James Killough

CEO & Founder

James Killough Pure Film Creative Quibblers & Scribblers


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 with acute ADHD, which caused him to fail throughout school but went undiagnosed until Christmas 2023, he knew that he had enough traditional schooling to handle the rest of his education himself. It’s an ongoing “changeling process,” as he puts it, 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. He quit after his dad dragged the company deep into the Iran-Contra scandal — Oliver North’s PAC was the agency’s biggest client.

He 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, placing him at the epicenter of the watershed 80s Downtown arts scene.

James was introduced to the Indian film industry via the legendary Mary McFadden, whom Givenchy once called, “the only true American designer,” who attached him to a historical palace epic set in Kashmir for which she was designing the costumes, Muzaffar Ali’s uncompleted Zooni, starring Dimple Kapadia (Tenet). Production ground to a halt when Taliban-incited unrest in Kashmir shut it down — James was evacuated with other foreigners.

By then passionately enamored with the complexities of India, which he calls “The most different country in the world,” James was for a long time the only American screenwriter in Bollywood, working as a writer and producer with directors Sawaan Kumar Tak, 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 emceed 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 jokes as in acknowledgment of what a rare privilege it was. 

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 (The Theory of Everything), Howard Rosenman (Call Me By Your Name), and Christine Vachon (Carol).  James’ award-winning directorial mid-length feature, Losing Her — his first collaboration with Rain Li — was the centerpiece for the ‘Late at Tate Britain’ in November 2008 as 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 (The Garden of Eden).

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 recommendation from analysts. In 2020 he completed a three-picture script 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, James published a controversial two-part exposé explaining how the acclaimed novel Call Me By Your Name and its Oscar-winning film adaptation were likely based on his teen romance in Rome in the late 70s with Gore Vidal’s godson, also named Oliver, like Armie Hammer’s character, a well-known story so tragic that it haunted the American expat community in Italy for decades 

In February 2023, James launched the  Quibblers & Scribblers Substack, initially to build readership for his forthcoming memoir, What’s American Boy. The above-mentioned changeling process kicked off by his diagnosis as being neurodivergent has seen Q&S broadened its scope to delve into the nature of creative intelligence and the role of divergent thinking in advancing arts, culture, and technology.

Q&S’s tagline sums up his expanded mission and interests: “Spelunking the creative mind. Weaving memories into memoirs. Rewriting social fictions that drive the world.”

In December 2023, James launched Q&S Shop, a concept store as a brand extension — “Wearable ideas for creative minds” — selling on-demand printed products as visual representations of his broad range of interests and experiences, including mental and physical fitness.

The third and final pillar supporting Quibblers & Scribblers as a multi-media content-distribution platform will be a video podcast, Q&S: Arts + Humanhood, dropping mid-2024.

Fluent in five languages, James divides his time very unevenly between L.A., New York, Beijing and Delhi.

Portfolio of Visual Work

Photography | Videos | Illustrations | Designs | Branding
James Killlough's "Losing Her" (2007)

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