February 8, 2023

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SZA’s ‘Kill Bill’ Music Video: Tarantino References Explained

5 min read

SZA “killed her ex” and licked her heart out in the Quentin Tarantino-inspired music video for her hit song “Kill Bill.”

Vivica A. Fox, who played Vernita Greene in the movie “Kill Bill,” sees SZA left for dead by her ex-boyfriend and hungry for revenge in the video. He sings in the song: “Better be in jail than alone.”

The video opens with a snippet of another SZA song, “Somebody Gets Me,” and plays a “Kill Bill” scene between Uma Thurman and Eli Driver in Bud’s trailer. The action-packed video also features other nods to Tarantino films, such as a fight sequence from House of the Blue Leaves and O-Ren Ishii’s anime. The video ends with another SZA song, “Seek and Destroy,” as the R&B star hangs out in shibari (Japanese ties).

“Kill Bill” was directed by Christian Breslauer and produced by Luga Podesta, who previously worked together to produce hit videos like Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow’s “Industry Baby” and Lizzo’s “About Damn Time.” Podesta produces with Andrew LeRois and Mike Breslauer through his banner London Alley Entertainment.

In separate interviews, Breslauer and Podesta accepted diversity SZA went behind the scenes of the video, and explained how everything came together in a “perfect storm” at the last minute.

Where did the idea to stop Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” movie video originate?

Breslauer: When SZA approached me she was really saying that her fans had been asking for a narrative heavy video for a long time. And he feels that he never gives them that, even if there is a narrative beat, it’s never fully narrative. So he really wanted to lean into that: less performance and kind of diving into acting. And obviously, you have a song called “Kill Bill” and we wanted to have fun going down the road of it: “How can we make our own little action movie and make it ours and still give a little subtle nod to the movies?”

How quickly did the production come together for this video?

Podesta: It was certainly fast. Most music videos go by quickly, but this one was definitely one to write home about. We were contacted by SZA’s label in mid-December. And of course, that was shooting in six days, the day before we had a Christmas break. So it was a quick sprint to get there. Usually for a video of this size or caliber, you will have two or three days to shoot it. We had to shoot it on a long day because it was due before the holidays. So we were probably on set for 19 hours or 20 hours.

What was it like working with SZA?

Breslauer: I have never worked with him before. It’s funny because when I posted the teaser trailer on Instagram, I tagged her and it brought me to our DM. And I never realized that a year ago he hit me up about trying to collaborate on a project. I must have missed it somehow. She is truly a beautiful person, just stunningly beautiful, the best of the craft. I think he really understands how hard he worked for this moment and all the time he put into the album. He really wanted to do as many of his stunts as possible. And he didn’t have a lot of time to choreograph it, so he stuck with it and I think the end result was really believable. He stayed to the bitter end, and it got cold. I think we probably wrapped around 5 o’clock, and I think he probably got there at 9 o’clock [the day before].

Podesta: It was really interesting to see how involved he was and how much he knew about creative storytelling She knew what she wanted. Every decision that was made, everything that was executed throughout the day, throughout the preparation… he was very involved with casting and lighting references.

Can you break down some of the “Kill Bill” movie references that made it into the video?

Breslauer: A few things we noticed from the overall film world. I thought about including some of those classic retro split screens that you see a lot in 70s movies, because Tarantino kind of made his name out of all these different genres and stitching them together. So we wanted to do the same thing. Obviously, there’s katana and sword fighting, which is a huge element. We want to put things in place for the fans where they can see that we’re moving towards making an action movie, but at the same time, how do we differentiate it?

How are you Vivica? Got Fox on board?

Breslauer: It was very close to the holidays, people were already planning their trips. And Vivica, she was so down to do it. And she was a sweetheart. He waited several hours when we finally got to that scene and he came in for the last shot of the night. It was cold as hell. He came in, I gave him brief directions, and he said, “Okay, honey, say less. Let’s get to it.” And he brought that intensity, that look. I wanted him to feel like a stranger.

How did the video change after it was initially shot?

Breslauer: The animation scene was not in the original treatment. It was something after I saw the original cut. I had this idea and I was like, “Maybe throw something new through the loop and be able to cover it in a different way than the way we shot it.” I think I hurt [Nathan Love Animation] At Christmas and they somehow spin it at record speed, and it’s honestly one of my favorite parts of the video right now.

We hear a snippet of “Search and Destroy” at the end. Could this hint at the next music video?

Breslauer: Little easter egg we threw at them “Seek and Destroy,” SZA hanging from the rope of the ladder, that’s her idea that she threw me. I think two days before we shot he was like, “I don’t know how to incorporate this, but I really want this scene.” I said, “Let’s get this over with, let’s tease another record.” And I think “Search and Destroy” is the right record because it’s like, “I had to do it.” She just killed her ex and she got revenge. He lays it here in all its glory. We brought in a true expert, a Shibari rope man, to tie him properly. So what you see is completely authentic. There are no hidden wires holding him up or anything like that.

Podesta: At first we talked about skipping the scrolling credits, but I think it was such an iconic shot that it was hard to put anything on it.

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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