director by Julia Sarantis September 17, 2018
It’s hard to compare Terence Nance’s new HBO series Random Acts of Flyness to anything else on television right now and perhaps that’s one of its many purposes.
Explicit in its title, the show’s ‘randomness,’ primarily derives from its non-linear form that baits viewers to tumble into the wild and creative mind of multi-media artist Terence Nance.
A plethora of visual mediums, via found footage, stop-motion, animation etc. compose the series into an energetic, satirical, and eclectic mix of short politicized pieces.
While Random Acts of Flyness isn’t interested in following any sort of neat TV genre criteria or conventional form of serial storytelling, what is clear is that Nance is invested in exploring what it means to be black in America.
In a recent interview with IndieWire, Nance explains his and his fellow co-writers’ artistic choice to make the series non-linear in its form, stating
“I think people consume media in a way that is not linear. I think we [writers] know what tools to use to communicate and be legible on screen so that the world consistently engages.”
Random Acts of Flyness is highly engaging not only through its mixed media form but through its refusal to shy away from addressing topical subjects. It confronts them head-on, producing a visceral effect amongst viewers.
Its expression playful and often tapping into the absurd. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Nance expressed that “the idea of shifting consciousness,” is what creatively drives the show and the writer’s room.
The series tackles the issues of police brutality, sexual harassment, non-normative gender identities and sexualities within the black community, all in an attempt to explore blackness and the experience of struggling under oppression in its intersecting forms.
I mean, Nance manages to pull off an outrageously funny and outlandish satire to make the case for reparations. Channeling the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs (in his black turtleneck and all), Nance unveils a new social app called “Bitch Better Have My Money.”
It is also no coincidence that the staging of the piece strongly resembles Apple’s grandiose new iPhone model presentations. Speaking confidently on stage, Nance reveals the features of the new proximity-based app that matches one stranger to another, but not for the usual purposes of a hookup.
Instead, “Bitch Better Have My Money,” uses an omnipresent ancestry test to locate the nearest white person to a black app user who owes them their 40 acres and a mule, so to speak.
The piece pokes fun at our current social media culture and at the same time, uses the very technology to guarantee that every black user finally receives their long-overdue payments. Shifting slightly into a more serious tone, Nance gets real about the gravity of the project of reparations.
He cites the handing over of assets, intellectual property, land, as well as amending the continual institutional injustices and impacts of redlining, medical testing, job discrimination, and mass incarceration.
It’s no surprise then, that the initial over-enthusiastic applauses and roars from the crowd when Nance first entered the technology unveiling subside into silence. Well, Nance certainly knows how to make a statement.
Though his new late-night spot on HBO has provided him with more widespread recognition, Nance had already made waves in the independent film world.
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His feature film An Oversimplification of Her Beauty premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. Despite the film gaining critical acclaim, Nance, like many filmmakers of color in the industry, however, encountered the obstacles of finding financial backing for a follow-up feature film.
The box-office success of Jordan Peele’s genre-boundary-breaking film Get Out, Marvel’s Black Panther and Barry Jenkin’s Academy Award-winning film Moonlight, however, have all emphatically proven that there is a huge market for black centered narratives.
Plus, the small screen successes of Donald Glover’s series Atlanta, and Issa Rae’s HBO series Insecure demonstrate that the landscape for film and television is changing and increasingly offering a greater platform for stories orientated for and around people of color.
In the time between An Oversimplification of Her Beauty and Random Acts of Flyness, however, Nance has not been letting his creativity and wild imagination go to waste.
It is important to highlight that Nance has been making music videos, short films and even dabbling into the world of gaming. However, it’s Random Acts of Flyness that may just make Terence Nance a household name.
Nance’s story is a testament to not only his perseverance and patience but an example of how to stay true to one’s artistic integrity and to be open to the different platforms that come with exhibiting one’s art.