on social media @wgaeast. If you like this podcast, please subscribe and rate us. I’m Geri Cole. Thank you for listening and write on.

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