Amazon Studios Creator Q and A: Brad Combest

Brad Combest’s first few jobs in Hollywood – as a researcher on Modern Marvels, as a literary agent’s assistant at the Gersh Agency, as an executive assistant at Dreamworks – taught him plenty, but it was his work as a story editor on Robot Chicken that changed his life. It was there that he got a taste for animation and realized it was what he wanted to be doing. 

As a production coordinator on the Disney animated feature Wreck-It Ralph, Brad got to be around the director, writers, head of story and voice talent during the entire production process.  It was after this that Brad followed his true passion and wrote Sassy Gay Samurai, the latest series to be optioned by Amazon Studios.

We spoke with Brad about the series, how reading Pearl S. Buck put him on the path to a writing career and how standing in a never-ending series of lines at the San Diego Comic-Con International resulted in an optioned series.

What inspired you to want to write as a career?

In high school I read the The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck.  We had the option to do a book report or write another chapter, so I wrote a satirical chapter.  Stylistically it worked in the context of the book but it was just so silly.  I had a great time writing with a bunch of my friends at an Applebee’s trying to come up with ideas while drinking way too much soda. 

Then I managed a movie theater during college and got paid to watch all the movies that came out the night before to make sure they were OK.  I watched so many terrible films that it was a huge motivator as it made me feel as if I had something of a chance to write something that might sell.  When college was done I threw everything into my car and moved to Los Angeles not knowing anybody, started looking for work and started writing.

You have had quite a variety of entertainment jobs; do you feel that helped you?

I really felt I got an education on all these jobs which helped me with my writing that was invaluable.  I got a good foundation of how things worked from a buyer’s perspective and learned a lot about development and the story process from not just the studio side but also the writer’s side.

Is this your first script and option?

I have written several terrible ones that no one will ever see [laughs].  This is the first real option where I feel there is a solid chance that I will be able to do this full time which to me is huge. 

What is Sassy Gay Samurai about?

It is an animated comedy about Sassy Gay Samurai, his unicorn roommate Gary and their across-the-hallway neighbor.  Together they battle super villains in New York City.  In the pilot the super-villain is Rasputin and his sidekick is Nostradamus, a stoner.  Nostradamus tells Rasputin that he is one day going to fall in love with Sassy Gay Samurai.  So we have Rasputin going back in time to try and eliminate things historically that he thinks will lead to gay culture being acceptable and tolerated so that he will never fall in love with Sassy Gay Samurai. 

For future episodes I envision this as a comic book version of New York City where you have all these superheroes and super villains but with a Seinfeld-like quality as we’ll also be focusing on the mundane parts of their life as well. … but it’s more ridiculous since it’s a unicorn and a Sassy Gay Samurai.

Where did the idea come from?

I had been standing in line for panels at the [San Diego] Comic-Con and was super exhausted by the end of the day.  I was standing at the back of an enormous line for another one for about 2 hours and this guy walks by looking super serious, trying to look intimidating wearing this really elaborate anime costume with a 6-foot samurai sword strapped to his back.  I joked with my friends how he must be compensating for something and for some reason, probably due to being delirious and tired, we thought that was the funniest thing ever said.  So to pass the time we just kept imagining more and more about that guy and wondered what his life would be like.  I never made it into the panel, but waited in line so long that the world that this character inhabited had nearly been fleshed out.  When I got back from San Diego I wrote it all down and a few months later had the pilot. 

One of the reasons I wanted to do this show is that my Dad is a big fan of the pilot that I wrote and has been begging me to write a second episode even though no one had purchased it and I was going to write him a second episode as a birthday present.  So now I get to write the second episode and this will possibly go on to be a series.  He seemed to not care if it sold or not, he just enjoyed it and wanted me to write more.

I am very excited to have my project be a part of Amazon Studios’ first foray into this type of original programming.  It seems like the perfect home for it and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity.

- Sean Wicks