Terence Nance Explains the Unexplainable

By Bradford William Davis

Terence Nance started the evening off with a lie.

“This show is a totally normal show. Like, really normal stuff is gonna happen,” Nance told the crowd at the American Black Film Festival shortly before the surprise preview screening of his upcoming series, Random Acts of Flyness. From there, the next thirty minutes were filled with anything but normal. And Nance knew it.

Trying to explain Random Acts of Flyness to someone that hasn’t seen it is a fool’s errand. Nance himself mentioned that a tidy elevator pitch for his show idea — something he described as a “direct representation of my subconscious” — wouldn’t necessarily fly in traditional network meetings. Fortunately for Nance, One Fifty, a WarnerMedia incubator for emerging creators, financed his proof-of-concept video.

So, what’s the concept? “Art-first black moving images,” said Nance during a post-screen Q&A. “I collected a whole bunch of shit I had done and asked, ‘How can I put this together?’” What came together was a string of vignettes that resemble some fragment of contemporary black experiences. Testimonies of queer black identity follow police encounters gone awry. A famous celebrity pitchman offers a simple cure for racism. Some scenes are animated and surreal, others are actual found footage, but all loosely tied together by a common theme.

When asked about his goal for the show, Nance told the ABFF audience that he prioritized making Random Acts of Flyness “a platform for our community” — an idea that surely resonated with artists and filmgoers participating in a festival that centers black entertainers. He added that the themes he aimed to communicate would expand in subsequent episodes and, hopefully, future seasons. (Nance emphasized his hope for seasons, plural, reminding the crowd to make sure they watch Random Acts of Flyness when it debuts in August.)

Otherwise, Nance kept the specifics of his master plan intentionally vague — there were no spoilers to be gleaned from the screening. When he had finished screening the episode, he doubled down on his sarcastic tee-up.

“Exactly what you expected, right?”