Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Paige, Directors Cancel ‘We Cry Together’

The idea for We Cry Together, Lamar says, “started with the film first, then the music.”

“We Cry Together” was first released as a track from Kendrick Lamar’s latest album Mr. Moral & the Big Steppers” (currently nominated for Album of the Year at the 2023 Grammys) and later became a short film that was Oscar-eligible for Best Live-Action Short Film. However, according to the rapper, “it started with the movie first, and the music came after.”

At a Q&A in Los Angeles with business partner Dave Free, who co-directed We Cry Together with Jake Schreier, Lamar explained the story to host Tessa Thompson. “The idea was always ‘let’s capture this writing,’ not no song — the writing and the film and the texture and the cinematography of it to get the full experience,” he said. Free added, “Music basically came to tell the story — a thicker and longer story — in a smaller, more digestible space.”

Starring Pulitzer Prize-winning musician and “Zola” actress Taylour Paige, the six-minute film about a toxic couple in the heat of an argument that eventually culminates in an intimate reconciliation, hails from “the state of the world for the last five years me,” Lamar said, “and seeing my frustration at how no one, in any of our cultures, or what our belief system is, or our sexual preference, or our religious background, how we can never come to an agreement.”

We cry together poster

Poster for “We Cry Together”

Courtesy of Kendrick Lamar

During an interview ahead of IndieWire’s LA3C Short Film Showcase, where “We Cry Together” was showing alongside other Oscar-worthy shorts, co-director Schreier and star Paige described recording the song version as a rehearsal for filming. “We felt really comfortable with that because we were in the studio until 4 a.m. rewriting it, trying it out, hearing it in a different way and seeing what felt right,” Paige said. “Then when we shot, it was really just the blocking, the rehearsal, the physicality. But we actually already rehearsed the physicality while essentially recording the lines.”

If the dialogue sounds different in the film than it does on the album, that’s because Lamar and Paige perform it live in one take in the short. In fact, it was Schreier’s experience directing visuals like Haim’s “Want You Back” with just one take that brought Lamar and Free to the filmmaker. Schreier said the couple stressed to him that “We Cry Together” “needed to be a work of art in its own right, not an accompaniment to a song.

Describing the production process as exciting, he added that “the whole idea of ​​the single shot in this case is that it’s not about showing camera movement or you notice that. It’s the idea that there’s something you want to see, that’s impressive.” Impressed by Lamar and Paige’s performances in the film, Schreier said during filming, “They’re the magic trick, they’re what’s impressive. Seeing that every time, people being able to bring so much emotion and so much real performance into something that is also musical, I felt very fortunate just to be there.”

Paige acknowledged the film was intense but insisted it was made with loving intentions. “We’re hurting each other,” she said. “We hurt each other. And hopefully you make art, if you’re privileged to do so, that reflects where we are and hopefully we can surpass that. Instantly. Urgently. At the moment. Because it’s so important.”

Watch We Cry Together below.

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Lindsay Lowe

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