'Random Acts of Flyness' Season 2
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Tv Terence Nance brings an opener to a narrow TV landscape with ‘Random Acts of Flyness’

Terence Nance brings an opener to a narrow TV landscape with ‘Random Acts of Flyness’

'Random Acts of Flyness' Season 2

This interview for the Filmmaker Toolkit podcast took place in April 2023, before the Writers Guild of America strike began.

Terence Nance wanted to be clear: he doesn’t think there is anything revolutionary about ‘Random Acts of Flyness’.

The idea behind the first season came from Nance and his brother Nelson, imagining what would happen if they were given after-hours programming duties at a local cable access channel. “In the early to mid-2000s, it was mostly syndicated black sitcoms,” Nance said on IndieWire’s Filmmaker Toolkit podcast. “And, in our young minds, we thought we could basically field anything we wanted after midnight.”

This introduction to the networks, including its eventual home at HBO, involved the makings of a sketch comedy show, and the first season used a late night cable access atmosphere to allow for different types of short material. According to Nance, the guiding principle internally was a concept album. Explained Nance, who is also a recording artist and writes the music for the show, “We thought of it as a place where we could express ourselves in cinema around a theme.”

In the four years between Seasons 1 and 2, the way Nance came to think about this supple concept album-like structure of the series became less haphazard: The Season 2 opening credits erase the word “Random” from the title before adding the subtitle. which became her main structuring device: “The Parable of the Pirate and the King.”

“(The fable) has become the container, and perhaps more specifically a story about two characters,” Nance explained, “who try to understand, or imagine, a way of loving each other that they’ve never seen before in the culture, or in the kind of standard decorum of relationships, be they romantic, artistic, etc.

That story of Terence (played by Nance) and Najja (Alicia Pilgrim), whose lives are creatively and romantically intertwined, was present in the first season. “While in season one, you get a little bit of that story, from a real estate perspective, it doesn’t take up a lot (space),” Nance said. “And I think just knowing that it needed space to be told created a mandate to engage that narrative in a more serialized way — focused on the backbone of this story framing the way we like to do.”

While Najja and Terence’s story provides more of a story arc to the second season’s six episodes, the concept album-like visual approach allowed for the same, if not greater, level of cinematic playfulness. The language of the show mixes animation, “Roger Rabbit”-style live-action animation, musical performance, truth, surrealism, the discordant world of a commercial app that promises Black users a path to reparation, and archival documentary footage that they provide history lessons about the characters’ ancestors.

What unites these seemingly unrelated ingredients is Najja and Terence’s journey of healing and ritual. During the podcast, Nance talked about how the inspiration came from her friends and her similar research.

“I think ‘Random Acts’ intervention this season is to bring out more explicitly how Black people are finding the rituals of our ancestors, especially indigenous communities and peoples, in ways that are essentially in our blood, but that we don’t have access to or were prohibited by law until our parents’ generation,” Nance said.

It’s an intoxicating concept that becomes almost cosmic in the way the season explores different dimensions (six total) of consciousness, each expressed with an all-out use of cinema designed to stir viewers’ emotions rather than lose them in big ideas.

“The thing the show is supposed to do is evolve the language of cinema and do something visually, sonically, in terms of expression that you’ve never seen before,” Nance said. “I think he created those sort of tapestry pieces that also allow those moments to be ecstatic in a way and not feel didactic or burden you with information.”

The Filmmaker Toolkit Podcast is available at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, CoveredAND Stapler. The music used in this podcast is from the soundtrack of “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present”, courtesy of the composer Nathan Halpern.

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