Terence Nance is a new director whose first feature-length film — “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty” — recently won the “Best Film Not Playing At A Theater Near You” award at the 22nd annual Gotham Independent Film Awards. On Wednesday night, Yale community members will be able to experience Nance’s factual yet experimental tale of unrequited love for a young woman. On Saturday, the News interviewed Nance about the process of creating his latest work.
Q: You consider yourself an artist, not a filmmaker. Do you think there’s a division between art and film?
A: I think the social and economic infrastructures of the film industry and the contemporary art worlds are almost completely separate. But I think the artists themselves are kind of free to be in both. In the filmmaking culture … there are generally a certain set of expectations. Specifically, that [the film is] going to be a narrative experience.
Q: What were the obstacles in making a film that isn’t driven by a traditional narrative?
A: When you’re making something conventional, you have conventions to lean on. But I’ve never worked with convention. I only know what it’s like to do what I’m thinking. The challenges that I had were more around the technical ramifications of making a feature film for the first time. The first time that you do it, you’re flying blind.
Q: Why did you choose to tell such a personal story though experimental means?
A: For me, it wasn’t a choice. There was only one film for me to make: the one in my head. I wasn’t making the film in an experimental context; I was just pushing the film towards this predetermined result. So where it seems anti-convention or third-rail compared to what exists, I wasn’t even considering what exists.
Q: Your story seems like a universal love story — or a not-love story.
A: I’m articulating an experience that has happened to a lot of people. But I’m also trying to keep it authentic to my specific experience. But I wanted people to implicate their own experiences in the film.
Q: Did you feel any danger in revealing yourself to audiences through this personal film?
A: I never thought about it, honestly. The energy of the personal story was encapsulated in the one night that I wrote it. After that, I stopped treating it as a part of my life and started treating it as the movie that I was making.
Q: Wow. You wrote the script in one night?
A: Yeah. I wrote the voice-over in one night. Then I storyboarded it the next day.
Q: I noticed that many of the people both behind and in front of the camera are black. Were there any obstacles in staging an all-black production?
A: Being black in America, generally, is hard. … But I was lucky to have been raised in a community of artists who value their culture. And I was making the movie on my own for a long time, so there [weren’t] any voices, anyone telling me “yes” or “no.” But I see those problems existing as I enter a kind of commercial space. I don’t mean more commercial work. But I do mean work that deals with other people’s money. I want to do more work that involves more money than what’s in my bank account, which is honestly none. I do realize that in the future, some people’s perspectives will conflict with mine inherently. I’ll have to learn to navigate those conflicts to get done what I have to get done.
Q: Has the film affected you or your relationships?
A: I don’t think that it’s had an effect on me and my relationships. The movie talks about a time of my life that’s so far gone. It’s only a little bit of my life; that shows you just how full of a life it is. Each life is just full of stories.