When music video director, composer and filmmaker Rich Ragsdale got invited to submit a music-video treatment for a song called “Animals,” he didn’t know who the musicians behind the song were.
“My rep sent the song to me and I just loved it,” said Ragsdale, one of the attendees at this year’s Louisiana International Film Festival. “It’s so evocative and psychedelic.”
“Animals” — a song by Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl, the musical couple who perform as The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger — didn’t remind Ragsdale of the music of Lennon’s father, John.
“Not so much the Beatles or anything like that,” Ragsdale recalled. “It reminded me of early, Sid Barrett-era Pink Floyd. That’s my kind of music.”
When Ragsdale learned that Lennon and Muhl were responsible for “Animals,” he thought that was great, too.
“There is a heavy legacy behind Sean, but he’s an amazing artist on his own,” Ragsdale said. “He doesn’t run away from the fact that he is John Lennon’s son and Yoko Ono’s son, too. And there’s as much Yoko in his music as there is John Lennon.
“At the same time, Sean is just a cool guy and so creative. His new album is the best thing he’s ever done.”
Ragsdale, Lennon and Muhl shot the trippy “Animals” video, nudity included, at the Zorthian Ranch in Altadena, Calif., a movie ranch and former hippie commune, as well as the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Lennon and Muhl collaborated with the director in the development of the “Animals” video concept. Their collaboration included discussions about the works of American experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger, Chilean filmmaker, playwright and comics writer Alejandro Jodorowsky and Ken Russell, the feverishly over-the-top British director of “The Devils,” “Women in Love,” “Lisztomania” and the Who’s “Tommy.”
“Ken Russell is one of Sean’s favorite filmmakers,” Ragsdale said. “ ‘The Devils’ in particular. That’s how our ending came about.
“Sean and Charlotte are extremely film literate. They complement each other amazingly. It’s cool that they’re partners in crime like that.”
The “Animals” video is a personal favorite among the 20 or so videos Ragsdale has directed.
His other projects include musical scores for the TV sitcoms “Will and Grace,” “According to Jim” and “King of Queens,” “The Curse of El Charro” (his feature film debut), the AMC reality show “Freakshow” (he composed the theme song and directed the pilot) and music videos for Blues Traveler and Lenny Kravitz.
Ragsdale’s film-directing skills and his formal study of composition and film scoring at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and USC qualify him as a great choice to helm music videos.
“Musicians are my people,” he said. “I relate to them in a way that maybe some other directors can’t. Also, I do a lot of my own editing. My musical background and my sense of rhythm allows me to combine the structure of the song with the structure of the video. We really tried to do that for Sean’s video.”