Terry Torrington (@terrytorro) is the Co-Founder of the SLAY TV app and the creator of the acclaimed web-series, Love @ First Night (LAFN). We dive in with Terry on how the series is groundbreaking in the LGBTQ film space and how he is taking his passions to several screens across the globe.
Accolades, awards, recognition, all those things are essential career-wise; but as an artist, for my soul’s fulfillment, this is about serving.– Terry Torrington
What was the beginning “lightbulb moment” for LAFN?
It had been a while since we worked on our own creative projects, and I wanted to do something. One night I was at work watching “Survivor’s Remorse,” which instantly became a favorite show of mine. It was a breath of fresh air for a Black comedy/drama, and I thought to myself, we need this breath of fresh air in Black Queer content, and the rest is history.
What’s your process for creating characters within your storylines and casting the correct person for each role?
I don’t think I have a process, I’d think of the type of energy I want each character to bring on-screen and go from there. Once I have a voice solidified within each character, their stories come to life.
Throughout the seasons, I’ve gotten to know the characters the same way the audience does; it’s almost as if “they” tell me their story, and I’m just documenting it. Casting definitely brings out a different dimension to the characters, far beyond my own imagination. When casting, I’m not married to my own vision. I’m looking for how the actor makes the character more human. It’s more than reading lines off a paper.
LAFN sheds light on several issues ranging from physical and mental health to domestic violence. Why did you feel it was necessary to blend these specific issues into the storylines of the characters?
To be honest, I didn’t see it as a necessity to add those issues to the script; it just came to me in the writing process. I do have regrets about adding the domestic violence piece. I’ve never experienced it myself and at the time, didn’t do enough research to handle that story with delicacy and care.
Revealing Jayden’s mental health status was interesting as I was also coming to terms with my own mental health challenges. I’ve used Jayden as my mouthpiece at times to speak about things I didn’t feel comfortable talking about. I do think it’s important to touch on these subjects responsibly to create dialogue and understanding.
Now that we see LAFN web-series come to a close, what do you want viewers to gain and learn from the characters you’ve written into the show?
I would like the viewers to gain different perspectives about relationships. Not to look at Spencer or Jayden to judge them, but to see how they have done similar things in their own relationships.
I would also like non-QTPOC to see that our lives aren’t much different than theirs. We love, we have drama, we have breakdowns, we have breakthroughs, and it should come as no shock at this point.
Within the success of LAFN, you’ve also launched the SLAY TV app. What prompted you to make this decision, and how do you see this shifting tv/film as it relates to LGBTQ stories?
Literally, as I came up with the idea for Love @ First Night, I called Sean Torrington (Founder and CEO of SLAY TV) and told him, “We have to release this differently than we’ve done before, not on YouTube, but something else, like an app.” Somewhere in that, I quoted Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”
I honestly didn’t think anything of it, but Sean actually went and did his research and created our first demo app, “Artkutec.” From there, everything took on a life of its own, and we eventually changed Artkutec into SLAY TV.
We wanted to tell our stories without having to modify it or water it down. I’ve always viewed our community as its own industry, and we just don’t see it yet. The goal is to be a force, togetherness, gather our resources, and not wait for mainstream to say, “you go.”
Are you working on any new projects? How does it relate to your personal passions, and what differences should your audience be prepared for?
Sean’s starting a comedy sketch series, so I’m collaborating with a bunch of other writers to bring the funniest shit we’ve yet to see on social media.
I’m a stickler for good storytelling, so I’m working with other creators to bring their films and web-series to life. I’m venturing into short films, and I’m not sure what my first film will be yet.
I have a few ideas swimming around but haven’t settled on one. I honestly don’t know how to prepare my audience because I don’t know how to describe the experience I’m going to create. I guess they can expect to have a new experience because I don’t like to do the same thing twice.
Now that you’ve journeyed through the various facets of the creative process in creating a series, what would you say is your most important lesson from it all?
Whew! My greatest lesson from this journey Is learning to accept the responsibility and role of a creator. When I started, I was following in Issa Rae’s footsteps. Watching her breakthrough YouTube to new heights inspired me to look beyond the limitations. However, as time went on, I realized that this wasn’t about me at all!
Accolades, awards, recognition, all those things are essential career-wise; but as an artist, for my soul’s fulfillment, this is about serving.
This show, SLAY TV and everything we do is about serving the voiceless. The number of messages I’ve received from people that watch LAFN is worth all the sacrifices we’ve made these past four years. I am grateful for this experience, and it’s only the beginning.