South By Southwest 2019 Interview — PORNO director Keola Racela

“The film is about five movie theater employees in a small Christian community who find a creepy old film reel in the basement. They watch it and think it’s pornography, but it turns out to be a devil movie that summons a succubus, who terrorized these virgins over the course of the night. “ Director Keola Racela on PORNO which screens in the 2019 edition of SxSW Film!

Congratulations on your film playing in at SxSW this year! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?

This is our first time at SXSW and the first festival screening for our film. I will definitely be there!

So how did you get into this movie-making business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.

I worked a lot of different jobs after graduating with a degree in film studies. It wasn’t until I started teaching filmmaking that I realized I could actually be a filmmaker myself. Maybe I was waiting for someone to give me permission? And then ironically I was the one empowering others to do that very thing. From there I applied to film school, attended Columbia, and that was that. I figured if it didn’t work out I could just return to teaching, but I haven’t been back.

How did this project come together for you? Give me a rundown from the preparation, to shooting, to post-production to now!

The film happened very quickly. We brainstormed the film in a week, and the writers wrote the first draft in four days. That was in July. We started shouting the movie in October and wrapped 22 shooting days later. In addition to directing, I served as editor and spent the better part of the following year editing the film.


What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? Any coffee?

I try not to drink so much coffee on set. It dries my eyeballs out and makes my stomach hurt after awhile. Though I usually start the day with a coffee, I’ll switch to tea after that. Also… I quit smoking before the start of the shoot. When I told our AD this he gave me the longest, sideiest side-eye ever! Maybe he even said, “oh, no…” I did fairly well chewing on nicotine lozenges for the better part of the shoot. But I broke in the end.


What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

Not smoking! No, in all seriousness, the big challenge was to try and go in with a plan—because the plan is going to get you from one side of your day to the other—and still be open to discovering new ideas on set. Working in comedy, the funniest idea always wins. So being able to throw out new ideas and see what sticks, making the room for that to happen, reaching those moments were the most rewarding. The times I had to walk away from the monitor because I was laughing too hard, those are wins.  

I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.

I have worked with my DP on all of my shorts but one, so we kind of have a short hand for working. The lead in time for this film was much shorter and our schedule was short so we relied a lot on our instincts and past experiences. Regardless, I always come in with a bunch of visual ideas and JP always translates them beautifully, except for when he comes up with a better idea. That’s when I know we’re really cooking!


What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?

SXSW was the first film festival I ever attended so it has a special association for me. Austin is such a great movie town, and the SXSW crowds are the best! I’m crossing my fingers that our weirdo movie plays well!


After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?

Not sure we can say yet. Getting into SXSW has been such great exposure that we have a bunch of very cool offers from other festivals coming in!


If you could show your movie in any theatre outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

Probably the old single screen movie theater in downtown Hemet, California. It’s where I grew up watching films. I saw all the old Disney films there, my parents took me to see Pulp Fiction there, my friend Ahmed and I lied our way into rated R movies there. Heck, we even considered shooting our film in that theater!


What would you say to someone who was being disruptive like talking or texting through a movie?

“Dude…” I don’t know, I honestly haven’t experienced this particular menace too often. Maybe I’ve been lucky?

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?

First, get out there and make things. There are so many venues to show your work online, there’s no excuse not to just start making things. Second, you should always be writing. It costs nothing, it requires no crew, and it’s the best way to hone your skills as a storyteller. If you want to get into filmmaking, you’ve got to have something to say. Get it out of your head, get it on paper, that’s where it all starts anyway.


And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?

The year I volunteered at the Hawaiian International Film Featival they were screening a restored print of Wong Kar Wai’s DAYS OF BEING WILD. They let us watch it before the festival started in a huge empty theater. The experience was transcendent.

This is one of the many film titles playing at SxSW 2019. For more information on this and any other title playing in the festival, point your browser to http://www.sxsw.com/film!

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