– Brian Watanabe (Script Pipeline “Recommend” writer), writer of Operation: Endgame, formerly Rogues Gallery.
CC: What was the motivation behind Rogues Gallery?
BW: Back in 2001, during the dot-com bust, the ad agency I was working at in San Francisco started some massive lay-offs. It was pretty brutal. Cubes emptied, factions developed, paranoia spread—it didn’t feel like we were getting fired, it felt like we were getting whacked. When I was finally let go it was almost a relief.
I started to think: What if an office full of spies got downsized? What if instead of firing you they killed you? What if these trained assassins started killing each other to save their jobs? The idea had a lot of cinematic elements I loved: action, comedy, satire, a Ten Little Indians, who-will-survive structure. That was the start of the Rogues Gallery.
CC: How did the project get off the ground, and how long did it take from concept to sale?
BW: I started writing Rogues at the end of 2003, finishing in spring of 2004. I entered the script into a bunch of contests. It was a finalist in Scriptapalooza, won 2nd place in Screenplay Shootout and tied for best comedy at Screenwriting Expo 3. As a result of the Expo win, I landed a literary manager, Andrew Kersey.
I also won a script analysis package from the Script Pimp competition, and after a few rounds of revisions, Chadwick Clough called to tell me he wanted to produce Rogues with Sean McKittrick from Darko Entertainment. Rogues was officially optioned in early 2007, and production started in July of 2008.
CC: What was the #1 motivating factor in becoming a screenwriter?
BW: When I was a kid, going to the movies was like Christmas. I’m in that generation of film geeks whose first big movie experience was Star Wars. Instead of pursuing film I went to school to become an advertising copywriter, which allowed me to tell stories in radio spots, TV commercials and web videos. But like most ad guys, I knew I had a few scripts in me. I always wanted to pull a Lawrence Kasdan or John Hughes and move from advertising to film.
CC: What’s your current attitude toward the entertainment industry?
BW: I think the entertainment industry is changing. The emergence of online entertainment and the ease of shooting digitally are giving more young writers and filmmakers the opportunity to tell their stories and hone their skills. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a whole generation of filmmakers emerge from the new media sea change of the last five years, with new visions and unique points of view. It should be exciting.
CC: Overall experience with selling your first script? Was it what you had anticipated?
BW: Selling my first script has been a roller coaster ride. There have been surprises, celebrations and compromises but overall it’s been an amazing experience. The cast the team put together for Rogues was incredible. Getting to hang out on set and talk to Maggie Q, Rob Corddry, Bob Odenkirk, Adam Scott, Joe Anderson, and Odette Yustman was unforgettable. The crew and producers were all great to me, and Chadwick Clough, who was there with me from the beginning, was especially supportive throughout the entire process. I consider myself very lucky.
CC: How has Rogues helped you navigate Hollywood for another sale?
BW: The success of Rogues has helped me land some meetings around town. As a result, I’m currently developing a script with a major studio-based company. It’s been a fun ride so far but hopefully—if I just work hard enough—this is just the beginning.
CC: What are you working on now? Are you staying in the genre?
BW: I’m currently working on another action-comedy. Similar to ROGUES, this script also tries to subvert genre and deals with the theme of identity. I think it’s a lot of fun, and I’m excited about finishing it up.