Bruce Branit of Prairie Village took a red-eye home from Los Angeles last week, only to find his car battery dead in long-term parking. Then it started raining. He didn’t get home until 2 in the morning.
The next day, at Homer’s Coffee House in downtown Overland Park, he says the ordeal really wasn’t all that bad. He had just been to the Creative Arts Emmys, after all. For his sixth visual effects nomination. “I got all dressed up and didn’t win,” he says, faux-whining.
Do you remember that scene in “Breaking Bad” when Gus Fring loses his face? Or how about that time Jack Black and Naomi Watts were running from King Kong down a steep hill on that island? Or wait, have you seen “11/22/63,” Stephen King’s Hulu miniseries with James Franco?
Branit created all those memorable visual effects. He formed his company, BranitFX, 10 years ago when he left Los Angeles to move his young family 4 miles from his childhood home in Fairway. For years he has crafted visual effects for high-profile shows and has been nominated for Emmys six times.
Though he has no complaints about his work with technology, his real love is telling stories through film. He started a production company as a creative outlet and named it Lucamax Pictures after his two children.
“I’m a visual effects artist by trade, but when I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night I’m a filmmaker. I spend as much time as I possibly can trying to catch ideas, concepts, that come through my head and say, ‘Well, now that would make a great story, let’s think about that on my drive home.’ ”
Many of his short films — between about 15 seconds and 9 minutes in length — have gone viral.
A three-minute film he released years ago, “405,” has had a billion views and garnered national attention, landing him on the “Today” show. The film shows a man driving on a segment of highway near Los Angeles when a commercial airliner has to make an emergency landing. The plane pins the car to the highway, forcing the needle of the speedometer to near breaking.
Not long ago he posted a video of a spider emerging from his ear that immediately went viral. He later found out people thought it was real. He’d categorized it under “special effects,” but even so, he received calls from news agencies as far away as Australia wanting the scoop.
He’s trying to understand how to cash in on that success. “I’ve spent my whole life figuring out how to make great, interesting things, but none figuring out the business side, the distribution side. I’ve just had incredible luck putting things out in the world saying: Look at this. And millions, if not a billion, eyeballs have gone, ‘We love it!’ But I haven’t turned the corner on raising money before the fact,” he says.
For now, he’ll continue to balance his talents. “Westworld,” a new HBO series for which he has created special effects, premieres Oct. 2.
“It’s got Anthony Hopkins. It’s got Ed Norton. It’s a Bad Robot production and is directed by Jonah Nolan, who’s Christopher Nolan’s brother. It’s the most expensive pilot ever made. It’s science fiction and western and very R-rated, apparently.”
At the same time, he’s also about to sign a deal with a company in Vancouver to finish a short film someone else started, which he’ll use to pitch a feature film he’s developing.
His advice to aspiring moviemakers? “Just make stuff. There’s a lot of software out there that’s free. You can get Blender to do 3-D, you can get Nuke Fusion. These are the programs people are really using in television production. Get yourself a website and post your work on it; if you’re good at it, it’ll show.”
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