The Q&A: Filmmaker Terence Nance

We chat with @ofherbeauty director @terencenance on filmmaking sourced in prose, working with Jay-Z and his future children's names.

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Hopefully by now, those of you in the NYC area got a chance to see Terence Nance’s debut feature, An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty, which began its platformed release here this past Friday. Guest contributor Aisha Cousins chatted with the director, and an edited version of their conversation follows here.

So, you’re on the road to Sundance Film Festival and you’re thinking “I’ll be sooo happy if _______.” What were you hoping for and how did it compare to what actually happened?
Funny enough, I don’t actually remember. I had so little sleep in the leadup to the festival that I don’t think I was capable of having whole, coherent thoughts. I guess I would have been happy if people liked the movie and it seemed like they did.

You must have met some amazing filmmakers along the way.
There are so many, but a few of my favorites on the circuit were Kahlil Joseph (Until the Quiet Comes), Kleber Mendonça Filho (Neighboring Sounds), Ava DuVernay (Middle of Nowhere), Benh Zeitlen (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Marialy Rivas (Young and Wild), and Kevin Jerome Everson.

Who would you say influences you most as a filmmaker?
Most of my influences are novelists. Writers like Roald Dahl, Toni Morrison, August Wilson, and Ralph Ellison were definitely influences on me as a writer. I think my filmmaking is sourced in prose.

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Speaking of prose, can we talk about editing? Those who caught the Sundance premiere will notice An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is now noticeably shorter than its original version. What did you cut and why?
I cut out stuff I thought slowed the film down. It was all “a second here a second there” rhythmic editing. I think it’s a more engaging movie watching experience now, so I’m excited to see how viewers respond to it.

So a musician, a comedian, and a filmmaker walk into a bar… what’s the story behind Jay-Z and Wyatt Cenac coming in on the film? How exactly are they involved and what has it been like working with them?
One of our executive producers showed it to them and they came to the film after seeing it. I think they really should be celebrated for their support of the film. It goes completely against the narrative that Black celebs don’t invest in emerging filmmakers. Their support has been invaluable. Their names alone make the film visible to new audiences and raise the profile. It’s been over a year since we premiered at Sundance. I don’t think our film would have stayed in the public eye and continued to draw new supporters for this long without them.

You actually started An Oversimplification… seven years ago. Since then, you’ve started work on a second feature The Lobbyists, that just won The Creative Promise Narrative Award at the Tribeca Film Festival. Has your vision as a filmmaker evolved since learning more about the process of bringing a film to theaters? Any hints for our readers about what we can look forward to seeing from you in the future?
Darker films.
Artier films.
More music.
Absurd films.
Installations.
Performances.
More acting.
One or two documentaries.
One or two TV series.
A few children -one named August, haven’t decided on the other yet.

Anything else Bold as Love’s readers can do to support your work?
Take a friend to see the movie in a theater near you! We’ll be screening around the country through June. If your city’s not on the list, contact us and make it happen.

Additional links:

Aisha Cousins is a visual artist who writes performance art scores (instructions for live art projects), proverbs, short stories, and the occasional dream log. Her score “How to Listen to Lil Wayne: For Nia, Nya, and Kamaria” was recently published by MoMA PS1 as part of the catalog for Clifford Owens’ abstract compendium of notable black performance artists, Clifford Owens: Anthology. She is currently working on a do-it-yourself curriculum designed to meet the needs of black youth whose schools have lost art funding titled SAY IT LOUD!: Performance Art Scores for the Young, Gifted, and Fabulous.

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