November 2003
TUPAC: RESURRECTION: An Interview with Director Lauren Lazin

Interviewed by Damien Smith

An Interview with Director Lauren Lazin

Very recently, I was riding the “A” train to Harlem, and overheard three well dressed middle aged African Americans talking about rappers and how bad their acting was. But when Tupac’s name was brought up, they quickly changed their tune and talked about how good he was, and how much they would have loved to see him in other movies. Since his death, there have been so many stories and features on Tupac Shakur, but all of them were unauthorized. Coming out on Nov.14 is Tupac: Resurrection, the first authorized documentary on the legend produced by his mother, Afeni Shakur. I have seen the film and I had the chance to meet Afeni Shakur and the director of the film, Lauren Lazin. This is Lauren’s first feature film. Besides directing the film, she’s the VP of MTV News and Docs, and has also directed several documentaries for PBS and MTV. In an interview I did for, Lauren talked about her reasons for putting this documentary together.

DS: There where a lot of other films that came out about Tupac. What where things you did not want to do?

Lauren Lazin: We did not want other people talking about Tupac. We really wanted this film to be Tupac in his own words talking about his own life. He is amazingly articulate and self analytical and no one can speak about him better than him. To really have the experience one-on-one of experiencing his life the way he did is an amazing thing you really don’t need an interpreter.

DS: We would like to know how many interviews and how did you put every thing together?

LL: So many interviews, over 40 interviews; some with journalists, printer list, and some where on movie junkets he never gave a bad interview. Every interview he gave was thoughtful and reflective. He really listened to the questions and spent time thinking about his answers. We have some documents from depositions he gave to lawyers who could care less for Tupac; they were just doing their job. He really spent time entertaining. You know he never went throw the motion. He always spoke through the heart.

DS: How did you come to the project?

LL: Well, at MTV we really wanted to make a feature documentary film and Tupac is really large. There is probably is no more an important figure than Tupac for our fans in the last 20 years. Afeni wanted to make a film on his life and a documentary and we both felt very strongly that it should be told from his point of view with his words.

DS: Are a lot of the images and pictures that you guys use in the movie from his home collection?

LL: A lot of the photos were from his friends and family and people who had been holding on to these photos for years waiting for the right project to share them with. And since Afeni was the executive producer, they were like, “OK, this is the project I can trust.” ”You know you can use these photos.” Jada Pinkett-Smith had that great video footage and other photos and it was like ok. So many people with photos said to me if Afeni’s on board, I would share this with you. We also had access to his personal vault and really got to throw his stuff in. I don’t know if you noticed the bag of sunflower seeds but that was his sunflower seeds. I did a lot of interviewing of people that actually knew him before we did anything with the project to get a sense of who he really was. I actually never met him. People who knew and loved him said positive things. It’s something that came up with everybody that I talked to. I would ask them about little perks about him things they remember? And they replied by saying he always had a bag of sunflowers; like you would always see shells in everywhere he went. And sure enough when we opened the vault there was a hat and an open bag of sunflower seeds he’d gone half way through. I mean it. It’s stuff no one will ever notice but it’s in there for the people who knew Tupac.

DS: Where you a big Tupac fan and did you know his music before the project?

LL: I work for MTV for a long time, so I knew his music. I knew who he was, and I knew the story was interesting. I did a documentary on Dr. Dre before this for the channel and it was like any image of Tupac that was in a video would be like your eyes went to him like anything Tupac was in you just prohibited to. Also I had seen how important he is to our audiences and how much it has grown. We have all these young kids watching MTV who were like 10 or 11 years old. When he died they weren’t really around when he was at his prime. They loved Tupac. They felt connected to him, so a lot of doing this film was I guess a journey for me to find out why he matters so much and why is he so important to young people today. It’s not that he was beautiful and he died young. You know there’s something more there.

DS: Did Suge Knight play a part in getting you guys and material?

LL: We did not deal with Suge Knight at all. He was not part of this movie. All we did was licensed some music from him and that mostly went to Amuru Entertainment, Afeni’s production company. They have a deal where they can license music for a documentary at a certain rate. But that was the only dealing we did with them.