HE LOOKS LIKE HE'S BEEN LAUGHING. The joke itself is unclear, perhaps to him as well, but it is evident that he has been laughing. And that he needs a drink. Not to stop the shakes, as he'd like you to believe; no, just to loosen up in a room with a few people so he can talk about himself without stammering nervously. Beneath the facade there is a young man who is anxious and shy.
THE OTHER: Drink?
BENJAMIN FONT: Yeah, please.
Vodka soda, of course. But with an unusual twist: an airplane shot poured into a glass bottle of Perrier. Weak, yet appropriate. It only takes a moment or two for him to settle in, easing back into his seat, switching his gaze between me and his drink as if by will he were making the rest of the room fade out.
TO: Can we shoot straight for a second?
BF: That's the only way I shoot.
BF: Alright, for a second.
TO: You just published I Am No One: A Collection of everything you've written—
BF: Except for the illustrated fable.
TO: Except for the illustrated fable…I Am No One is comprised of your life's work: "Two novels, five novellas, and small collection of poems and short stories…."
TO: With this publication, are you also coming out of your self-proclaimed retirement?
BF: If anything I'm more retired than before. Not from writing—I've got a few screenplays ready to go and a few others in the works—but from that type of writing I'm still very much retired.
TO: That type meaning "autobiographical fiction"?
BF: Yeah. I'm done with it, but on good terms. It's how I found my voice, but it's not the story I want to tell anymore. At least not the way I want to tell it.
BF: There's this Fellini quote, he said, "I could make a movie about a filet of sole, and that movie would still be about me," or something like that….
TO: Sounds pretty fuckin' narcissistic.
BF: I don't think so. I think it's more about relating to things outside of yourself, you know?
BF: Like when you tell a friend a story about some shit that happened to you and they say, "Fuck, that's like this one time," and they tell you about some shit that happened to them, and you go back and forth drawing from your own experience to relate with someone else's…obviously there's a line drawn where you keep your mouth shut 'cause your privileged existence won't allow you to fathom what someone else has gone through…but, in general, I think it's more about empathy than it is narcissism.
TO: Remind me how we got here….
TO: Fellini, yes. The fish. So you're saying if you were to make a movie about a filet of fish, in order to relate to the subject matter you would make it about you?
BF: Why the fuck would I make a movie about a filet of fish?
BF: Maybe I'm stretching it…but it's one of my favorite quotes, even though I may have fucked it up.
TO: I think you've used it before.
BF: Probably. I don't really know too many quotes.
TO: What about your own? Do you have a favorite quote from yourself?
BF: Shit. Uh…. "Everyone eye-fucking each other, or eye-fucking themselves at the café."
BF: (laughing) I told you, man, I'm no good with quotes! But "eye-fuck" happens to be my favorite curse word, so I remember that one. It's from my first novel.
TO: Well, you've just answered my last question.
TO: Your favorite swear word.
TO: That was going to be my last question.
BF: That's Lipton's thing.
TO: Should be everybody's thing.
BF: OK. What's next…?
TO: For fuck's sake, do you want to interview yourself here?
BF: What the fuck…?
Another vodka soda. Still the same concoction, but slightly stronger—100 proof nipper this time. A moment to collect ourselves, rein this thing in before it spins wildly out of control. A long drink.
TO: Sorry about that.
BF: It's alright….
TO: So—what's next? For you, I mean. What's next?
TO: Yeah, creatively, personally, whatever.
BF: For the moment, movies. I wrote a movie with a buddy of mine that is being handled by ICM and is scheduled to start shooting pretty soon.
TO: Wow. Congratulations!
BF: Thanks. Trying to not get too excited these days though until it becomes a reality. Shit changes fast.
TO: I get that. So this movie that might be shooting—anything else?
BF: Ideally I'll be shooting one of my other scripts independently next spring/summer. But that's a matter of getting the right people excited and finding financing.
BF: I don't know about all that.
TO: But we're talking ideal situation here. The film is financed, you've got the Green light—what do you do?
BF: Probably talk it over with whoever just gave me all that money! But seriously, one of the great things about movies is the collaboration; equally great about books is the absolute control.
TO: Green light. Write. Star. Direct.
BF: All I heard was "Green light."
TO: Come on! At least write and star, I imagine. You seem pretty comfortable in front of the camera. You really know how to "twerk an angle."
BF: (laughing again) Thanks, man. Twerkin' ain't easy, but it sure is fun.
TO: Honestly, it was disgusting. But you seemed completely okay with trying, camera rolling and all.
BF: Being in front of the camera definitely takes some getting used to. But I had to learn quick when I shot a movie that my buddy Kenneth Quinn Brown directed. We didn't have any money or anything, and favors only go so far, so I took the lead. Pretty sure I had 90% of the screen time. No time to feel awkward. Besides, once you're comfortable you can start to have fun.
TO: I knew it. The man wants to act.
BF: Well, sure. If it were possible to do without all of the "hustling" that goes into becoming an actor. In other words, my acting career isn't very promising. Not outside of movies that I write anyway. And then I'll probably be in the editing room as well…and that's the real hard part, in there…weird shit happens.
TO: What do you mean?
BF: Have you ever had to watch yourself on camera for several Terabytes worth of footage?
TO: No, but I did jerk off in the mirror once.
BF: Right on. Then you kinda get it.
TO: Weird shit…. What was the movie by the way?
BF: Sex/Absurd, loosely based off one of my novellas.
TO: Never heard of it.
BF: You mean you missed the one screening we had?
TO: Must've been out of town.
BF: Or had to take a call from your mom. I'd love to get that movie out into the world—
TO: Let's not talk about that.
BF: About distribution, or the call from your mom?
BF: Of course.
TO: So what's a typical day look like for you?
BF: Wake up, get ready, walk the dogs, go to work…leave work eight or nine hours later…go home, walk the dogs, decompress over some drinks on the balcony, dinner, bed. Repeat.
TO: Well, that's boring as shit.
BF: A man's gotta eat, Mr. Lahey.
TO: When do you find the time to write?
BF: I prefer to keep my intimate moments more private these days.
BF: If everyone could work a day job and finish that manuscript they started then we'd all be writers. And there's enough competition as is.
TO: Don't be an asshole.
BF: Honestly, so much of the writing process occurs away from the page. It really doesn't end except for a ten minute reprieve immediately following the moment you put down the last word in a book or script.
TO: That sounds awful. Are you miserable?
BF: I'm not the tortured artist I thought I was when I was 19. I enjoy it. It's fulfilling. For instance, I wrote a poem since we've been sitting here.
TO: Is that so…do we get to hear it?
BF: Alright. (pauses seriously) Fuck!
He bursts into laughter. Quickly, he tapers it back, but the laugh remains evident in his eyes and at the corners of his mouth. Even with the laugh gone, if you were to meet him for the first time right at this moment, it would be apparent that he's been laughing.
BF: I thought I could fart. But I can't. So stupid. I was gonna fart.
TO: Beautiful. Fart jokes seem like a solid time to wrap this thing up.
BF: Sounds good to me. It was getting a bit long anyway.
TO: And you already answered my final question earlier, so I'm at a loss on how to end this thing. Ideas?
BF: Yep. Please go buy my book I Am No One. Immediately. You can get it at www.benjaminfont.com or on Amazon. And please enjoy it responsibly. Lastly: EYE-FUCK.