You may not know her name, but youve seen the programs she helped create. Lauren Lazin has helmed the production of dozens of documentaries and original programs for MTV, including Cribs, True Life, and Diary. With a cable network docu-drama background, the jump to directing a feature-length film fitted for the big screen proved to be more of a leap, especially considering her big-screen debut would focus on Hip-Hops greatest influence: Tupac Shakur. With the help of Afeni Shakur, Lazin undertook the daunting task of piloting the ship that could steer Tupacs legacy into uncharted territory. As Pacs influence reaches a peak more than seven years after his death, Lazin presents a larger than life view of the man, dispels the myriad myths, and opens viewers minds to what Pac meant and means to generations of Hip-Hop heads and non-heads alike in Tupac: Resurrection.
AllHipHop: Where did the idea originate to create a feature-length film about Tupacs life?
Lauren Lazin: From both Afeni and myself. It was a dream of hers. Ive long wanted to make a documentary film and Tupac is obviously the most important artist of the last 20 years. I truly believe he is an icon and thats a term people throw around very loosely these days, but I think he merits it. Tupac lived his life larger than life and I knew that he was someone that could really fill the screen.
AllHipHop: How was the making of a feature length documentary different for you?
Lazin: I was definitely ready for the challenge. I wanted to do something that would be an-hour-and-a-half, no commercials, that would be seen on a big screen. We conceived of it theatrically. And Im hoping people go see it in a theater because its a real theatrical experience. The music is incredible and the visuals really take you through his life. At the same time it is a very personal and intimate film. It is Tupacs life told through his own words.
AllHipHop: Describe the process of directing a film from footage you had no control over creating.
Lazin: It was daunting. There was a lot we did shoot, visually, to bring out the story and to give it that theatrical feel, but the meat of the material were the interviews done during his life. The great thing we had going for us was Tupac. He never gave a bad interview. He always really respected the people he was talking to, whether it was an important sit-down interview with BET or MTV, whether it was a deposition, whether it was a junket for a movie he was very thoughtful and insightful. I really believe he wanted his story told in this manner. He was very helpful to us, there were a lot of clues about how he wanted his story to be told. My job was to make it into a movie that was dramatic and had a strong linear narrative to make sure it felt like him. Before I did anything on this film I talked with people who did know him. His mother, his aunt, his cousins, his sister, his closest friends just so I could get a sense of him as a person. He was a very complex person. So it was important to get a sense of him from the people close to him.
AllHipHop: Would you say you were a fan of Tupacs before you began this project?
Lazin: I was definitely a fan. Like a lot of people, I loved the hits. I always found him to be very entertaining. I directed a documentary on Dr. Dre right before this and any footage that Tupac was in really made me see how he jumped off the screen. He is the person you look at first. Youre drawn to him. I really grew to understand how remarkable a person he was. His influence on Hip-Hop and this generation is undeniable. He was truly a poet.
AllHipHop: Tupac was full of contradictions. How were you able to build a cohesive vision for the story given so many inconsistencies in his life and message?
Lazin: Human beings are complex. This movie is not black and white and neither was Tupac. He expressed the complexity of human nature, both in how he lived his life and how he talked about his life. I am proud that the film doesnt reduce him to simple motives and actions. You get a very well rounded picture of Tupac in this film. He was very aware of his own complexity. This film is not only true to his life, but also everyones life.
AllHipHop: Where do you think Tupac turned the corner and began predicting his unavoidable early death?
Lazin: I dont know if there was one point where he turned a corner. There were definitely shifts and turns. Prison was a very dark time for him. But his interviews from prison were the most insightful. He wasnt getting high and he was very clear spoken. Sometimes during his darkest periods he was the most full of light.
AllHipHop: Do you believe Pac was always his own person or do you believe he was the person he thought would have the most influence?
Lazin: He was always true to himself. And thats one way he was an inspiration to his fans. He was very aware of his own change and growth. He talks frankly in the film about his own mistakes, the things he wishes he could have done differently. He was honest, he spoke from the heart and a lot of that is due to Afeni.
AllHipHop: Is there a side to Tupac that is seen in the film that we perhaps havent seen before?
Lazin: People who have seen the film, and certainly the non-fans who have seen the film, fall in love with him. Whats been gratifying for me is that hard-core Tupac fans have told me theyve learned new things about him from watching the film. Hes very funny and his politics are really given a spotlight in this film. So much has been said about the murder and the controversy, but we havent really had a chance to focus on his message. He had a revolutionary voice and had a very powerful political message. His philosophy on Thug Life for the first time is really explained, and its not what people think theyre going to hear. Its inspiring.
AllHipHop: Did you make an effort to expose his vulnerability and not just his larger than life persona?
Lazin: Very much so. But I would add that he exposes his own vulnerability. This is a film where Tupac takes the lead and I was just there to shape it for the audience. He was the first one to express his vulnerabilities and its a very strong internal portrait of the man.
AllHipHop: What do you hope this film will accomplish?
Lazin: Id like the film to speak for itself. Its always interesting and exciting for me to hear what people to take away from the film. There are several messages in the movie and the strongest for me is the legacy he left behind. And the onus is on Tupacs fans today to carry on his work. Hopefully people will be inspired by this.
AllHipHop: Do you think his legacy is being exploited today?
Lazin: I cant really speak to that. My mission was to make sure this wasnt an exploitative piece. This was something the family wanted and this was something I believe Tupac himself would have wanted.
AllHipHop: How will it be possible for any artist to surpass his Pacs social relevance?
Lazin: The challenge is out there and you never know where the next great leader and voice is going to come from.
AllHipHop: Do you think it will be possible for any artist to achieve what Pac achieved?
Lazin: Hopefully someone can take it to the next step. Its a tragedy, he died at a really young age and you can only imagine what he could have accomplished had he lived even into his thirties. Hopefully the next generation will learn from his mistakes and carry out that work.
AllHipHop: Is there anything else you want to add about the film or that you want to say to a new generation of fans that didnt grow up on his music, but can certainly hear his influence on the music of today?
Lazin: I just hope they go to the theaters. Paramount is giving this film a very wide distribution and this is a great film for not only his fans, but for also their parents. This film elevates the dialogue.
AllHipHop: Was that a conscious effort to bridge the gap between generations of listeners?
Lazin: I feel that Tupac did that. It was just a matter of getting people to listen to him. I didnt have to do that work, Tupac did that work, it was just a matter of getting that out there. I know that something that Afeni wanted and that I wanted, was to elevate the dialogue around Tupacs life and his importance and I think weve achieved that.