ShortBeat: The Story Behind Kendrick Lamar’s Surprise New Film

Chayse Irvin

Plus the short that launched director Trish Sie's ("Step Up All In") career.

ShortBeat is a weekly round-up of news from the world of short filmmaking, spotlighting up-and-coming talent and some of the best content on the web.

Rapper Kendrick Lamar Tries His Hand At Movies

Little is known about Sundance’s last-minute addition of director Kahlil Joseph’s m.A.A.d. to their L.A.-bound Next Fest this weekend except that the 14-minute film was commissioned by rapper Kendrick Lamar and inspired by the rapper’s good kid, m.A.A.d city album.

The Hollywood Reporter checked in with Joseph’s producing team at What Matters Most to find out more and got this reply:

"Kendrick and Kahlil had been talking about working together for a long time before one day Dave Free, Kendrick’s manager, contacted Kahlil and said they needed concert visuals for the upcoming Yeezus tour. Together with his producers Omid Fatemi and Onye Anyanwu and cinematographer Chayse Irvin (and a batch of 35mm film), Kahlil canvassed Compton for young actors and real people over the period of five days, filming the entire time, with the idea that really what he was making was some kind of cinematic equivalent to Kendrick’s music."

"From the very beginning the process was unorthodox; no treatment or script, no visual references to speak of. Kahlil was really creating everything in his mind as he saw and felt it, stating that his only goal ‘was to uniquely represent Kendrick, his music, and the city of Compton.’" 

m.A.A.d. will precede the feature film Imperial Dreams and a musical performance by Tinashe Aug 9th at the Ace Hotel Theater.

Kick-Heart the KickStart Groundbreaker

When award-winning and cutting-edge Japanese anime artist and director Masaaki Yuasa, known for his work at the legendary I.G. Productions (Ghost in the Shell), wanted to tell the story of a masochistic pro wrestler, he decided to try something different. No other Japanese anime artist had ever dipped their toes in the crowdfunding waters before Yuasa -- and the results were overwhelming. Kick-Heart raised over $200,000 from over 3200 backers. The short then went on to be warmly received on the festival circuit, including SXSW, and was a smash hit in Japan.

Now this week the crowdfunded short is once again testing new waters by seeing if an American audience is willing to pay ($1 to rent, $2 to buy) to watch Kick-Heart via Vimeo’s OnDemand services.

Here’s the trailer for a film described “as a love story between two people that each have a secret to hide -- one a pro-wrestler, the other a Nun":

Stepping Up

“There's no question: I'd never have landed the job directing a feature without my short films and music videos to show for myself,” explains director Trish Sie, whose debut feature, Step Up All In, opens nationwide this Friday. Sie, who was a working dancer for years, use to spend her spare time writing screenplays and novels only to discover her storytelling niche was through dance and movement and not words, so she turned to short filmmaking.

“The truth is that body language, rhythm and motion are endlessly expressive,” Sie tells THR. “My music videos and short films turned out to be a wonderful way for me to learn to show things rather than tell them, to narrate a story and explore themes in innovative ways.”

The dancer and choreographer first caught people’s attention in 2006 with her viral (50 million YouTube clicks) video for the band Ok Go, which featured the band performing their song “Here It Goes Again” on treadmills. The video’s success opened doors for Sie to build a career as a successful music video and commercial director, but it was her short film Not Alone (video below), featuring a lonely sock as the protagonist, that demonstrated she could tell an engrossing story through movement.

The Step Up producers, seeing what Sie was capable of doing with a sock and a rock band on treadmills, decided to give her chance with their world class dancers, ace choreographers and successful franchise.

“I think they also appreciated the whimsy, playfulness, and joy that I try to evoke in my work,” Sieexplains. “I like to keep a light touch and a sense of humor. I want people to smile and feel good. We're making movies, here, after all. If it's not entertaining and fun, then what the hell is the point?”