The bewitching allure of Fangoria’s latest film Porno has been tantalizing and teasing audiences since it first hit the festival circuit last year. Directed by Keola Racela, Porno conjures up a potent cocktail of humor, horror, gore and nostalgia. With its sharp wit, writing and performances, Porno is a perfectly silly sexy summer treat. Lucky for those of us stuck at home, the timing couldn’t be better as Porno hits VOD May 8th. For a full review of the film, make sure to check out our own Jonathan Dehaan’s Overlook 2019 review HERE!

While there’s lots to love about Porno, perhaps one of the films biggest strengths is the stunning score from composer Carla Patullo. An award-winning composer, Patullo has composed for projects like L.A.: A Queer History, Spa Night and Go Teen Titans Go!. She’s also an incredibly prolific songwriter with more than 100 song placements in shows like The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Young & the Restless and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Oh, and did we mention her multiple albums released with her band White Widow?

In Porno, Patullo crafts true magic with her incredibly versatile sound, wealth of experience and wicked vocals. It’s a score that’s as effective as it is beautiful, balancing enticement and strength with ease. I recently had the privilege of chatting with Patullo and we talked all about Porno, her killer vocals and the perks and challenges of indie filmmaking.

 

“In Porno, Patullo crafts true magic with her incredibly versatile sound, wealth of experience and wicked vocals.”

 

Rachel Reeves for Nightmare on Film Street: From what I understand you came to be involved with Porno in a pretty cool, unique way. Tell us a little bit about that.

Carla Patullo: Yeah! Back in 2018 I was invited to do the Sundance Film Music and Sound Design Lab. They called me up and were like, ‘You got in this year! And we have a really fun film that’s like, the perfect match for you!’ And then they dropped the line, ‘It’s called Porno.’ (laughs) And then I got a clip of the film and just instantly loved it. It was such an unexpected thing from Sundance, but it was so fun. It was very unique in that the director Keola and I were on like a blind date and just put together. We had all this time before the lab started to shoot ideas with each other and talk about what music we were into. We really had more time than when I’m normally brought on a film. That was really cool.

 

That, and the fact that you go to the lab and you work on a few themes together, but you go in knowing that everything you record can’t be used in the final production. At first that might sound frustrating, but it’s actually really great because we just decided to experiment and have some fun with it. You don’t have that pressure in that moment about ‘Ok. This is the final film score. We have to lock this down.’ It was really cool in that sense and we really got to play with it. We got matched up with Mac Smith, a sound designer there. He was really pushing us on all ends to have fun with it. A lot of the advisors there too. We had Thomas Newman and Tyler Bates! They would come into the room and it was the first time that I had met them. And here’s this crazy theme from Porno! They’d be like, ‘Play that again!’ It was just so funny.

 

porno cast

 

NOFS: The director Keola Racela has talked about how quickly the film went from an idea to a completed film. How long did you have to write the score? Do you find short deadlines to be motivating? Or just awful?

 

CP: It’s tricky. I had two to three months by the time we got to mixing, which is a decent amount of time. But, what was tricky about that was we didn’t really have a huge budget. So I kind of had to do everything myself and I didn’t really get to have an assistant. For example, I didn’t get to go record a huge string section, I had to work with a small string section. That created more time that I needed for editing. But it’s great in the sense that you come up with an idea under pressure and you just go with it. You don’t just sit around trying to write the best five drafts of something. You go with your gut more.

NOFS: There are times your score crosses over and becomes intertwined with the narrative of Porno. Is this something you worked out with Keola ahead of shooting? Or was it more of a cool development that happened as the production took place?

CP: I’m a singer and that’s my first instrument. So, Keola and I being paired together for this film was interesting because the first thing I thought about was the demon. And, she doesn’t really have any dialogue in the film. That’s where my voice could really come in. It was an idea that we first bounced around at the lab. And it was cool because I knew that I’d be able to tap into that. So that’s where we started playing with that. I’d put my microphone up in my studio and try all these ideas and have fun messing with my vocals. Running them through guitar amps and stuff like that just to add more layers to it.

 

“…a great thing about not working with a huge budget [is] you really have to think outside the box to do something. It helps you grow.”

 

NOFS: I love how vocal driven this score is and how it brings out the siren aspect of the succubus. It’s fresh and unique, but also reminiscent of classic tracks from Edda Dell’Orso or The Amityville Horror. I think that was so smart.

CP: I’m very inspired by a lot of older scores from Jerry Goldsmith and Bernard Herrmann. I couldn’t have a full choir, but I’d try to bring on other singers in some parts to add a layer. Once I started playing around with the succubus, I thought about each character.  For example, there’s the old boozer and he’s got his own funny voice going on. I was trying to bring out some of those elements subtly.

 A lot of things that I tried playing with had to do with breathing. I’d record myself breathing and then I’d stretch it out and make it kind of long. All of a sudden it would begin to sound very ghostly and haunting. So, I’d try to really play with timing and stretching out the vocals. I also have a lot of little guitar processors and sometimes I’d run things into this synthesizer plug-in I have called Iris. I’d manipulate the sound similar to the way you would on an old school synth, but you’re doing it all inside your computer. I would pick out certain frequencies of a note that I would sing and just use that frequency. It wouldn’t really sound like a voice, but there’s still a human element to it. I was trying to keep that in the score. Like, this succubus is not just in her true form. She’s appearing as different people and different elements. I was trying to bring that out as much as I could.

NOFS: When it comes to the porno film within Porno, how did you play with instrumentation to convey those extra sexy, dark vibes?

CP: The actual porno itself was broken up into two parts. The first part actually had a track in it from a songwriter. So, basically I worked with that track at first. It has a melody in it, and I tried to bring that back in for the second section of it. Keola had this bell thing and this whistle thing happening so I had to work with those elements first. And then I wanted to bring in more of the sexiness. So I added a lot of breathing. And drums. I tried to capture her movement with the breath, this pulsing thing. It’s funny, that track has some strings on it, but really what drives it is the drums and the breathing.

 

 

porno

 

NOFS: I truly felt like you reinvented ‘the sting’ in Porno. They had such a unique sound! How did you approach this classic and crucial (yet totally tired) sound cue?

CP: That was one of the hardest things for me! That was really one of the hardest elements. Keola is so fun to work with and he was like, ‘Ok. I really want you to blow it out here!’ To be honest, in other films I really haven’t done as many stings before. Plus, there’s a line where the sound designer will come in and part of that too. I was really just like, ‘Ok. I’m just going to have to try to do something new here to really capture this.’ And of course, I still wanted to layer my vocals in. Typically, I wish I would have had a live brass section because a lot of times brass can be a really cool way to go with stings. But for this I had to think outside the box. Which, I think is a great thing about not working with a huge budget. You really have to think outside the box to do something. It helps you grow.

NOFS: Along with horror, you’ve scored a lot of documentaries. When working in such defined arenas like these, do you feel at all limited by traditional genre rules or tropes?

CP: You know, it really depends. For example, when I do documentaries there just really isn’t that much freedom within the film. There’s so much dialogue and so much going on. Whereas with this film, there was a lot of space to really play. That was something that was really cool because there was this space that I could come in thematically, or there could be no music. It really helped me dynamically shape something. I think that’s what gave me my creative freedom. Just the space where not everything is told through the dialogue. It makes it two very different worlds.

 

Getting a group of musicians together, even just a small chamber group or orchestra is impossible right now […] But with all these limitations, we could end up hearing some really creative things.”

 

NOFS: On top of composing, you’re a songwriter, director and a performer. How do you think being fluent in these other disciplines benefit your approach to film scoring? Or is it vice versa?

CP: As far as filmmaking goes, I don’t really consider myself too much of a filmmaker to be honest. I’ve worked on a short and I’m working on a feature film right now that was based on that short. But it is interesting. When I do the filmmaking stuff, I start with the music. And talking with directors, even with Keola, he has music he’s listening to when he’s working early on in the film. I’ve worked with other filmmakers who as they’re writing the script they’ve got a playlist going on. I think just thinking musically helps me as well when working in other mediums. With songwriting, I started there. I wrote songs and then later wrote songs for television. It’s this space where you think visually and you’re thinking how your music can translate. How you can support and tell the story. Whether it’s thematically or with instrumentation like we were talking about. So, I think because music is my background, music is my first thought process.

NOFS: You also release music under the name White Widow. When it comes time to decide if a piece is a White Widow piece or a Carla piece, how do you differentiate between the two entities?

CPWhite Widow is really this space where, it’s kind of hard to describe in words. Actually, it’s kind of funny. It’s like another character. And it’s funny because in Porno I was definitely feeling some White Widow vibes. But when I write something I can usually tell if it’s going to be the type of album that is White Widow. I don’t know if it’s just the sound or the way I write the melodies. It just ends up feeling like, this is the sound that I’ve been growing since White Widow’s first album in 2005. And the Carla Patulla stuff has been more of my orchestral work and where I’ve been going with film scores. It’s forever evolving.

 

[Exclusive Interview] PORNO Composer Carla Patullo on Creating The Film's Unique and Seductive Sound

 

NOFS: As a composer, how do you think the COVID-19 situation is going to affect your craft? Do you see it affecting what we hear in films in the coming future?

CP: I think so. Getting a group of musicians together, even just a small chamber group or orchestra is impossible right now. What I’ve been doing is have one player play the violin and then send it off to a cello player. It’s great that technology has evolved so much that you can send stuff to musicians anywhere in the world and get it back. But that also creates a lot more work. A lot more time is needed to put the score together. All of a sudden you’re editing all these parts together. I think that people will be composing with much smaller groups and simpler instrumentation for now. But with all these limitations, we could end up hearing some really creative things. Thinking outside the box will result in some really cool stuff.

NOFS: I know you’ve got some really rad projects that you’re working on. What’s coming up next for you?

CP: I mentioned the film I’m making called Shadowmaker. It’s a feature-length animated hybrid documentary about animation pioneer Lotte Reiniger. I’m really knee-deep in production for that. I’m actually also working on a horror album, a meditation album. It’s narrated by actor Richard Brake and it’s basically a meditation album. A form of meditation used by actors in horror to really get them into the space of being a horror actor. I’ve really been having fun with that and experimenting with more sounds. I love the horror genre and it’s really been fun to compose in it. When I watch horror films I’m really scared. I’m one of those people that pace around the room, but I also think that’s why I love composing in it.

 

I’m actually also working on a horror album, a meditation album. It’s narrated by actor Richard Brake…”

 

Make sure to keep your eyes and ears peeled for the official soundtrack release of Carla’s incredible Porno score. Release date is yet to be determined, but absolutely forthcoming. You can also find more information about Carla and her upcoming projects on her website here.

What did you think about Porno? Did you succumb to the siren call of the succubus? Share your thoughts with us over on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!

 

[Exclusive Interview] PORNO Composer Carla Patullo on Creating The Film's Unique and Seductive Sound