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May 18, 2020

Welcome to the Nick Taylor Horror Show!

Keola Racela is the director of one of FANGORIA’s new acquisitions, PORNO! Porno pits a hapless group of upright religious & abstinent teens against a deviant sex demon who they accidentally release by watching a satanic porn film one night at the theatre they work at. Porno delivers laughs and scares in equal measure and is a blast of a film. Porno is out now on VOD, and I highly recommend you check it out. 

Porno is Keola’s feature debut, and we get into the ins and outs of low budget filmmaking, gore gags, and a particularly, ahem, nut busting sequence from Porno. Here are some key takeaways from this conversation with Porno director Keola Racela. 

 

  • Play it straight. When it comes to horror, there are countless movies that are intentionally campy, and as a result, cheesy. In some cases, this can be a good thing, but in horror, it’s important to be cognizant of the fine line between exploitation and camp. The way to ensure that your movie is taken seriously is to make sure the actors always play their roles straight and take the material seriously. If the actors wink at the camera too much, the audience checks out. There are a lot of thoughts on the balance between humor and comedy, and in Keola’s case, he recommends ensuring the actors keep their performances dramatic and letting the humor come from the circumstances.

 

  • Move fast. Making a film is making a million decisions, and getting hung up on small details can be the silent death of your movie, or at least substantially slow things down. Keola and his filmmaking partners had a very small window to make Porno in, and they rose to the occasion. The momentum of the fast-paced pre-production and production imbued the movie with a sense of fun and hustle that was infectious to the cast and crew. In the world of filmmaking, over-thinking is the enemy. Condensed timelines and limited resources require quick thinking and decisiveness but can also enable opportunities. Many very established directors claim that they actually prefer working on lower budget movies because the limitations of time and money offer more opportunities for creativity. When you can't throw money at a challenge on set, you have to resort to your own resourcefulness and creative ingenuity, and this often results in very interesting and unexpected things happening on camera. There is also a creative purity that can occur when you’re forced to move fast; effects legend Steven Johnson often talks about how Clive Barker taught him that the first draft of everything is often the closest to the original idea, and therefore the purest. Because of this, it’s important to ‘vomit’ out the first draft of anything as quickly as possible because the idea is less likely to be at the mercy of being watered down or butchered by overthinking & overdevelopment.

 

  • Explore grants and programs. Keola applied to be part of the Sundance editing program, whereby he would have gotten a polished editor to work on his movie for free. Considering that he was making a movie about a sex demon that came out of a satanic porn film, it was a long shot for Sundance to consider his movie, but dammit, he tried anyway! In the end, he didn't get into the editing program, but applying to it did get him the Sundance opportunity to get his movie scored by a professional composer, which significantly boosted the production value of the film. So check out grants. Even if you don’t think you have a shot at getting them, the application process may yield unexpected opportunities.

 

  • Each film needs a north star. As a director, you need to have a strong understanding of exactly what you want to accomplish with your film. Not necessarily so, you can ensure every single specific detail is accomplished, but so you can come up with plan B when your best-laid plans come down crashing and burning on production day. Keola mentioned that a number of larger ideas he had for the film didn't work when it came time to shoot, and he had to quickly figure out new solutions right then and there on set. Luckily, he had a very strong vision of his movie and characters, so he could improvise solutions on the spot without going back to the drawing board. The distinction to be made is here, is not that your vision for your movie should be so rigid and precious that every last detail has to be shot exactly as you pictured it, no. The point is for your vision to be thorough enough to be adaptable to the inevitable trials and tribulations that come with making films. Having this kind of a north star understanding of your movie enables you to have the flexibility to improvise when best-laid plans go to shit on set. Furthermore, not having a solid vision for your film can make you prone to distractions, false starts, and dead ends. As the Cheshire Cat said to Alice during her trip to Wonderland, “if you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.” Knowing your destination enables you to adapt and get to where you’re going through a different route when trouble arises. All of this allows you to move at the lightning-fast speed required for indie filmmaking while remaining completely faithful to your film.

 

Books Mentioned: 

On Film-making: An Introduction to the Craft of the Director by Alexander Mackendrick

Making Movies by Sydney Lumet

The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film by Michael Ondaatje

 

Thanks as always for listening to The Nick Taylor Horror Show! Follow the show on Twitter & Instagram at @IMNickTaylor. 

 

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