Columbia Free Times
Arts + Lifestyle

Filmmaker and Producer Aim to Boost Local Industry

By Rodney Welch
Wednesday, July 9, 2014 |
Colors Bangin' in South Carolina
By 2004, 17-year-old Terrence Davis had achieved one of his major lifetime goals: he was a gang leader.

He was head of the Insane Crips, one of several local branches, or sets, of the famously violent Crips gang founded in Los Angeles.

Ten years later, he’s a filmmaker whose debut documentary, Colors: Bangin’ in South Carolina, recently won the Film Heals Award at the Eighth Annual Manhattan Film Festival.

Now he has an entirely different set of influences. He talks of people like Martin Scorsese, Darren Aronofsky, his mentor Spike Lee, and Wes Anderson.

It’s been an unusual career path — and one that he and producer Marcus McCall are hoping to offer to others through the new South Carolina Film Institute. Set to open July 16, the institute aims to steer a variety of film projects into production both by raising capital through $25 memberships and by hiring young and hungry film professionals and enthusiasts who are willing to work for film credit.

The short-term goal is an ambitious one: acquire 8,000 members within the next six months. That would give the institute $200,000, which McCall says could conceivably fund 100 projects of varying type and length, from videos to commercials.

With only 40 members signed up so far, the new company clearly has a long way to go. But if nothing else, Davis’ past shows determination to reach for his goals — and to change those goals when necessary.

A gang member since the age of 13, Davis says he led the Insane Crips for five years, at one time claiming as many as a hundred members. Attending college, which he did to please his mother, changed the power dynamic. Davis began to see the set as less of a violent organization with criminal intentions and more of a social club, which, he says, ultimately led to his ouster. Much as he hated to lose the power, the gang life was beginning to wear on him.

“I just wanted to be regular,” he says. “I just wanted to be able to come home and chill, not come home and have to check my gun under the bed and make sure it’s loaded.”

After failing to make the grade in his first career choice as a nurse — which had been his mother’s job — he decided to become a filmmaker. In 2010, he graduated with a degree in mass communications from USC-Aiken, and briefly attended film school at the New York Institute of Technology. Late last year, he served as a production assistant for Spike Lee.

With the technical know-how under his belt, he didn’t have to look far for the subject for his first documentary.

Based on an extended excerpt provided to Free Times, Colors is as much about the Bloods-Crips feud that broke out in the Midlands in the 2000s as it is a complex cultural document. Davis interviewed former gang leaders and present gang members — many of whom cover their faces with bandannas — as well as local law enforcement officials. Together, they offer an inside look at a world most people never see, where colors, customs, codes, rules, hierarchy and even rap lyrics can all be a matter of life and death.

Davis and producer Marcus McCall are banking on making sure Colors is only the beginning. They are already at work on Davis’ next project, Proverbs, a feature film about a South Carolina youth who killed his grandparents.

McCall says it was clear during the making of Colors that there are a lot of South Carolina filmmakers looking for a place to work, which helped spark the idea for an institute.

“The South Carolina Film Institute was born out of the idea that if you have a will, then we can put that to use,” he says.

In the film industry, McCall explains, “The most important thing you can acquire is credits. So that alone is motivation for most of our members.”

Institute members are “participating based on the fact that they can build resumés and get real experience,” he says. “If you’re already famous, this probably isn’t the place for you.”

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