A longtime friend of J SHOES, Ben August gives us a peek into his life as a writer, world traveler, and family man.
An East Coast native with an intense wanderlust, August has lived and worked in various locals, building his career and family. During his time in Los Angeles, he worked as a casting director on Fear Factor and as a story producer on Don't Forget the Lyrics. After several years of sunny west coast living, he packed up and moved to the Far East to teach English as a Second Language. In his time in Vietnam, he met his sweetheart who would eventually become his wife and wrote Remember, his first feature film. Remember won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2016.
What inspired you to become a writer?
Lifestyle. As a kid, I put writers on a pedestal. I knew that they made their own hours, didn’t have a boss, and could live anywhere in the world they wanted to. I didn’t step foot onto a plane until I was seventeen so the thought of growing up, traveling the world and being able to write was truly a dream for me.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career, to date?
It was the premiere of REMEMBER at the Toronto International Film Festival. Before the screening, I had asked the people in charge if I could get my family into the green room so they could meet everyone. But they went one step farther and actually had my family walk the red carpet with me. It was amazing to see my then 96-year-old grandmother waving at the crowd and paparazzi. And of course the screening my first film was amazing. The movie was introduced by the mayor of Toronto and there were about two thousand people in attendance who gave us a standing ovation at the end. But that paled in comparison to seeing the pride in the faces of my parents and grandmother after the screening.
Your debut feature film “Remember” came out last year to much critical acclaim. Can you tell us about what it was like to see your ideas realized by such seasoned industry professionals like, director Atom Egoyan and actors Martin Landau and Christopher Plummer?
It was a struggle to get this movie made because Hollywood doesn’t exactly make a lot of thrillers starring actors in their eighties or nineties. Thankfully though, the script ended up in the hands of Robert Lantos, a legendary Canadian producer. Once Robert had it, all the pieces came together. As a writer, you dream to have legends say the words you’ve written. And there’s no bigger actors than Mr. Plummer and Mr. Landau, both who have won Oscars. And I must say, Atom Egoyan was amazing. He’s written almost every movie he’s directed so he was completely respectful of the script. And more than that, he’s just a phenomenal person who I felt honored to watch work every day on set.
Where does your inspiration come from?
This is a tough question. I’ve literally had a thousand ideas, nine hundred and ninety five of which were probably terrible. And then out of the five that are decent, maybe four have already been done in some way. Malcom Gladwell says you need to do something for 10,000 hours before you can be great at it. He calls it the magic number. And I fully believe in this. Lots of people can have good ideas, but it takes a lot of time until you can translate that onto the page. I look back at my old scripts and cringe at the writing. I’m not sure I have any better ideas now than I had then but I know I can write better.
Your new film making its rounds on the festival circuit. Tell us a bit about “Class Rank” and how the idea for the story came about.
I actually wrote this script nine years ago. It sat on my computer for a long time before I shared it with anyone and then it took another few years to find financing. It’s a very quirky comedy about a high school kid who runs for the board of education. My father has served on the board of education in my hometown, on and off, for over a decade. As a kid, I always looked up to him and all the work he put into my school district. The film is directed by Eric Stoltz and stars Bruce Dern, Kristin Chenoweth, Olivia Holt, Skyler Gisondo and Kathleen Chalfant.
If you weren't a writer professionally, what would your Plan B career be?
In a dream world, to play for Boston Bruins. But realistically, I might be teaching English abroad which is something I used to do in Vietnam and Japan.
You have an adorable daughter and work from home. How do you maintain a work / life balance?
This is the best part of my job. Since I’m on my own schedule, I get to spend a ton of time with my daughter. Every morning we ride a bicycle to her school and then in the afternoon I pick her up and we go to the playground. My wife is Vietnamese so every summer we go back with our daughter for a couple of months so she can see her family and practice speaking the language. Not too many other jobs, allow that flexibility.
What other interests / hobbies do you have?
I love to read. I love to bike ride. I love to…this sounds like I’m filling in a profile for a dating website. The fact is though, between work and family there just isn’t a lot of time for hobbies. That said, my biggest interest -- just as it was as a kid -- is to travel. Nothing makes me happier than trying new food and seeing new places.
How would you describe your personal style?
Laid back. Generally I wear jeans, a t-shirt and sandals. Frankly, I usually don’t even get dressed until lunchtime since I work from home.
How do you elevate your look for events and premiers?
Definitely with shoes. And the truth is, I only wear J SHOES when I get dressed up. I’ve got basically two pairs of jeans, three button-down shirts and a dozen pairs of J SHOES.
Most treasured / favourite item in your wardrobe?
I have a very old Banana Republic shirt that was a hand-me-down. It’s got holes in it and is a little too big but I’ve always loved wearing it. In fact, my wife and I took a five-week motorbike trip through Vietnam and I basically wore it every single day since I could keep my wallet in the chest pockets.
What’s the best style advice you’ve received?
Get a new pair of jeans. I literally had one pair of jeans for about a decade that I refused to get rid of. I took them to the tailor probably twenty times to have tears fixed. Finally it took a friend to basically say to me that they were starting to look like clown pants with all the patches I had sewn on.
You are an avid J SHOES collector for a few years now. What keeps you coming back?
I find J SHOES to be very original and classy without being showy. Every pair I own looks good with jeans, which is basically all I ever wear.
QUICK TEN WITH J:
Eating street food in Hanoi.
DRINK OF CHOICE
A stout in front of a fire.
When I was leaving Koriyama, Fukushima – the Japanese city I taught in -- I went to some random second-hand shop with my friend Masumi and traded my bicycle for a framed handprint of a famous Sumo wrestler. It’s on my office wall.
The Big Lebowski.
MOST USED EMOJI
I’ve never used an emoji and hope to keep it that way.
WHAT DO YOU COLLECT
Memories. Cheesy but I’ve moved so many times the past ten years that I try to keep my life clutter free.
FAVORITE PLACE AWAY FROM HOME
BEST MEAL YOU HAVE EVER HAD
A feast in a restaurant in some random Italian city I stumbled into with a friend.
LAST ALBUM YOU DOWNLOADED
Cage The Elephant’s Melophobia.
MOST PRIZED POSSESSION
SHOP BEN'S LOOK HERE IN US
SHOP BEN'S LOOK HERE IN UK