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Will Hooper & Max McLachlan on Franc Moody's Raining In LA: "David Lynch was a crucial reference."

Will Hooper & Max McLachlan on Franc Moody's Raining In LA: "David Lynch was a crucial reference."

Promonews - 5th Oct 2022

We spoke to Will Hooper and Max McLachlan about why turning Bally Gill into a cactus in their UKMVA-nominated video for funk band Franc Moody was just part of a bigger masterplan.

Will Hooper and Max McLachlan have made much more than a music video for Franc Moody's new release. The pair have pretty much created a world to accompany the main single from the acclaimed London funk outfit's third album, Into The Ether. And a very strange world it is too. 

The project centres on the music video that Hooper (above left) and McLachlan (right) co-directed for the single Raining In LA - a comic-horror piece with very surreal overtones, in which a businessman in need of a holiday, takes a trip organised by the mysterious travel agency named FM Travel. It turns out he is heading to a barren desert - where he will undergo a remarkable transformation: metamorphising into a cactus. Prickles and everything.

Starring Bally Gill (SherwoodSlow Horses, RSC's Romeo & Juliet) the Raining In LA video is the centrepiece of a collection of films to support the song and the album. It also includes an 'infomercial' for the sinister FM Travel, featuring the band led by Ned Franc and Jon Moody as shifty salespeople, pushing the FM dream - included as part of the Raining In LA promo; the video for I'm In A Funk where a manic individual (Charles Timpson) distributes FM Travel flyers among the bemused public in a London neighbourhood; the visualiser for In Transit, also featuring Franc and Moody as the wheeler-dealer travel agents.

This is also the first time that Hooper and McLachlan have worked on a project together as co-directors. Will Hooper has built his reputation since signing to Blink in 2018 with his videos for IDLES, Declan McKenna, Rag 'n Bone Man, Dua Lipa and others, and is now usually busy making commercials. By contrast, McLachlan is an up and coming talent, busy working on promos for the likes of Ibibio Sound Machine, Naima Bock, Girli and October and The Eyes.

So we spoke to the two directors about how the Franc Moody project and their collaboration came together.

From the beginning the imagery of a journey into the desert was crucial to the band.

PROMONEWS: How did the project begin for you? What were the label and band looking for? 

WILL: Quite a long time ago actually - way back in October of last year. The band’s management reached out to myself and Laura [Northover] at Blink. They sent us a few early mixes for a handful of songs that would feature on their next record Into The Ether, and straight away I could sniff the delicious promise in the tracks. They were really good and I was immediately interested.

We then got an epic conceptual breakdown of the whole album that they’d carefully put together for us, with a little breakdown of each track individually. This was incredibly useful to form a total picture of what the album was trying to tell everyone. They also told us they wanted to shoot in the desert. That was very important to them as so much of the record is inspired by the vast expanse of the desert.

So I bought some Factor 50 and met the band, bringing with me a rucksack full of initial ideas to chat them through, mainly to see if anything tickled their fancy. It’s always a stab in the dark at this stage, so I always enjoy over-egging the pudding a bit and write far too many ideas than I should…

Above: Will Hooper (left) and Max McLachlan in the offices of FM Travel

When (and how) did you two decide to work together on the project?

WILL: As the job was brought to us super-early in their album campaign launch, it ended up being one of those ones that drags out quite a bit - which ultimately is epic as you have actually have time to think about stuff and develop stuff, which is very rare to be afforded in music videos.

At one stage in this long process however, I was looking a bit silly busy juggling a few commercial jobs and we decided that we needed an extra mind and pair of hands to do a bit of the leg work. We couldn’t find one of those so we got Max in.

I jest. Max has been a long time friend of mine and someone who’s work I greatly admire. So we were super lucky that he’d agreed to come onto this job and co-direct it with me.

Ideas came from Mormon educational adverts, Looney Tunes, and ancient internet videos.

MAX: Franc Moody were magnetically drawn to Will’s unique and grubby genius - as was I when I first found out about Blink. After I started running there and got to know him, we discovered we had the same disgraceful taste.

I’ve been lucky enough to assist Will with some jobs. And when he became really busy with commercial work we spoke about me coming on board and diving into the deep end of the sand-filled world that Will was already forming for Franc Moody’s album.

Will had already created a bank of desert and office-laced imagery for each track. Then when we sat down we began to tie it all together and build a world we were excited to make real. From there it was pretty organic. I've definitely learnt a lot but luckily at every new stage our creative approach together came naturally.

WILL: Max brought so much of his genius to it. He probably made the movie at least 69 times better than if I had not forced him to do it.

Above: Hooper (centre) and McLachlan (right) with DoP Carlos Feher, on location in the Tabernas Desert. 

We found ourselves out in the harshest desert Spain had to offer... 

How much material have you created for the album, and how would you describe it, in terms of the ideas it’s exploring, and its relationship to the band and their new music?

WILL: It’s funny, this project has been going on for quite some time, [so] I feel like we forget how much has even been created for the album.

The core of our project was always the Raining In LA video. So most of the other content acts to expand the world, or create crumbs leading to that video, which hopefully gives more context to the previous work.

MAX: Throughout the project we knew we had to balance the strange tone we wanted to create, and the themes of self-discovery, with the utter funkiness and groove of their music. We wanted to make sure it always had a sense of fun and energy that didn’t strip away any of the pure danceability of the tracks.

Anna Kennedy... said the two words that changed our lives: BALLY and GILL.

The tone is quirky and surreal to the point of being unsettling - and arguably quite a sobering message. What were your main reference points? 

WILL: David Lynch was a crucial reference from the very beginning. There was never anything specific from one of his films we wanted to draw from, but the tone he creates is perfect. The malaise of his movies which allows you to laugh at the oddity of them while still forcing you to keep your wits about you at all times.

MAX: As far as specific ideas we drew from, they came from Mormon educational adverts, Looney Tunes, and ancient internet videos - which is the only way we can communicate.

How did you come up with the concept of FM Travel, and what is its significance in the whole project? How does this reflect what Franc Moody are about?

WILL: The album is an exploration of self-discovery, and from the beginning the imagery of a journey into the desert was crucial to the band. However, we were worried about making a 'go to the desert and you’ll find yourself' movie that sells cheap answers and false hopes, inadvertently promoting a ‘move into a luxury RV in the desert with a pug called Petunia and you’ll never feel sad again!!’ Instagram-lifestyle.

Above: Bally Gill prepares to become full cactus, hands-first.

Instead we decided to flip it on its head and focus on someone having been sold a dream journey of self-discovery, only to be left stranded with more confusion in place of answers. Thus our dream journey salesmen/hucksters, aka FM Travel, was born. Once we started to discuss why they would want to trap people in the desert, we delved deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of the lore.

The centrepiece is Raining In LA, where a man’s dream holiday turns out to be a one-way trip to the desert. Where did you shoot it and what were the main challenges of the shoot?

MAX: We looked at a lot of deserts. Big ones, small ones, skinny ones. And when we got the recce pics through from the Spanish contact we were talking to it was a stop in tracks moment for us and we knew [the Tabernas Desert, in South-Eastern Spain] was the one. It wasn’t immediately the easiest location to service however, but the setting was so important to our story, that we found ways to make it work.

So yes, we found ourselves out in the harshest desert Spain had to offer, our skin frying in the rays of the Tabernas sun. It was hot, it was sweaty, it had few toilets... [but] it was amazing.

WILL: Naturally it’s difficult to film in the middle of nowhere, there’s hardly access to a nearby Argos if you forget anything, let alone figuring out getting anything out there in the first place. Massive respects and honour must be paid to the one and only Laura Northover who mastered riding the treacherous, gnarly dunes with a rented minivan…

How did you cast award-winning actor Bally Gill in the role of the hapless traveller? Was it a difficult makeup job turning him into a plant?

MAX: We were crazy lucky to have a hand from the casting legend, Anna Kennedy. She saw a list of actors we had created who we thought would be of the right sort of vibe, and she said the two words that changed our lives: BALLY and GILL.

As soon as we saw his reel we knew he could bring the goods and my god did he deliver. I can’t believe he was told “can you become a cactus for these two human worms for a music video?” and he said “get me on that plane”.

After he came out of that make-up chair with sticks on his green-painted face, fear boiling in his eyes, you knew it couldn’t have been anyone other than Bally Gill.

Above: Art dept assistant Ricardo Leon and production manager Ana Gamiz prepare the cactus for final shot of Raining In LA

What's the story about the guy in the I'm In A Funk visual trying to hand out FM Travel flyers? And when and where did you shoot that video?

M: When Will started the project, he threw out a blast of bizarre and distinct desert visuals for the band to chew on; the image of a man wandering with a plastic bag constantly pouring out sand really stuck with them.

Once we got deeper into the project together we started to discuss what this could add to the world we were building. We already knew we wanted our main character in Raining In LA to have been drawn in by a flyer, so it dawned on us this mystery man could be a FM Travel employee, sent from the desert on a mission to lure people.

We decided the plastic sand bag was a sand timer, counting down the clock before he is banished back to the desert realm. Then it was just a matter of finding the right guy and running around Peckham with him, and boy oh boy did we find thee guy in Charles Timpson.

How did you organise the production, in terms of shooting what, and when? 

WILL: We didn’t organise a single thing. We are hopeless. Endless <3s and praise goes to producer Rosie Brear for her tireless and resolute work on this job. The amount of deliverables and deadlines and moving parts was a headache that our tiny brains could not comprehend. Rosie has a galaxy brain and made the impossible happen with this. What a clever and talented and lovely egg she is.

Rumours are the band have created nether-realm version of ourselves called Mill and Wax...

Is there anything else coming out? And if so what can we expect?

MAX: The sand-filled well of Franc Moody may never run dry (...or drier I suppose). There may be videos coming out we don’t even know we’ve created. Rumours are the band have created the nether-realm version of ourselves called Mill and Wax, who wear almost exact copies of our famous red and green plumber outfits but in disgusting purple and yellow, concocting and filming bizarre videos for eternity.

WILL: Sorry about him. Yes, there is one more movie coming out - featuring Toni C, the Cactus Driver...

• Will Hooper is represented by Blink for music videos and commercials. Watch more of his work here and Max McLachlan's work here.

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