Massimiliano Mechelli M.M. '17: Scoring Horror Films for Netflix | Berklee Valencia Campus
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Massimiliano Mechelli M.M. ’17: Scoring Horror Films for Netflix

Massimiliano Mechelli M.M. ’17

Released on October 2 on Netflix, The Binding is an Italian horror movie directed by Domenico de Feudis that tells the story of a woman who fights a mysterious and malevolent curse intent on claiming her daughter. Berklee Valencia graduate Massimiliano Mechelli M.M. ’17, the composer tasked with creating the atmosphere for the film, is quickly becoming a household name in Italian horror cinema.

“Domenico called me for an interview in June 2019 to tell me about the movie and the music references he had in mind. For the audition, I had to score two clips from two different well-known horror movies. To do so, I talked a lot with him about the sound we wanted, and I applied those ideas to the audition clips. It was the greatest chance of my life, and I couldn’t miss it,” Mechelli says. 

Building the Tension

Currently, Italian cinema has a pool of talented young directors specializing in horror films, carrying on the tradition of famed filmmakers such as Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and Mario Bava. “The soundtrack is one of the most important parts of a horror movie. I love creating the right atmosphere, building the tension, and then scaring everyone, probably because I get scared, too. That’s why I love making my unique sound design to make those atmospheres very personal,” Mechelli says.

The opportunity to work on The Binding came after Alessio Liguori, the director of In the Trap (2019), a film Mechelli scored previously, recommended him for the job. “I’ve always been told that there’s no rule to get the first movie of your career. It’s just a matter of luck and connections,” Mechelli says.

The Binding was shot in Apulia, in the south of Italy, against an inspiring backdrop of olive trees, canyons, and caves. Mechelli wanted to create evocative sounds that matched the colors and the landscapes, rather than making a folkloric soundtrack using the region’s typical instruments. “After creating these unique sounds, I had the idea to make the sound design blend with the orchestra as the movie approaches the climax, with the aim of gradually leading the audience into a nightmare,” he says. 

Collaborating with a Fellow Berklee Alumnus

For the orchestration, Mechelli worked with Paolo Annunziato M.M. ’16, another alumnus of the Scoring for Film, Television, and Video Games program, with whom he developed a friendship after graduating from the Valencia campus and moving back to his native Rome. 

“We started working together when I had to score In the Trap. Paolo joined one week before the recording, doing a brilliant job. After this movie, we kept working together because we trust each other, and we enjoy what we do even when we are under pressure,” Mechelli says. For The Binding, Annunziato also contributed to the scoring and worked as copyist during the recording and editing process. “We had lots of fun inventing extended techniques for the orchestra and the choir recording,” Mechelli adds.

Berklee Valencia taught Mechelli how to deal with pressure, an essential skill for any composer working in the film industry, he says. “Each faculty member had a huge contribution to what I am today and to what I want to be in the future,” Mechelli says. “Alfons Conde was my one-to-one teacher at the beginning, and he didn’t like my writing. He gave me many exercises to do and told me what soundtracks I should listen to. After three months, he completely changed my writing in a positive way, and I can’t be thankful enough for what he taught me.” 

Mechelli is currently in the process of scoring his third horror film, A Classic Horror Story, directed by Roberto De Feo and Paolo Strippoli, and produced by Netflix and Colorado Film. Despite belonging to the same genre, Mechelli says the film presents a different challenge from the previous two he worked on as it features an electronic soundtrack to match the “modern and cynical” mood of the film.