12th May 2020
Will Power
Take some time off, put your feet up and take a look at Blink director Will Hooper’s totally absurd, cleverly funny and technically complicated music videos. The super-talented, almost-new director, who was about to shoot his first commercial when lockdown skittled the project for now, talks to us about his desire to make bowling alley animations, a video game and wouldn't mind designing a ghost train.

You were born in Dubai and grew up in Weston-super-Mare. Were you brought up in a particularly creative environment? And how do think your background influenced your filmic language?

My Dad is a graphic designer and my Mum’s background is in interior design – so I’ve always been surrounded by creative goings on at home.

During my early teens, my mum worked doing all the visual merchandising for a garden centre and she used to do THE BEST Christmas displays in the foyer of the building. I think that was probably the first time I was exposed to spacial design like that – or at least became aware of it and its potential. Throughout college I was sure I wanted to do something similar – not make Santa’s grotto or anything – but make art that filled physical space.

A lot of my ideas stem from thinking about the physicality of space and objects. My Dad has collected and curated tat his whole life; from crude toys to dodgy tourist bunk to questionable produce packaging, if it’s naff I’ll likely have an affinity towards it and an unyielding desire to possess it.

 

 

Did you always intend to direct films?

 Not really. When I left uni I was working in art departments and I thought that was what I was going to do primarily, and mess around with making films on the side. Before that, I was into acting and art and photography. I loved watching films and was into fantasy stuff mostly.

For a good while I thought photography was my calling and I used to spend day after day walking around London filling SD cards of silly things I saw. Looking back now I wasn’t very good but I did have fun and it taught me a lot about framing real spaces / locations.

 

 

I didn’t really consider the possibility of directing till I was in my early 20’s at university. I applied for some arts council money in my third year through the funding scheme Stop Play Record and made my first short film ‘A Roof Over Their Heads’ which was later picked up by Channel 4’s Random Acts.

 

And from that first short film, where you dressed the family in paper mache heads, your eye for the absurd runs like a surreal, witty thread through your music videos for Idles, Apre, Marika Hackman, Sad Night Dynamite, Bree Runway and these two latest stand-out films for Declan McKenna.

Thanks! Yep. I’ve always been into the concept of absurdism and how it can be wielded in ways that can be both poignant and funny. Creating stuff that’s cloaked in ambiguity is quite important to me – I’m really excited by multi-faceted responses to art, stuff that provokes even a tiny bit of response or process to unlock its intention. A slippery message = an excited Will. P.S. I hate Banksy.

 

Let’s start with the latest The Key To Life On Earth for Declan McKenna where you teamed him up with his doppelganger, End of the Fucking World star Alex Lawther, and not one frame is wasted on unravelling the story of “mundanity and hostility”.

Sure, so for this vid we were really leaning into a big internet meme that’s plagued Declan for ages. His likeness has always been compared to Alex Lawther’s – and the comment section has been persistent in underlining that fact.

Declan called me up and said that he’d got Alex lined up for the next vid and his only ambition for it was to have the two of them having a fight – something like the Peter Griffin and Chicken feud on Family Guy perhaps?

So I took that, went away, fleshed it out a bit and thought about how we can use the two of them on screen in a playful and engaging way that taps into their history/ relationship and is ultimately a chunky crowd pleaser.

I was thinking about if all those comments that people had written over the years could manifest into a person – like a digital age incantation – A bit like that old spooky urban myth you’d get told as a kid that if you look in a mirror at night and said “Candy man” three times – he would appear behind you and kill you?

The narrative itself is very loosely inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe short story William Wilson, where the protagonist stabs his doppelgänger at a Venetian masquerade ball (hence the cockroach fancy dress scrap that takes place at the end of our film).

 

You used vfx to a much greater extent in your earlier film for Declan McKenna Beautiful Faces than you had previously. What was behind your decision to depart from your normal live action and has this opened up new narrative possibilities for you?

Oh massively so. I don’t really see it as a departure to be honest – it’s something I’ve been interested in exploring for ages. I’m super into video games and world building and I am actually shocked it’s taken me this long to start playing with cgi. I met Alfie (Dwyer, @ze.zima) on instagram and had been quietly following his work, like a viper, waiting for the right project to come along where I could strike into his DM’s and BEG him to work with me. He said yes. 💍

Some incoming cringe for you… I used to make digital collages back in le day which were supposed to be the building blocks of ideas for films – but then I got a job at Waterstones and I played a bit too much World of Warcraft and never actually learned how to use the software to develop them any further.

 

 

Your film for London-based producer duo Sad Night Dynamite is stunningly shot and completely captivating in a surreal way as if they are interconnecting stories with more to be revealed. Explain more please.

Thanks! Huge shout out to mega babe Igor Smitka for his unmistakable skills there.

This was the first thing that SND had ever put out and they were super conscious of the grand design of the project as a whole, constantly referencing ‘the arc’.

The instrumentals themselves are quite experimental in the sense that they hint at what’s to come later down the line: referencing particular musical phrases or hooks that will appear on future singles etc. And that was something we were keen to explore in the visual too, that the piece felt like it was part of something larger – scraps of a fading fever dream, pieced back together.

 

Was Idles’ Colossus, which you directed, produced and edited, your breakthrough film?

Yes it definitely was! It was the first music vid I ever made in fact. I was granted some £ to make a music vid from an Arts Council funded scheme called Stop Play Record – and needed to find some music for it! I used to be in a band when I was younger and we’d played a couple of shows with Idles so I knew the singer Joe a bit, I had him on Facebook and dropped him a message saying I’ve got £3k to make a movie and he sent me their soon-to-be-released second album and said pick a song! Back of the net.

 

All of your films have a distinctive tone and art direction. Do you collaborate with a designer or do you visualise in detail with storyboards?

I don’t really collaborate with any individual specifically in regards to art direction. I guess I usually have quite a strong hand in the approach to design – I often think about physical space very early on when I’m writing – sometimes a whole idea can stem from something silly I want to do with a set for example. I storyboard pretty much everything as I’m also quite hot on framing and, though dodgy as heck, my storyboards can be super useful in illustrating how I want to approach shooting a certain set build or space.

 

 

You’re currently focussing on music videos but are there other genres you’d like to explore?

Oddly enough yes. I was miserably two days away from shooting my first commercial for Skittles when the lockdown came into place and the shoot got understandably pulled. I’m really hoping that once we’ve resumed normal procedures we can pick the project up again as we’d had loads of amazing prosthetics made for it.

Aside from moving into commercials I’m working with Blink on developing some longer form stuff which I’ve been able to sink some serious hours into with all the free time I have not been making commercials for Skittles.

I also have a few weird long-term goals that I think I should probably start entertaining soon: One thing I’ve always wanted to do is shoot a series of super super short live-action films that would replace the usual bowling alley animations, and have an invite only presentation of them whilst people bowled. I also really want to design a ghost train and also make a video game.

 

How are you spending your days WFH and is there anything in particular that you’re finding inspiring to watch, read, listen to?

I’m playing lots of video games, painting, waiting and cooking. I had a pretty busy start to the year, so it’s been quite a healthy pause for me. I’ve subscribed to an arts & culture streaming service called Marquee TV, so I’ve “been going to the theatre” a lot with my housemates – last night it was RSC’s Richard II.

LINKS:

Blink

@willhooper__

Credits

Declan McKenna, The Key To Life On Earth (ft. Alex Lawther)

Director: Will Hooper
EP: Laura Northover
Producer: Rosie Brear
Prod Co: Blink
Commissioner: Michael Lewin

PM: Harry Hardwick
PA: Rachel Bashford
1st AD: Ty Hack
DoP: Ruben Woodin Dechamps
1st AC: Marcus Albertsen
2nd AC: Klara Rychtarcikova
Loader: Saskia Dixie
Trainee: Josh Ighodaro
Gaffer: Esteban Gimpelewicz
Spark: Jerzy Gudjonsson
Spark: Cameron Smart
Art Director: Zoe Klinck
Set Dressing: Lili Abraham
Art Assistant: Tea Mulabdic
Art Assistant: Pedro Reis
Sylist: Suzie Walsh
Styling Assistant: Jade Hennessey
Make up: Jackie Tyson
Flight Choreographer: Dan Styles
Runner: Linda Dorigo
Runner: Elle Dolan
Runner: Tara Sadeghi
Security: John Wild
Set Medic: Gary Darling-Parkes
BTS: Ben Hennessey
Stills Photographer: Joe Magowan

Declan Double: Alex Lawther

Edit: Sam Allen @ Stitch
Post Producer: Kirsty Oldfield
Grade: Richard Fearon
Flame/Online: Jack Stone
Post Producer: Tamara Mennell
Sound Designer: Alexander Wells

Special Thanks to:
One Stop Films
GreenKit Lighting
Frame24
Kodak
Cinelab
The Frying Squad
Zebrafish
Get Set Hire
Katinka & Lo

 

Declan McKenna: Beautiful Faces

Director: Will Hooper
Producer: Rosie Brear
Exec: Laura Northover
Commissioner: Michael Lewin
Production Company: Blink

DoP: Stephan Yap
Production Manager: Rachel Bashford
1st AD: Ty Hack
Focus Puller: Marcus Albertsen
Loader: Jomar O’Meally
Steadicam: Josh Brooks
Gaffer: Will Pope
Spark: Ana Krkljus
Spark: Caio Dias
Spark: Sam Baker
DIT: Stephen Evans
Rigger: Lee Doran
Grip: Llewellyn Harrison
Sound Recordist: Max Berridge
Runner: Max McLaclan
Runner: Miles Lacey
Production Designer: Laura Little
Art Department: Francis Styles
Art Department: Tom Quinton
Scenic Painter: Melisa Wickham
Stylist: Michael Darlington
Hair and Makeup: Jackie Tyson

Editor -Sam Allen @ Speade
Colourist: Richard Fearon @ Black Kite
Post Post Producer: Tamara Mennell
Flame: Jack Stone
3D Artist: Alfie Dwyer
Sound Designer: Alexander Wells

Blink Productions

 

Bree Runway,  Apeshit

Production Company: Blink
Director: Will Hooper

Executive Producer: Laura Northover
Producer: Eleri Evans
Production Manager: Harry Hardwick

1st Ad: Ty Hack
Runner: Nana Quartey
Runner: Harry Oliver
Runner: Lottie O’connell

Director Of Photography: Stefan Yap
1st Assistant Camera: Benjy Kirkman
2nd Assistant Camera: Jomar O’meally
Camera Trainee: Finn Sheriton
Dit: Jeremy Balderstone

Gaffer: Danny Hayward
Electrician: Darren Pearson
Electrician: Johnjoe Besagni
Electrician: Joss Lawson
Genny Op: Sam Travis

Art Director: Laura Little
Art Dept Assistant: Jaclyn Pappalardo
Art Dept Assistant: Tom Quinton
Art Dept Assistant: Paulius Gurklys
Art Dept Assistant: Laurence Hammerton

Choreographer: Suzette Brissett

Wardrobe Stylist: Holly Adamthwaite
Wardrobe Assistant: C/O Holly Adamthwaite

Make-up Artist: Paige Cole
Hair Stylist: Marvin Francis
Hair/Make-up Split Driver: Tony Kent

Dancers:
Dancer1:Beccy
Dancer2:Juicy

Offline Edit: Speade
Producer:Kirsty Oldfield
Editor:Sam Allen

Post Production: Black Kite Studios
Colourist: Richard Fearon
Producer: Tamara Mennell

With thanks to Josh Hooper, Fred Rowson and Tash Tung

 

Sad Night Dynamite

Director: Will Hooper
Prod Co: Blink
Exec: Laura Northover
Producer: Rosie Brear
Commissioner: Sam Seager
DoP: Igor Smitka
Czech producers: Elizabeth Chase & Mojas Perovic
PM: Pavlina Saward
1st AD: Mojas Perovic
1st AC: Murat Emkuzhev
2nd AC: Michal Kulhavy
Gaffer: Vaclav Sejna
Drone Op: Marek Tajbl
Make Up Artist: Phil Kunes
Make Up Assistant: Sara Skrinonya
Band Stylist: Suzie Walsh
Stylist: Christina Campagna
Props master: Ales Cerny
BTS: Kubo Krizo
PA: Fanda Saward
Driver: Milan Madar

Editor: Sam Allen
Post Producer: Kirsty Oldfield
Grade: Lucia Kovalova
Sound Design: Alexander Wells
3D Artist: Alfie Dwyer

Casting: New Aliens / Dos Amigos

Wardrobe supplied by Terezie Dvorakova

Camera Rental: Cinestore
Lighting Rental: Lightservice
Props Rental: V-Props

Czech Production Co: Tall Dark & Handsome

 

Marika Hackman: I’m Not Where You Are

Director: Will Hooper

Executive Producer: Laura Northover
Producer: Femi Anderson
Production Manager: Abi Jones
1st Ad: Gabriel O’donohoe
Runner: Laurie Blayney
Runner: Toby Haygarth

Dop: Molly Manning‐walker
Gaffer: Helio Ribiero
Focus Puller: James Wicks
2nd Ac: Klara Rychtarcikova

Electrician:Charlie Manning‐walker
Electrician: Sam Baker

Art Director: Afra Zamara
Assistant Art Director: Martina Giuseppone
Assistant Art Director: Sophie King

Wardrobe Stylist: Dulcie Menzie
Hair And Makeup Assistant: Yulia Yurchenko

Edit: The Quarry
Editor: Owen Oppenheimer
Edit Producer: Tor Adams

Post Production: Mpc
Colourist: Peter Oppersdorff
Post Producer: Amy Richardson

 

Idles, Colossus

Directed and Produced by Will Hooper
Executive Producers: Freddie Forsyth & Saskia Whinney
Production company: Topsafe London
Associate Producer: Emily Everdee
Production Assistant: Sophie Scott
Director of Photography: Paul O’Callaghan
Gaffer: Julius Beltrame
Camera Assistant: Harry Purser
Art Director: Jack Needell
Art Department Assistants: Tom Quinton, Josh Hooper, Maria Hardy
Colour: Paul O’Callaghan
Edit: Will Hooper