'Twerk' Co-Director Sara Lacombe on 'Empowering' City Girls & Cardi B Video, Making Opportunities for Women of Color
Sara Lacombe has been involved in music videos for a range of rap's biggest artists, including Wizkid, Lil Uzi Vert, Rich the Kid, 21 Savage, Cuban Doll, Lil Baby, DJ Khaled and more. Recently, she produced Migos' "Walk It Talk It" video, featuring Drake, as well as City Girls and Cardi B's viral "Twerk" visual.
Born in North Carolina and raised in Philadelphia, Lacombe owns her own production company and is the creative behind some of the most popular music videos of today. She attended Temple University, graduating with a bachelor of arts in broadcast communications and mass media with a focus in television. During her last semester in college, she spent time working in Los Angeles, leading her to relocate to the city after college to start her career.
Billboard spoke to Lacombe over the phone about her start in the industry, as well as what led to her big break and what's next for 2019.
How did you get into music video directing?
In 2012, I did an internship program my last semester of college in LA. I got an internship at a production company, David Naylor and Associates, for music videos and commercials. I got into it right away and started freelance producing a year or two after that. I've always been a creative person. A lot of the relationships I have with other directors when I was producing morphed into me organically directing.
After your internship, how long did it take you to grow into also doing directing as well as producing?
I started in the office as just a production coordinator and assistant producer. Then I slowly morphed into producing music videos. Then that slowly morphed into creative direction and a director role.
What was your first breakthrough project where you feel like you got noticed by the industry?
I would say last year, the first legit music video I did was for a girl named Cuban Doll featuring Lil Yachty and Lil Baby. For people around me, they saw the potential in that. Then I later on did a Lil Baby music video right after that. That one probably started it all. It was called "Bankrupt Remix."
Explain the day-to-day life of having a two-pronged job like directing and producing.
It depends per job if I'm doing both. If I am producing, then basically my job would be to creatively make sure the director has everything that they want. I basically help hire the entire crew, from the director of photography to art director. I help with casting. I find the location. I'm basically in control of making sure everything shows up to the set and gets executed to the likes of the director and the client as a producer.
Then if I'm the director, then basically it's my job to bring the creative to life. Whatever we wrote in the treatment or whatever the artist wants is what I execute on. As a director you have to be willing to roll with the punches and make creative changes and solutions right there on the spot.
You have produced several videos for Quality Control Music. How did that relationship start with the label?
It started about three, four years ago. Actually, it has a lot to do with a director named Dap. Dap was doing a lot of videos for [Migos'] Culture album. He had a great relationship with QC, and just like over time, because I produce a lot of videos for him, I was able to also build a relationship with QC. I was privileged to be able to work on videos like "Walk It Talk It" and "Twerk."
Any funny or notable stories around the making of the "Walk It Talk It" video?
A funny moment was we weren't really sure who would be the host. I think it was the day before something and the guys ran into Jamie Foxx somewhere. They asked him to be the host and to our surprise he actually agreed to do it. So the day before I remember a stylist running around to get clothes in his size. I think that was kind of a funny moment having Jamie appear in this video and him on set was pretty hilarious.
The video "Twerk" was a very sexually liberating video with all women. Was that on purpose, and how was that decision made?
It was definitely purposeful, and it's funny, because a bunch of ass shaking in a video is common. But it was different this time because the song was made by women, and we felt that the message would be stronger if there were absolutely no males in the video. It was meant to empower women to accept their sexuality and be free. We might not have had the same result if there was a bunch of men. It was a collective decision that made sense to everyone. If we were going to do this, we had to do it right. We had to be impactful and be empowering to women.
Has there ever been a time before you made it where you wanted to give up? If so, what helped you push past feeling that and persevere?
I think that everybody at some point reaches a time of wanting to give up. I think ultimately what helped me push through it was because I want to be more creative than anything else. As a creative person, you have to be willing to take risks and not be afraid to fail. I just think when sometimes I get in those ruts where I don't feel good enough, I have to prove myself wrong. It's more about believing in yourself and I have a great support system. My family always inspires me. My mom always pushes me to be the best. I also have great friends who want me to succeed. That energy around me helps me push through.
What's next for you in 2019 and how do you see yourself contributing more to empowering women in the industry?
I've started my own production company, which is a creative agency/production company. I prefer to be able to work for myself -- not because other opportunities don't exist, but because when you work for yourself, the possibilities are limitless. You control what you can do in terms of your work and where you want to go with it. You don't really have to answer to anybody. So I just see myself really building that up over the next couple of years. In terms of the other question, I already tend to work with people of color because we don't always get the opportunities others are afforded. I definitely would love to continue working with women as there aren't enough of us in this area of the business. As a woman, I find myself being one of the few female producers. There's so many male producers that it's mind-blowing. A lot of women tend to work in the office under producers because those roles require organization but women can also do so much more. We can make decisions and be at the forefront of creative decisions and roles. I just want to help empower women like the women around me that have empowered me.