The documentary was directed, edited, and photographed by Robert Lopuski, who recently chatted with Paradigm magazine about how he hooked up with the two rappers. “I was in Madrid on another gig when I got the call,” he recalls. “I had to drop everything to fly out to Sydney. I didn’t have any equipment with me. So I asked Kanye’s team if it was cool to put in a rental order– like, could you guys get some stuff down there for me? I wrote up a list: I need a camera, a mic, a stand, the simple abc’s, and they said don’t worry, we got it.”
“A few days later, I show up and none of it is there,” he says. “So I went on a crazy four-hour tear around Sydney, finding whatever pieces of equipment I could get my hands on.”
Lopuski goes on to detail just how hard it is to make a documentary about the making of an album when the recording takes place in a candlelit room and you’re not allowed to record conversations or interview your subjects:
When I started filming, there were issues with exposure. I didn’t have the tools to properly capture Kanye and Jay in a candlelit studio. The equipment I had at the time couldn’t handle such low light. I would say to the handlers that there were certain things that I needed to do: turn on lights, get slightly better access, possibly stage a better setup photographically.
They said ‘no, we can’t do that.’ Could I sit down? Could I put lavs on them? I know you guys are recording the album, but could I record their conversations? ‘No, you can’t do that.’ Can I set mics up in the room to record the room? ‘No.’ Do you think while I’m here, I can do sit-down interviews with them…maybe get something that I can at least use audio wise? ‘No. They don’t feel like doing interviews.’
The job was challenging professionally because you’re thrust immediately into the inner circle yet not allowed to capture the inner workings properly.
He explains that he had to use “subterfuge” to actually film anything meaningful, resorting to using his cell phone or flip cams, or slyly talking to Jay-Z or Kanye and turning it into an off-the-cuff interview.
“One of the reasons I think I took the job, aside from of the adventure of it, was that I am very much a fan of what Jay and Kanye are doing,” he says. “So as a fan, I had very specific feelings about what I wanted to make and what I could find satisfying — something that had not been seen before, which was this quiet, intimate affair.”
“In the world of hip-hop, anybody who does something different is a genius, anybody who does something successful is making history; you know it all becomes these exaggerated, bombastic endeavors,” he continues. “And so, for me, I was not interested in that; I was more interested in the smaller moments. The quiet power of talent.”