- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
The art of revision, as part of the creative process, is a reestablishing of conditions and an introduction of new considerations to better serve the material and its intended audience. In film, much like in music, editing and arranging allows for the possibility of a final product that resonates on a different frequency than an initial seed idea and the various takes that follow, though the mission remains unchanged. This interest in reformatting language through different mediums is on display in We Cry Together, the short film directed by Kendrick Lamar, Dave Free and Jake Schreier and features Taylour Paige as Lamar’s co-star.
“The crazy part about this joint is that it started with the film first and the music — putting it on the actual album — came after,” Lamar said. “The idea was always to capture this writing, not no song, [but] the writing and the film and the texture and the cinematography of it in order to get the full experience out.”
At a private screening of the six-minute short on Tuesday, which was followed by a conversation moderated by Tessa Thompson, Lamar and Free discussed the choices that led to the final product, and how trust in collaboration allows them to explore new creative territory through their multi-disciplinary collective pgLang.
The goal of the song (read: script) ultimately is to address topics that “we as a society kind of shy away from,” Free said. The creative duo shared mood board references that helped shape the tone of the film (which Free described as “digestible but aggressive”), citing Hype Williams’ “Belly” and scenes from Quentin Tarantino’s films, in order to craft a visual that would hit every sensory stimulus.
“[We were like] let’s find super intense moments that have a lot of atmosphere in the room. And as we went through the process we started talking about how this should be a film,” Free continued. “We settled on a one-take format that was essentially a dance in the room. There was a lot of people in that room, even outside of Kendrick, dancing around to capture that. And Jake was a huge help. He did some one-take work that we were really inspired by, so we asked him to join us, and we started putting the pieces together.”
According to Free, the one-take film, recorded with all live audio just before pandemic lockdowns began in 2020, was crafted fluidly and organically through a series of voice notes, text messages and sharing of reference material back and forth.
“I always had trust in Dave, and vice versa, to trust all of our ideas as a collective. And I think the energy that we bring, and the groundwork that we put forth brought us individuals like Taylour and Jake to come and say, ‘OK, this is a collective I want to be a part of and not be blocked in by the margins of what people perceive is OK,’ ” Lamar said. The two Los Angeles-born-and-raised collaborators have known each other since the ninth grade, and have been able to navigate the industry by remaining true to the intuitions that led them to each other years ago.
“It’s the holy grail to create with Kendrick,” Free said. “I knew this super young because we would have conversations where we’d be like, ‘Why do we think like this?’ … We weren’t even really prepared to be ourselves. But I was able to be myself with him and talk to him about these quirky ideas.”
At one point, Thompson turned the audience’s attention to the final scene, which zooms out from the room that serves as a container for the conversation and reveals the production set beyond it. “You see this house that feels very lived in is a set. For me, it felt like it was this way of saying that there’s these layers of performance — especially inside of the roles that we play, as couples, as women, as men,” she said.
“Ultimately, the main thing is, [we wanted to show] people that we can actually identify with, not only from our culture but from cultures all around the world,” Lamar responded. “I think we all [know] individuals out there that feel like they can’t find an agreement — whether it’s their surroundings, or whether it’s their psyche that puts them in that environment. So the environment played a huge role, that’s something we definitely wanted to bring to life along with the script. It was just as important as the individuals that were actually spewing out the insults.”
Beyond the setting of the song, the dialogue of the film is an equally nuanced landscape — familiar, yet disorienting. “The main trigger for writing the dialogue was basically the state of the world within the last five years, and seeing my frustrations about how nobody, and none of our cultures or belief systems, can ever come to an agreement,” Lamar said. “So, in writing that I say, ‘OK, how can I make this feel personal but also hold up a mirror as a collective concept, rather than just a personal concept? I wanted to do that with all the emotions involved … I wanted to bring that drama, because at the end of the day, whether we like it or not, the good, bad and the ugly, the pros and cons, that’s what makes everything evolve. Being able to put that in our face allows us to accept that, in order for us to evolve as humanity.”
Lamar also spoke about how Free’s trust in the process of capturing the film in one-take challenged him to live what he had written and be present with his co-star Paige in the raw energy and passion of the scene.
“Vulnerability has always been my end goal as an artist. I think from the moment I picked up the pen and started writing in general, it was always to get to this moment, because this was the moment I always feared as a youth,” Lamar said. “It gave me more freedom as a person, being able to run toward my fear, and say the things I want to say, and do it in an artistic way. It allowed me to live my truth even deeper. This vulnerability gives emotion that people can actually feel and actually experience and really gravitate toward. Whether they agree with it or not, they still feel it and know it comes from a real place as a human being.”
The energy Lamar and Free have gotten back from the concept has opened up a whole new world of ideas for the pgLang team — and the projects they’ll release in the future.
“It sparked a lot of other ideas for us. And now we have a lot more things we’re pursuing in the space,” Free said. “This was one piece that felt like it was a marriage of the world that we are coming from and the world we would go into.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day