First, there was the Westboro Baptist Church’s protest prior to the screening, where about a half dozen members of the ultra fundamentalist organization faced off against Smith himself and close to 100 counterprotesters. Then, there was the movie itself. A satirical horror film, it takes on a Westboro-like church who is kidnapping, torturing and murdering sexually aberrant men.
But both the protest and the film (which received mixed notices at best) took a backseat to the night’s third act, which saw Smith ramble for over 25 minutes in a lead-up to the announcement that he would self-distribute “Red State” after previously announcing he would auction the film on stage after the screening to any interested distributor. But when it came time for the auction, Smith himself bid $20 and announced that he “couldn’t think of anything fucking worse 17 years [after ‘Clerks’] than selling our movie to people who just don’t fucking get it.” He’ll release the film in theaters in October, but he’ll take it on a nationwide tour first (beginning on March 5th, check out tour dates here.
While Smith’s rant ran to the tedious (after announcing the self-distribution, he spent 10 minutes explaining his business model), it certainly had its moments, as did his opening monologue. Here’s 10 highlights from Smith’s time on stage, both before and after “Red State” made its debut:
Upon taking the stage: “Sorry, we’re running a little late. My family came and they were out in the parking lot holding up signs.”
On how long it took to make “Red State”: “We started making the very movie you’re about to watch on September 21st. So that’s about two days over four months ago. In the course of four months we started shooting, wrapped, cut and we’re all ready to fucking unzip and pull out our big, fat ‘Red State’ cock and show it right here to everybody.”
On what to expect from the film: “I promise you, ladies and gentlemen, that for the next 95 minutes all levity is going to leave this room. You’re going to enter a world of hate and fucking hopelessness. I’m so not shitting. ‘Red State’ is not a comedy. This is hands down a horror movie, like ‘Jersey Girl.’ Be forewarned. You might get nauseous or run out of the screening. It’s that kind of movie.”
On Sundance sponsor Southwest Airlines: “One of the sponsors of this festival told me that if I wanted to sit I’d have to buy two fucking seats. Fuck that.”
Reflecting on his history with Sundance: “Seventeen years ago, I came to this festival and took my shot. And it was amazing. My life changed in an evening. Everything fucking changed. And from that moment forward, we kept pretty busy working. We came back here a couple years after ‘Clerks’ with ‘Chasing Amy’ and that was nice because after ‘Clerks’ I’d made ‘Mallrats’ and everybody hated ‘Mallrats’ for some reason. But when I came back here with ‘Chasing Amy’ and everybody was like ‘good job, you’re back’ and I got pats on the back… The last movie I made was ‘Cop Out.’ So naturally I had to get back here fucking quick.”
On the business side of filmmaking: “I never wanted to know jackshit about business. I’m a fat, masturbating stoner. That’s why I got into the movie business. It seemed like the place fat, masturbating stoners went. And if somebody had told me at the beginning of my career that ‘you’re going to have learn so much about business, finance, monetization and all this shit,’ I would have said ‘fuck this, I’m just going to stay home and masturbate.’ Because that’s too much work.”
On marketing and opening films these days: “It took seven years for ‘Clerks’ – a movie that cost $27,575 – to go into profit. When that’s happening… When you’re spending four, five times the amount to market or open a movie than you are to make it, that’s not inspiring to me at all. No kid can get into it now. I look at the fucking film world now and I’m like, there’s no way I would try that. I wouldn’t try ‘Clerks’ today. Because it’s impenetrable. Even if you’re lucky enough to make a movie, how the fuck are you going to open a movie? It takes so much fucking money, time and effort… And everything is fetishized about those fucking three days. They’ll spend 30, 40, 50 million… Just for those three fucking days. I spent 25 days working on this. I’m not going to sit there and bank everything on three days. There’s no fucking point.”
On the pre-Sundance promotion of “Red State”: “I had so much fun making this movie. I have had so much fun getting the movie ready for Sundance. Call it what you will – marketing, spinning, turning it into a circus – but I did from my fucking desk in my office while smoking joints and going ‘this might be fun.’ And it was a blast, and it was creative… Suddenly, it was like ‘a movie doesn’t need to end after you make it.'”
Why he’s going to distribute “Red State” himself: “Selling my film is akin to having a baby and then handing it over to somebody else to raise. I know how to raise my kid. It’s been 17 years that I’ve been doing this. I’ve been out there in the world and I’ve been listening. I think I know how to fucking do this. So, I know there’s a lot of cats are in the audience waiting for an auction. I was going to pick my distributor in the room, auction style… I came here 17 years ago and all I wanted to do was sell my movie. And I can’t think of anything fucking worse 17 years later than selling our movie to people who just don’t fucking get it.”
On his release plans: “We’re going to release this picture ourselves through my SMODCast Pictures banner. On October 19th, that’s when we hope to be in theaters… October 19th is a special day for me because it’s the 17th anniversary of the theatrical release of ‘Clerks.’ So we figured, let’s hit that day because it’s kind of similar. We’re starting over, so to speak. This time, it’s not enough to just make the movie. We have to learn to how to release the movie. Because true independence isn’t making a film and selling it to some jackass. True independence is schlepping that shit to people yourself. And that’s what I intend to do.”