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Snyder's Brian Gatewood hits it big in Hollywood ... twice

When he was a teenager in Western New York, Brian Gatewood racked up late fees at video stores because he couldn't part with the films and TV shows on time.

His love of films and TV has paid off with a writing career in Hollywood that has led to two television series being on the air simultaneously starting Sunday night.

The 1996 Nichols School graduate is co-creator with his writing partner, Alessandro Tanaka, of the Amazon series "Comrade Detective." He and Tanaka also are writers on "Dice," the Showtime series featuring Andrew Dice Clay that starts its second season Sunday night.

Gatewood's love of film and TV started when he lived in Snyder.

"My mom definitely offered me a pretty expansive cinema history at a young age," Gatewood said in a telephone interview. "She was really into independent film and the classics and had no problem showing them to me when I was 9 years old."

Writers Alessandro Tanaka and Brian Gatewood, right, attend "The Sitter" premiere in 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

He grew up at a time many Buffalo writers were making it big in TV.

"I was naturally drawn to it," said Gatewood. "And there are some unbelievable talents who have gone into especially television from Buffalo. It is sort of like if you're in Western Pennsylvania in high school and you want to be a quarterback. Huge shoes to fill. "

After graduating from Amherst College, Gatewood went to film school at Columbia University, where he and Tanaka met and bonded over their writing styles.

"We liked each other's work so we were always talking after class about writing and what we were watching," said Gatewood. "We had an uncanny similarity in what we gravitate to in film and television and similar world view as well. It is so much more fun to write with another person."

They punched up scripts for a while before co-creating a 2009 TV pilot for Fox set in Buffalo, "Warlosky," written in the tone of the movie "Bad Santa." It was about an ex-cop turned mall security guard in Buffalo whose life was centered around the Sabres and Bills and doing the least amount of work possible.

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The project was derailed because of the success of the film "Paul Blart, Mall Cop," written by another Buffalo writer, Nick Bakay, and because another mall cop film, "Observe and Report," starring Seth Rogen, was about to premiere.

"It was a bummer," said Gatewood.

Two years later, "The Sitter," a film that Gatewood and Tanaka wrote that starred Jonah Hill as a suspended college student babysitting the children next door, became the first thing they wrote that was made.

In this image released by 20th Century Fox, from left, Kevin Hernandez, Max Records, Jonah Hill and Landry Bender are shown in a scene from "The Sitter," a movie co-created by Gatewood.

The father of two wasn't inspired by any babysitters in his life.

"But I think that everybody has some kind of crazy babysitter story," said Gatewood. "When we wrote it, my wife may have been pregnant. So maybe I was having some premonitions and foresight to my future."

The future led to a short-lived 2012 NBC series "Animal Practice" about a veterinarian who didn't have much love for pet owners.

"It was a great experience, wish it lasted longer," said Gatewood. "Network TV is tough."

With two shows on the air, the present couldn't be any better for Gatewood and Tanaka.

"Comrade Detective" is presented as a 1980s police series created by the Romanian government to promote Communist ideals during the Cold War that has been dubbed today by the voices of American actors, including Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nick Offerman, Bobby Cannavale and Kim Basinger. It actually was filmed in Romania last year with Romanian actors.

Gatewood has been surprised about how many people haven't gotten the joke and actually think it is a 1980s Romanian series dubbed by the American actors.

"I thought in the age of the internet we wouldn't be able to get that past anyone," said Gatewood. "I thought it would be difficult to keep that front up … But we've been surprisingly successful in terms of people not realizing that it was filmed last year."

The 1966 Woody Allen film "What's Up, Tiger Lilly?" based on a real Japanese film was part of the inspiration. Gatewood said he and Tanaka also found a 1980s PBS documentary about a study of Soviet television by the University of Minnesota.

"There are shows that were made as entertainment to prop up Communist ideals," said Gatewood. "We thought it would be interesting to look at propaganda through the other lens."

He said Tatum "really loved the idea" and Gordon-Levitt and the other cast members were added after the filming in Romania with Romanian actors who helped sell the idea it was a 1980s series.

Gatewood and Tanaka got involved with "Dice" through creator Scot Armstrong, who has been a champion of theirs.

They wrote three episodes and parts of a fourth in season one of the semi-autobiographical series starring Andrew Dice Clay and are credited with writing three in the second season.

Comedian Andrew Dice Clay poses for a portrait at a blackjack table at Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas. Brian Gatewood is a co-creator of the Showtime show, which will start its second season. (Brad Swonetz/Washington Post)

"This season follows more of a longer arc," explained Gatewood. "We examine Dice as he has been freed from this contract of his from the casino and we're trying to figure out where Dice fits into this modern society. It is him figuring himself out both career wise and as a man."

Gatewood's parents helped him figure out who he was early. His father, Robert, is a cardiologist, his mother Cathy is deputy director of advancement for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

"I was fortunate to have them pushing me academically and just to experience the world as much as possible," said Gatewood.

He expects people who knew him growing up wouldn't need to have done much detective work to predict his career choice.

"If they knew me well enough they wouldn't be surprised," said Gatewood. "They'd probably be aware of the amount of late fee charges I used to rack up at Blockbuster, which my parents would give me hell about all the time. They may have been clued in by that."

email: apergament@buffnews.com

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