Meet Brandon Polanco, the P.A. Who Made a Short Film With ‘Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston

Lead Photo: Photo Courtesy of Brandon Polanco
Photo Courtesy of Brandon Polanco
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This interview originally appeared on the celtx tumblr and was reposted with permission from Celtx, the creator of software and web-based tools for the production of film, video, theatre, animation, radio and new media. During the days surrounding Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Brandon Polanco, a Production Assistant on the set of Bryan Cranston’s ‘Cold Comes the Night’, had an amazing experience. Here’s what he had to say about it.

How did your short film Writer’s Block come to be?

The inception of the film was a little magic, being in the right place at the right time, and a whole lot of work. Last year I was working on the film Cold Comes The Night as a production assistant, and during the process of the filming we had a hurricane named Sandy looming in the background. The producers decided to keep us on location, which inspired a little-known actor named Bryan Cranston, who was one of the leads on the film, to make another film. Bryan wanted to shoot a short film and give the P.A.’s a creative outlet.

I got wind of this little contest and immediately started writing. What occurred was the creation of Writer’s Block in a night; I wrote, drank, and poured my heart into a weirdly poetic script that depicted my emotions towards the writing process. I woke up the next morning to a phone call from Chaz Rose, a fellow P.A. and one of the people who would become a producer on the short film, he notified me that Bryan wanted our scripts. I put my script in Bryan’s hands; he smirked at my state and asked, “rough night?”

An hour passed and Bryan returned. He read all three scripts submitted and ended up choosing mine. He had no idea which writer wrote which script, but I was overjoyed to find myself hearing him talk about my script. I put my hand in the air when he asked who wrote the script he was speaking about, I was flipping inside with glee, but outside I kept calm and listened to his advice regarding the script. Three hours would pass by; I would work on the script and prepare myself mentally, and then, a gay chubby Mexican-American from Texas started directing a three-time Emmy award-winning actor. There was no looking back at this point, and since then I haven’t stopped.

Was there any pressure? Did you feel having an actor of Cranston’s caliber on the set force you to bring your A-game?

Honestly, it was such a whirlwind of a month from working on set 6 days a week, then directing Mr. Cranston on our two days off, and working with my Director of Photography, Shane Valcich, any second I had when I was not on CCTN’s set. I remember, after Bryan selected my script, that I went and stood outside in the woods. It was a cold fall day, the hurricane just passed and the ground was littered with oranges, greens, and yellows, the color of fall surrounded me and I quietly meditated on a rock. I thought of the opportunity I was embarking on, the voice in my head was ecstatic, but I kept calm and tried to stay focused on the present moment, which was telling the story I just wrote.

I’m lucky that I had so much work on my plate. It was exhausting and both films pushed me to my limits; however, it kept me distracted from the limitation of expectations. Bryan is a very talented actor and someone that I have a great amount of respect for. I didn’t want to mess up or give him the wrong direction; however, when we would chat about the film I realized all I had to do was trust myself and talk to him like a fellow artist. We shared our ideas and together the beauty of the film truly came alive. I believe my A-game was not trying prove myself to him, but know that we were going to make this film come alive no matter what, and just being present was all I needed.

What’s your background as a filmmaker? Any formal training?

A hands on approach is the best way for me to describe my training. I did not go to film school; instead I spent the first part of my training in the realm of theatre. The acting bug bit me pretty early on, I think round eight was when I did my first play, and I knew from then on I wanted to be an actor. I studied, ate everything that had to do with acting, and pursued a professional background in performance throughout college.

Theatre took me on some wonderful adventures and has prepared me for what I do now. When I moved to New York City, I won’t lie; I was like every 20-something who is trying to figure themselves out post college. I knew I always wanted to be in film, but I didn’t know what to do, so I lived, partied, and explored the city. What happened is I received some amazing and painful experiences from my NYC life, but it has all culminated in allowing me to become a filmmaker. My directing and writing career started in the summer of 2011 when I created my first short film, Snap Shot; which is on Vimeo. At the same time I was bored with work, I had been a box office representative at Second Stage Theatre, I left that job and started taking production assistant gigs to pay my bills.

During the last two and a half years of my life, I have been creating content as a director, writer, and producer; all the while I’ve been working steadily as an assistant director and production manager. Learning the ins and outs of the business kept me going for so long. I wanted to know and understand every position behind the camera and how to make a production.

Photo courtesy of Brandon Polanco
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What’s next for you as a filmmaker?

Releasing my work, releasing my work, and moving on to the next project. I can’t stop creating, I have so much that I want to express as an artist, and many stories that I would like to share with the world. My two big releases coming out this year and next year are very different projects but extremely personal narrative journeys. Passing By, a short film about my memories and the grind of NYC, which I filmed before Writer’s Block, will be released early next year. I’m very shy when it comes to Passing By, it’s a story that I’m scared to share because it deals with real moments from my life, such as when I got in a fight with a cab driver who bit me on the arm. I’ll leave it there…

The other big project being released this year is Pride: The Series. A genre busting show that deals with gay characters caught up in a bohemian world of drugs, violence, sex, and good versus evil. The series is seven twenty-minute episodes and is in negotiations with networks. I’m in love with this show that I wrote, directed, executive produced, and that I star in too. This show has been a major labor of love that I find extremely radical and quite beautiful. I’m pretty stoked to get it out there and create some waves in the web series world. The show was shot on my Blackmagic Cinema Camera, and is the second project being released under my company I co-own called 3 of a Kind Productions.

My current endeavor is writing my newest project. I’m going to keep the title under wraps, but I will tell you this, it is set in Texas. I’m a son of Austin, Texas, and I feel that it is time for me to return home and make my first feature film. The story is about magic, adventure, love, and the beauty of Texas all jumbled up in the chaotic life of my lead character. I’ve been very happy getting to go back to the writing room again, it’s my favorite phase of the process. This script has been brewing for the past year, I’m in the editing phase of the script, and I should be shopping it around very soon to producers, investors, and actors next month; however, it is nice to keep it a little close to my heart right now.

Any future plans for Writer’s Block?

I’m very content with the iTunes release. I wanted to give the short a proper release and a platform to a wider audience. People have flocked to the short, and the response has been great, I’m eager to see how it does in the next few months. As for continuing the story, I think the short is everything that it could be, and I don’t see myself venturing back into that world. I’ll never say no if there’s a need for me to continue the story, but I think the film says everything I wanted it to say. WB is one of those magical stories both in front and behind the camera that I do not think I can recreate; and I wouldn’t want to do that, but who knows what’s next. I guess I’ll just have to keep creating and see what time, life, and the universe bring along my path.

‘Writer’s Block’ is available on iTunes.