Photo Credit: pgLang / project3 & Park Pictures
Kendrick Lamar Talks About the Making of "We Cry Together"
In a conversation moderated by actress Tessa Thompson, Kendrick Lamar and Dave Free discussed the process behind "We Cry Together."
Kendrick Lamar is opening up about "We Cry Together," his 6-minute collaboration with Taylour Paige. During a private screening of the short film on Tuesday (November 22), actress Tessa Thompson moderated a discussion with Lamar and pgLang co-founder Dave Free about the song and visual's process.
“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.”
Directed by Lamar, Free and Jake Schreier, "We Cry Together" now qualifies for a nomination in the Best Live Action Short Film category. Free added that the goal of the song was to address topics that “we as a society kind of shy away from,” looking to Hype Williams-directed cult classic Belly and Quentin Tarantino films for visual cues.
“[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.”
Free added that the filming was all one-take, recorded with live audio in 2020 prior to the pandemic lockdown, inspired by shared text messages, voice notes and other audio-visual materials.
“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.
Also in the conversation, Thompson mentioned the short film's final scene, which zooms out to reveal the production set.
“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 replied. “I think we all have 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.”
Lamar also discussed the heavy, conversational tone of the film within the sheltered landscape.
“The main trigger for writing the dialogue was basically the state of the world within the last five years for me 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 holding 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.”
Watch "We Cry Together" below.