Monday, August 22, 2011

does Kevin Smith believe himself?

So Kevin Smith has launched his release plan for RED STATE. Perhaps of most note is that he plans to tour the country for the next two years, doing post-show Q-and-A's.

Which is cool. My feelings about Kevin Smith aside*, any filmmaker committed to making sure his fans have the option of a theatrical screening of his film has got my back, as far as that goes.

It's his reasoning, however, I find a bit specious:

My long-term goal with the ever-evolving Red State experiment is to redefine the theatrical exhibition window: if I’m willing to accompany the flick somewhere in the country every other weekend for the next two years, I can probably do about $20 to $30k per night. That’s a big enough per-screen to land Red State a noticeable position on Variety’s weekly box office chart every other weekend. And if I can make sure Red State stays on that chart for the next few years, some kid who wants to make a movie but sees the system of the movie business as impenetrable might just find it a little easier to get his or her head around… and maybe give it a shot themselves.

I'm totally with this until the middle of the fourth sentence - and it's the idea that Kevin Smith puts forth here that captures something that's been a constantly recurring motif of the RED STATE release. The idea that somehow he's opening the doors for other young filmmakers to follow him.

But he has something none of them have. Well, lots of things. To name a few:

- a 15+ year, 10 film career of consistently high-profile films
- 1.85 million Twitter followers
- an almost unique status amongst contemporary directors as a raconteur - I've heard more than one person say that the best thing he's ever done is his AN EVENING WITH KEVIN SMITH DVD. The only other personality who comes to mind with a similar reputation is John Waters (and I doubt he could draw half the crowd Smith does, sadly)
- a film starring Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman, and many other familiar faces (Anna Gunn from BREAKING BAD and Stephen Root jump out to me)

In sum, Kevin Smith, with CLERKS, made a film that was inspirational to many because of its approach - no name actors, low production values, low budget, in sum, a model almost anybody could follow. Now, almost two decades later, he's trying to achieve the same sort of inspiration for distribution with an approach that virtually no one can follow.

Can they? Am I missing something? Or put differently: do I have any filmmaker friends out there who are finding inspiration in this?

*As a film that embodied the DIY aesthetic like no film I'd seen before it (which says more to what films I'd seen than film history as such, but anyway), CLERKS was in fact inspirational to me, as was CHASING AMY, which I got to see with Kevin Smith and producer Scott Mosier in attendance at a pre-release screening in Houston, prior to the days of these things being gigantic events. I asked him what he was working on next, and he talked about DOGMA, and how he had been nervous whether the studio would support it, to which Bob Weinstein replied, "we'll put that shit out on Good Friday!" (note: probably a paraphrase, given that this was 15 years ago). He invited everyone to meet up with him afterwards for a drink somewhere, but I was going to see a band - either Six Finger Satellite or Railroad Jerk, can't remember which - that night. Anyway. I also laughed my ass off at JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK and, more recently, found - yes - CLERKS II unexpectedly touching. There's other films I like less - some a lot less - and I don't think he's got much aesthetic sense as a director, but nonetheless, he's still made some entertaining flicks. Point being, I'm not a hater.


  1. In a certain perverse way AN EVENING WITH… is his best work, if you count its 'sequels' or followups, and look at it from the perspective of sheer fucking entertainment. It helps if you're already endeared to his shtick and at least a couple of his in-jokes, I guess. I used to have all three (?) of them on DVD but I think I might've lost/sold 'em.

    I stopped following the RED STATE hubbub — and Smith on Twitter — when he shat his pants and refused to let critics see his film, going on long painful rants about how critics don't matter and how RS is "just for the fan[boy]s," etc. So I'm not up to the play with what's going on here, but this sentence confuses me:

    "That’s a big enough per-screen to land Red State a noticeable position on Variety’s weekly box office chart every other weekend. And if I can make sure Red State stays on that chart for the next few years…"

    ...every other weekend? For the next few years? is he gonna drag the release out for ages on like a handful of screens, going from city to city? I don't get this.

    p.s. I have *exactly* the same opinion of Smith and his films as you relayed in your footnote; I rewatch the Redbank Trilogy (CLERKS/AMY/MALLRATS) at least once every 18 months, and that includes running through the films with commentary on. His banter is so fucking good. As much as there is to dislike about, say, JERSEY GIRL (which aside from Carlin is appalling), there's fuckloads to love about CLERKS II, not least the line "You are the ones who are the butt-lickers."

    (p.p.s. I doubt any of the above was coherent.)

  2. If you click the link up top, that's exactly what he's going to do, after some other reindeer games, including a one-night only theatrical in lots of places, VOD release, and DVD/Blu-Ray. One-theater event screenings here and there two years after the video release is ballsy in theory, but with it basically being "An Evening With Kevin Smith and RED STATE on the big screen" it's pretty much a license to print money in practice.

  3. Oh I didn't even see the link. (Should have read the post properly!! Oops.)