Who tells you which movies to see? Which movies are out or coming soon? Is it the reviews and buzz here or on other sites, onerous pop up ads like the one you may have endured to read this article, or on television, a thrilling trailer replayed until you are numb?Kevin Smith is trying to alter the DNA of that process, and he just might be the only one who can.
Smith is, among other things, a filmmaker, not technically brilliant but one who, like or loathe, deserves respect for the hand he had in creating, or mainstreaming an Indie genre at a time known for its visionaries and their irreverent, shocking, memorable, funny, poignant, and at times horrible films.
Indie can be categorized as, thanks to the benefit of years behind its “arrival”, (and this is far from a unique comparison, one that borders on the abyss of cliche really) the grunge rock of cinema. Birthed from the ashes of good, sent to us from the future to piss off and rebuild an industry that had devolved into something comparable to the contents of a sloshing porta-potty waste tank thanks to its hoggish overseers. An industry that has clearly turned back toward the old ways once more.
See Indie is mostly vacant now, not dead so much as asleep with some of its offspring either operating on the outskirts, selling out, or in rare instances overseeing big studio films that aren’t derivative crap, but rather, brilliant homages to the kind of “hits” that the Stones, Motown, and Nirvana made, shit made to be good, not loved.
The good ones are running out of air though, the weight of big budget expectations, crackpot techno advancements that exist solely to churn more change, and over exposure sitting fat and flat on their chests.
The Lost and the Damned
Kevin Smith has swayed from one side to the other in his career, not a sellout, but lost at times, damned by his desire to keep going.
Look at his catalog, CLERKS and CHASING AMY are dialog heavy classics, propelled by their authenticity and humor, and DOGMA is a slacker epic, misjudged by so many who saw it as an assault on God because they think anything that mentions God and doesn’t star Kirk Cameron is akin to the spit of Satan.
Other films that Smith has made have missed though, badly.
From MALLRATS, which felt like it tried too hard to be wacky, like ONE CRAZY SUMMER in a mall, to JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKES BACK, which copied the road movie aspect of DOGMA and applied it to something that feels like a collection of loosely intertwined spoofs.
JERSEY GIRL, COP OUT, and ZAC AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO feel as if Smith is trying to either regain something he’s lost or shake off his artistic boredom by doing something new and CLERKS 2, while hilarious, has only the loosest tie to the original and feels more like a sequel made without the original writer’s permission. More GOOD WILL HUNTING 2: HUNTING SEASON than GOOD WILL HUNTING.
Through it all though Smith has maintained his integrity, making movies that he would enjoy while also respecting his audience, their intelligence, and their appetites.
And yet despite his passions, Smith’s claim that his new horror/dark comedy/thriller/action flick RED STATE and the coming ice hockey period piece HIT SOMEBODY will be his last fills one with some sadness but also some joy. Kevin Smith may be finally making films without a shred of give-a-fuck about his film making future again.
The Master Communicator
My only super power as a filmmaker is that I refuse to let the film end when the credits roll; that’s when I come out and continue the story. -Kevin Smith
That Smith still makes films that generate buzz after many of his contemporaries have receded back to the art house or tip toed into the whorehouse speaks to his persona and his genuinely likable nature. Smith isn’t some ascended Hollywood player with a service or an intern controlling his Twitter account. He isn’t visible only through our TV’s; some dead eyed talk show guest regurgitating the same story on this Jimmy’s show that he told the night before on that Jimmy’s show.
Smith is out there busting ass on his Q & A tour, interacting with fans, doing his podcast, and building something like an admiration army. A collective of fans and followers who, joined with foreign revenue, helped him jump over the typical big studio distribution and marketing sacred cash cow while making RED STATE profitable.
Smith gets that. He knows that it is the willingness of his fans to dish out $65 to see the Writer/Director in concert alongside screenings of the film that they have heard about via his podcast, blog, and Twitter account that made RED STATE what it is, and he knows that it has always been them propping up his less than mainstream films.
It is a formula not built for every filmmaker or film. Not everyone has the following or the charm of Smith or his ability to engage a large crowd and others who have rejected the kind of access Smith happily offers would lack authenticity if they suddenly converted.
And yet despite that, there is a path being cut through the tall trees, a blueprint for success, broad success, in a new media world with little or no interaction with the old media and the studio system that values profit and all its pathways over art.
In October Smith will expand his “tour”, screening the film in theaters across the country, following those screenings with either a live or live via satellite Smodcast (his podcast) and Q & A session where he will take questions from people watching him live and on the big screen via twitter. This innovative release will follow a video on demand, or VOD release supported by Lionsgate on Labor Day weekend with a DVD and Blu Ray release later in the year.Smith goes into great detail about those plans here in what is, essentially, a diatribe against those who doubted him and a funny, yet semi self congratulatory victory lap taken by a guy who knows who to thank, who to flip off, and still looks, sounds, and acts like one of us. A guy who, once again, defied the writing on the wall.
See Smith’s plan is, or can be, a reminder that the DIY cinema, and real indie attitudes that shook the Hollywood system can once again reshape and plow over an industry lacking in original ideas both on and off screen in this age of mass reach, interaction, and access if only filmmakers once again follow Kevin Smith and those like him.
The only question is, will they?