Simone Policano is a jack of trades in the entertainment industry. She is not only an actress that appeared on Auggie and CBS’ Blue Bloods, she is also a producer and filmmaker with many titles titles credited to her name such as Final Callback, To My Son, and Go Tell Your Fathers. One of her most recent films that she produced and co-starred in is “This is Our Home” which premiered at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival which I got a chance to see during the week. She has a passion on doing these things and it shows whether if she is on screen, or producing. I got the opportunity to speak to her as we talked about her time in Yale University, the development of the film, New York stories, and more below in this exclusive interview!
What are some of your favorite memories when you were a student at Yale University?
SP: “I would say my favorite memory was the night that I joined the sketch comedy group that I was in from my time there because, I found this incredibly special community of performers and writers and artists in general. I found that really fun community within that group. And the night we had a sort of fun induction ceremony you can say when you’re a freshman and you join the group that was just really one of my first during my freshman year and I just had this really strong artist community right off the bat which I’m very grateful for.”
What drew you into acting and when did you decide that you wanted to continue acting after you graduated from Yale?
SP: “I was born and raised in New York. So I’ve been here my whole life. And I think when you grow up in the city, you’re lucky to be around art a lot if you have access to it. I was taking acting classes from elementary school and I used to do musical theater classes and learned very quickly that I could couldn’t think of doing that. And I started taking more like street theater acting classes like kids classes and then I went to high school called Hunter College High School which Lin-Manuel Miranda went there. He’s one of our clients. But it’s a really nerdy high school with a really great theater program. And I love that I get a ton of theater there and then I knew I wanted to go to a nerdy college with a really great theater program. So I went to Yale and I did a lot of theater there. I wasn’t a theater major, but you can do a ton. I took a lot of theater classes. And you can also do a lot of extra curricular theater. I’ve known since I was young and I’m very lucky that I had parents and a family that supported my desire to want to do that and didn’t try to talk me out of it. I just kept doing it and I kept being like ‘okay, if this doesn’t work out I’m going to I’ll figure it out’. I guess that could happen down the line. But I’ve been very lucky and I’ve had a great time doing what I’ve done so far so I have no desire to change it right now.”
Being that you are from New York City, are there any parts within the five boroughs that you have never traveled to?
SP: “Well I actually just a couple weeks ago moved to Queens! Other than that, I just really had never spent a lot of time there. I mean, my dad is from Brooklyn. My mom was born and raised in Jersey, but then moved to the city shortly after. So I spent a lot of time in Brooklyn. I wasn’t raised on the Upper West Side so I spent a lot of time there. So it’s been great to explore this new neighborhood. I would say I’ve actually spent the least time maybe probably Staten Island or the Bronx. There’s a great place called Wave Hill up in the Bronx which is a beautiful kind of like nature preserve that my family and I would go to sometimes but I haven’t spent a lot of time in the Bronx.”
You produced and co-starred in This is Our Home and I seen the film at the Brooklyn Film Festival! Tell me how did it get started and also, were you involved with the casting process?
SP: “Jeff and Omri who’s the director knew each other from film school. It was college or right before college. But they’ve been friends for a while and only had just come off doing this movie that was a comedy movie that’s on Hulu now called How to Get Girls with a bunch of people from the office and it’s a very different vibe. It’s very studio and comedy and so he was talking to Jeff a couple of years ago and he was like ‘I really want to do something different. I want to do something darker and more artsy.’ And he and his writing partner Rob basically wrote the script for Jeff and I was just such a gift to get to be that involved in the creative process and to get something from its very inception. We were very lucky in that house that the film is shot in which is basically its own territory and the film is my mother’s house in Woodstock, New York. So we just basically were there for two weeks and a lot of the crew lived there rather than be there. But it’s like we’re living in the house or shooting in the house so that makes it a lot. That cuts costs a lot and if you’re using a location that you actually own and don’t have to pay for it, that’s sort of how that came to be. As far as the casting goes, basically the other main role in the film is the kid the child actor who’s played the character who’s played by a wonderful human named Drew Beckas. And that was a really important part of the film. The casting. Child actors and working with child actors is a really interesting thing because I think people watched the first season of Stranger Things and they’re like ‘Oh my God all these kids are amazing. Must be so easy to find amazing kids.’ And it’s not. It’s hard and it’s really hit or miss with kids especially depending on how old you’re talking. And so we auditioned a bunch of which put out a casting call. I auditioned a bunch of actors around through the age or a little bit younger. Drew was just a very special kid and he just walked in the room with his energy of like I’m game to play and I’m down to do whatever and he has this childlike innocence about him that we felt was gonna be great for the film because it’s important that the kid not trying to play at the idea of the creepy kid but the more just authentically like a kid that character feels within the context of the film. So he just we just sort of fell in love with him and he was great and we got really lucky with him.”
Were there any scenes that were not included in the final cut?
SP: “No there were not. And I think that this was a big lesson with just indie filmmaking in general like you’re working on such a tight budget that every day of shooting costs money and you’re paying people per day obviously, and it’s just you have to pay the whole crew. We did not have a lot of wiggle room and it’s a lean movie. I mean, it’s a short feature because of that. I think there’s totally spaces where it would have been great if we had more time and money to flush some things out. What it meant to be really intentional about what you shoot, and preplanning so that you know you can get exactly what you need because there isn’t a lot of time to film.”
What have you learned the most while you were producing the film?
SP: “Filmmaking is such a feat. Like it is an amazing thing when anything actually gets like it is. It’s so much more extensive than I think. Our film was made on a tiny budge,t but it’s still the money that you do need to come from somewhere. And we were so lucky that basically our major source of funding we were initially going to shoot the film in Philly. And so we got an article in a newspaper in Philly talking about the film and we were contacted by Joey Fatone who was sort of our savior basically being like ‘hey I started a company I had not I guess I sold the company and now I just kind of wanted to be involved in the arts and funding the arts’. And he was like ‘I will give you money’. I don’t know how to make a movie and I don’t want any sort of creative control or creative say like make a movie and then throw my name as an honest and executive producer which is the dream. I mean that is such a dream. And he literally fell out of the sky and we are so grateful for him. But I would say one of the biggest things I learned is that it’s just it’s really hard and it’s going to cost more money than you think it is. Like every time we thought that we had spent all the money that we were going to spend on this film it’s like music licensing or you need to go back and recall or something and it just all takes money and it’s given me a really much stronger sense of appreciation anytime I watch anything because I think it’s very easy as a patron to go to film and walk out and have a lot of critiques that have a lot of things to say about it and that’s great. We should engage with art in that way but I also think that it’s just hard. It’s easy to forget that the fact that anything gets made to look like The Avengers movie it’s great. If you’re an indie film that is not attached to a studio and has a really small budget whether you like the film or not, It’s an incredible feat and it’s given me a lot more of an appreciation for it.”
The first time I remembered seeing you on television was a commercial for the local casino in Yonkers, NY. How fun was it to be on that commercial and have you ever used an actual slot machine before outside of that commercial?
SP: “Oh my God, that was amazing. It was such a such a fun time we went on to Empire City Casino in the middle of the day. But we got to set down different parts of it and just got to walk around and smile and pull a bunch of slot machine levers and just have a good time. We got this huge wheelbarrow of fake money which was awesome. And what’s cool about it was because we shot that a year and a half ago maybe. I’m not sure if I’m right on that but it was playing on a major sports networks such as ESPN and like Monday Night Football and it made headlines. I was getting texts from friends like ‘I just saw you in like a major commercial timeslot’ and then we just actually recapped it like a month ago. So it’s on now again and it’s just a crazy thing. Since then, I recieved videos of friends in bars filming the TV screens when it comes up. But during my senior year of college, We all went to Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. And again, it was a Tuesday or something and we all dressed up super fancy and swanky just for fun. And I was like ‘I’m not going to to gamble’. And then I played one slot machine game and I won like two hundred and fifty bucks and I was like ‘Oh I got much more than what me and my friend won’.”
Do you have any future projects coming on the horizon?
SP: “I’m actually working on a reading of a new play which I’m really excited about because my foundation is in theater. And part of the reason I’m in New York and L.A. is because I want to continue doing theater. So that’s like the next thing I immediately have coming up to the play workshop next week. But I don’t really I feel very lucky. It’s been a really fruitful or happy time for me and the much of a bunch of this came out this other feature that I worked on with Richard time called Auggie just came out. So I feel very lucky like a lot of things I’ve just come out. And so right now, you know the life with an actor is okay and now I’m conditioning I’m gonna see what happens. So in terms of film and TV stuff I’m not sure right now but something will come around because that’s kind of how it works. And I’m happy to have a moment doing a theater thing while I wait to see what the next on camera thing is going to be.”