Digging Into the Mind of Director Lawrence Lamont

Many of you have seen Big Sean’s IDFWU video, and more recently J.Cole’s video for GOMD. Yes, those are two totally different videos but they meet in the middle and that is with Director Lawrence Lamont. The 26-year-old Detroit native relocated to LA a couple years ago to fully pursue his career in filmmaking. From age 9 Lawrence would watch recorded VHS of classic films from the likes of Stanley Kubrick and Francis Ford Coppola. He wrote short stories and even a book around 10, and would also act in plays.

After being heavily involved in the theatre department in high school, he wrote his first screenplay and directed a friend’s music video. Lawrence did not attend film school, but he took a lot of courses and attended symposiums. The young writer is still hungry and eager to learn more. Lawrence Lamont is preparing to elevate even further and eventually become a household name for his work that he feels was, “subconsciously embedded in his mind from the start.” We caught up with him to discuss his two latest videos, influences, and where he’s heading next.

 

Growing up who were some of your favorite directors and producers that may have been an influence on you? 

“Yeah the classics of course you know Spike Lee. Especially with ‘Mo Better Blues,’ I thought that was shot with so much quality. Also Do The Right Thing. Paul Thomas Anderson with ‘Boogie Nights’ and ‘There Will Be Blood.’ Christopher Nolan of course. Umm Music video wise I really like a lot of Spike Jonze work. Chris Cunningham and Hype Williams too!”

Your work is very thought provoking. I love it when videos actually match the music and make you think. It’s almost as if it takes me back to videos of the 90’s because they actually told stories versus today’s hip hop videos. We don’t get to see a lot of substance or actual concepts. A while back when I first saw the IDFWU video I was like, “Man, now that’s how you direct a video!” I know you and Big Sean are both Detroit natives so how did you two connect for the visuals?

“He’s actually a friend of mine, like I’ve known Sean since back when I was in plays, and he was getting people to listening to his raps in a crowd of a hundred people.”

Oh my goodness I remember seeing those videos and he was like mad young rapping.

“Oh yeah he’s been rapping since he was really young, Um so you know we are connected on the friendship level. But out here I think he had like a bunch of video treatments coming in and at the time I was writing a script and trying to raise some funds for the future. I’m just in LA floating around you know just trying to do something. This idea came in of Ivan Jasper. I’m not sure if you know Ivan Jasper but he’s in the Kanye camp and the DONDA camp. He’s a really creative guy he’s cool. He had this idea that Sean could draft it. It was different than the actual video but that sparked it. So we’re like yeah football but Sean is like, ‘You got a play man write it just write it.’ So I’m writing it then I’m there like on the set and its like Ohhhhhhhhhh!!!”

(Laughs) Right! So speaking of Kanye, what was it like to work with him, does he take good direction?

“Yeah he was amazing. It was kind of weird how great he was. He takes great direction. He wants to make sure he’s doing it right you know feels good, looks good you know, the aesthetics. But he was awesome like definitely true artist. I met him like right before his scene and we shot it pretty quick. Sean took me into his trailer and he was putting his clothes on to be the coach. And he was pointing out that he had ‘Coach’ written out on his turtleneck (laughs) and he was like ‘Yeah you like that?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah I love that!’ He was awesome, he’s a perfectionist and he just wants everything to be done right. He was incredible to work with.”

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That is so cool! And it helps to work with a perfectionist like him because he’s looking out for quality in the same sense you are. Did you have full creative direction everything?

“Yeah I was steering the ship!”

So you called all the plays like an actual football game huh?

(Laughs) “Yeah Exactly!”

The characterization was genius. Big Sean was Quarterback while his fellow label mate Teyana Taylor played a cheerleader. GOOD Music founder and producer Ye’ was the football coach as we just stated. E-40 was the announcer. I mean anyone could have put him in a football uniform alongside DJ Mustard because he’s a bigger guy too. Instead you made him the Game Announcer. I thought was so dope because he’s verbal and quick when he spits. It’s like you tied everyone into such fitting roles.  So one of my favorite points of that video was the many cameo appearances, how did that come to mind when you wrote the treatment were they always planned?

“We kind of were just like man it’s a football game so let’s go crazy! Like who all is watching you play? It was awesome! What a lot of people don’t know is that the Kardashians were scheduled to be in the video also. They were involved in the email thread and booked ahead. But our shoot got pushed a week. We were supposed to have Khloe, Kendall, and Kylie just rooting for Sean in the crowd with everyone else. And actually Chris Brown was going to be on the team as the wide receiver. But the push of the week kind of made the schedule get crazy which we still made it work.”

That also would have been really dope to see those appearances. It was an awesome idea, but it definitely all still worked out great.

“Right, it all worked out. It was a crazy day like getting everybody in. It was a whirlwind but everything worked out.”

I mean it looked like a pretty fun video to shoot, you even got to see some boobs in that one scene.

(Laughs) “Right! Exactly, it was definitely a fun shoot”

It really took me back to high school. Those really used to be some memorable nights out at the games especially if you were involved which I cheered. It was so realistic and I think that’s what made it so awesome and relatable! After the Big Sean video, you got to work with J.Cole for GOMD visuals, and I find it really fascinating that someone so young could come up with such a deep concept. From Cole playing the house slave who was envied by the field slaves, to later turning into the plantation hero and just rebelling. What approach did you take in creating this video?

“Well Cole had the idea originally but it was loose. Like he knew he wanted to play a house slave, and it would be about slave rebellion. You know it was all loose so I was like let’s make it make sense. When they sent over the ideas, we wrote the treatment, I had to create some characters, you know just sit and tie it all in. From there I knew it would be powerful. We basically became friends. You know we had a conference call and we just really elevated the idea to continuously make it better. It was definitely a collaborative thing it was all of us. Even my friends, his friends, and the producer’s friends. Really everybody so I won’t take credit for that fully but just bringing it to life was amazing. We got this positive feedback, I though we were going to get a lot of back flack at first.”

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Why did you think that? Was it because it was a “controversial” subject?

Yeah I mean in my heart I knew that it was all love and during those times brutality was also occurring. It was just so fitting for whats happening right now in America.

Yeah I agree. It was right on time with all the issues still being faced in the African American community to this day. I watched the video and I was getting chills. And like you were saying you didn’t want to take full credit for it but J.Cole is pretty young too so it’s cool to see two young minds come together and birth something like that.

“Hell yeah!”

You would have thought Lee Daniels directed it or something.

(laughs) “Right! I’m just glad these stories can still be told.”

Well yeah those are the things being taken out of the textbooks. So it’s essential to have people like you and Cole putting this out there for younger people like, “Hey it wasn’t always shits and giggles this is what it was and really it’s what it still is, not much has changed.” I think your creative vision will bring substance back to mainstream hip-hop videos and steer us away from the cliche and unawake. So with that, are you interested in working with other genres of music?

“Absolutely! For sure, I’ve turned down a few things with rap videos I won’t say what or who. But I’d love to get crazy with a Rihanna or Frank Ocean. I don’t want to stay in the lane of Hip Hop. Not knocking anything but I want to raise the bar. You know Sean is always ready to do awesome shit. Cole is ready to do awesome shit. But I’m not trying to shy away from a Gwen Stefani video. There are so many artists I want to work with.”

That’s awesome that you’re ready to expand. Now In some of your earlier work you co-wrote the story line for the comedy film Corner Store, and you also were in front of the camera as a star. Is that something you see yourself doing more of in the future or are you cozy in the directors chair? 

Hmm I am super cozy in the director’s chair. I have friends that are like, ‘Man why aren’t you acting anymore?’ I trained a lot. I did a lot of intense studying in the acting world. But I think it was for me to know how to take better to other actors as a director. Even when I was in plays in theatre, I used to have a lot of lead roles in high school. I would be like almost an assistant director in my stage plays because I was always striving to make everyone around me better. I may act again in the future under certain circumstances.

So you’re making sure you get the role of being a director in check?

“Yeah for me it’s just bigger than my specific world. Like actors can just show up and leave but for me as an actor I like to know what the finishing product is going to be. I need to really make sure that it’s good. I think that’s what made me want to become a director.”

I asked Lawrence to paint a picture of the perfect rainy Sunday. He expressed that he was an introvert and it would either involve locking himself in a cabin to read and write, fix tea or have wine, and just be locked away in his room watching films. Lawrence say’s he’ll walk around and procrastinate before he figures out what he’s going to write. He likes to approach things differently depending on what he is working on. It is said that he will most likely deliver another music video next month and he’s writing a short film starring someone pretty big that is due towards the end of the Summer. His goal is to constantly raise the bar like Woody Allen, and to make sure he is constantly telling quality stories while staying true to hisself. Lawrence Lamont lives by a Konstantin Stanislavsky saying, ”Love the art yourself not yourself in the art.”

 

By: Erinn Diggs

Photos By: Dominic Scott

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