A native New Yorker raised in Rome, Italy, James Killough began his career in Paris assisting renowned photographer Pamela Hanson, after resigning from Wesleyan at the end of his freshman year; as an autodidact, he knew that he had enough schooling to handle the rest of his education himself. It’s an ongoing process that fuels him with wonder and passion every day.
Following a year working as a stills photographer and digging up his maternal roots in Melbourne, Australia, James worked at his father’s boutique ad agency in New York City as assistant to legendary creative director Charlie Blakemore, but left that when his dad got caught in the Iran-Contra scandal — Oliver North’s PAC was the agency’s biggest client. He then dove headlong into a stint as the features editor of Taxi Magazine, the hippest rag on the racks in the late 80s, with a monthly circulation of over 400,000 readers, which placed him at the epicenter of the watershed 80s Downtown scene, New York’s second Gilded Age.
James finally launched his film career in India, as the only American screenwriter in Bollywood, working as a writer and producer with directors such as Muzaffar Ali, Pamela Rooks, and Shekhar Kapur. His screenplay for Rooks’ Miss Beatty’s Children helped it win the Film Festival of India in 1993. That same year he was honored to MC of the first televised Miss India Pageant, viewed by hundreds of millions around the world. “It’s something every young American should do at one point in his life,” he says of the singular experience.
In Hollywood, Killough has written and developed film projects and dozens of commercials for legendary filmmakers Tarsem Singh, Marcus Nispel and the late Tony Scott, among others, as well as for Oscar-nominated producers Lisa Bruce (Darkest Hour) and Howard Rosenman (Call Me By Your Name), and Christine Vachon (Carol). James’ award-winning directorial debut, Losing Her — his first collaboration with Rain Li — was the centerpiece for the ‘Late at Tate Britain’ in November 2008 with a special installation in the main hall of the museum.
During his decade in London after the turn of this century, Killough raised close to $2 million in development funds for his company, Pure Film Limited, in partnership with the late Hon. Angad Paul (Snatch, Lock, Stock…) and Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza. Upon his return to Los Angeles in 2011, Killough launched Pure Film Creative to broaden the company’s purview from film and TV to include all forms of content creation across every possible platform. The company has created content for major brands and corporations, among them Citibank, Aramark, Iron Mountain, TransAmerica, Prudential Insurance, and numerous legacy luxury brands.
Killough’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story Winter Dreams made United Talent Agency’s Best Reads of the Year with a rare strong recommend from analysts. In 2020 he completed a three-picture feature-film deal with his creative partner Rain Li for major Chinese studios. Their short film Us was viewed over 70 million times in twenty-four hours when it streamed in May 2016, which led the team to a feature-film commission based on its complex mother-daughter dynamic.
James has been published in The New York Times, Travel and Leisure, and Health and Fitness. A regular guest lecturer at NYU Film School, his work has been used as teaching tools by his mentor, Jack Lechner (Blue Valentine), currently chair of the Film Department at Columbia University.
In June 2022, he published a controversial two-part exposé explaining how his teen romance in Rome in the late 70s with Gore Vidal’s godson, also named Oliver, like Armie Hammer’s character, was in all likelihood the inspiration for André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name
As a way of breaking down and explaining to his well-meaning liberal friends the needlessly complicated narratives that have given rise to decidedly not-well-meaning Wokeism, while also building a readership for the first book of his forthcoming memoir, What’s American Boy, James launched a Substack newsletter in February 2023, Quibblers & Scribblers. It consistently maintains three times the average Substack reader engagement.
Fluent in five languages, James divides his time between L.A., New York, Beijing and Delhi.