SC Film Institute Stronger after 8 Month Hiatus

Jul 7, 2016

Terry Davis and the summer interns at the SC Film Institute.
Credit Cooper McKim

In residential Columbia, a small business is finally back on its feet after eight months in hiatus. The South Carolina Film Institute is now located in a brown home filled with lighting equipment, cameras, and painted chairs in their interview space.  October's historic flood devastated their previous office with four feet of water, destroying the property and most everything inside. Cooper McKim speaks with the co-founder, Terry Davis, about how they recovered.

Previous SC Film Institute Office after the Flood

Davis remembers checking on the Institute after the storm.  He says, "I opened the door and I seen four feet of water in there. I almost broke down."  He says depression kicked in, that all his hard work had been for nothing, and that he felt like quitting.  Davis had spent his savings to help build this business, and now it was gone.

Before Davis helped start the South Carolina Film Institute, he wasn't certain what he wanted to do with his life. "I didn't have a normal path. Born and raised Columbia, SC. I got into the streets real heavy when I was thirteen. Ended up running one of the largest Crip sets in the history of South Carolina," says 29-year old Davis. After trying out college and still finding himself getting into trouble, he moved north and, "went to grad school at New York Institute of Technology. Ended up meeting some people, great people. Ending up working with Spike Lee.  Changed my life forever, just that affiliation," Davis says.

Terry Davis at work

Soon enough, he moved back down to South Carolina to start a business, the SC Film Institute, with his friend Marcus McCall. The idea was to create a hub for filmmakers in the state. "When you say, 'Well I want to be a director,' and your family and friends... look at you like, 'You want to do what?'.  But what we say, here, is 'When? When you wanna get started? Let’s figure it out," Davis says.

Everything we think we have sometimes is really nothing... because it can get destroyed in a night.

The Film Institute is a place that produces movies, primarily documentaries, and teaches people how to make them. Courtney Geiger, a 19-year old Wake Forest student, is one of fifteen interns there this summer.  She says it's different than working on movies herself: "The DIY is what you can do if you have a camera, at home, in your backyard, but learning how an actual set works and the business behind it... that part I wouldn't have learned had I not come here."

By the time the flood hit in October, 2015, they had over 200 paying members and over 20 complete productions.  Davis explains the feeling of all that disappearing: "What that storm did make me realize, everything we think we have sometimes is really nothing, because it can get destroyed in a night."

New Film Institute living room.
Credit Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

Davis and McCall started working even harder after the flood, producing commercials and working out of the public library. They started fundraising to secure the money to re-open somehow.  Eight months later, they finally had enough to start a new location, with better quality cameras even. Davis said things are better now, financially.

"When we had our office before, we had so much bills to pay. We couldn't afford a certain type of camera, so our quality didn't look a certain way.  But when we lost everything, and we had that money saved, well we gotta overcompensate," Davis says.

Summer interns at work.
Credit Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

With a swinging, school-bus yellow sign out front, that brown house has become their home.  The group has been here now for two months, and Davis feels like they're finally back on their feet. Their goal is still to finish 100 productions by 2018.

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