Benza English is a spin-off of 2019’s comedy drama The Benza: The story of two housemates who have to find a new toilet seat in a foreign land. Winning multiple awards around the world and streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Tokyo Cowboys knew that people wanted more from the Benza World.
The Benza was a huge success that I saw happen from the sidelines. I met the creator of The Benza - Christopher McCombs - in December 2018. At that time, The Benza was being edited. I remember being in his house the following January watching rough cuts of the series and I knew it would be something special. However, I didn’t know then that ten months later I’d be co-directing the spin off series Benza English.
When Chris asked me to co-direct alongside The Benza director, Raito Nishizaka, I was extremely excited to join Tokyo Cowboys and work on such a prestigious series. Excited and equally nervous. Tokyo Cowboys exudes talent and I knew I’d have to be on that same level.
As a director, I’ve only worked on short films with a max cast of maybe five. Suddenly I’d be co-helming a six episode series with around 30 cast members. That’s quite the jump! Also being a new element to a core cast that already knew each other, it was like joining a new school. However, as production went on, it became more like a family. I became one with The Benza Team and I have made an amazing group of friends because of it.
It was also my first time to work with a co-director. I took care of the majority of the English scenes, whilst Raito worked on the Japanese content. It came out to an equal 50% each. Then in the edit, we also shared responsibility, editing our own scenes and then working on each other’s. As Bob says in episode five of Benza English, “No man is an island”. I had gotten used to doing everything in a project. Having a co-director as talented as Raito is a dream for any director. He has talents where I lack and vice versa, so I must thank him for everything.
As someone who has taught English in Japan, I know how boring lessons can be. Standard questions, regular responses. Nothing unique, nothing weird. Maybe it’s just me, but my conversations often turn pretty weird. If all you knew of English was from textbooks, you’d assume that I was from Mars. However, Benza English definitely teaches some of those weird topics. Excuses for farting, dealing with drunk people, how to pick someone up: All the English you never knew you needed to know.
Benza English is two tiered. Educational, but funny at the same time. It’s not often that you learn something whilst laughing, so give it a try! Even for English speakers, Benza English has a lot to enjoy.