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Kevin Smith on the Future: Why He Wants to Release Other People’s Films and How He Cracked the Self-Distribution Game

Twenty-two years after "Clerks," Smith thinks he's finally found the formula for being a successful filmmaker.

Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith

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At one point, you were using this knowledge to distribute other filmmakers’ movies, most notably Matt Johnson’s “The Dirties.” Any plans to give that a shot again?

the dirties

“The Dirties”

That’s the end game. We had this beautiful deal with this thing called the Kevin Smith Movie Club where we were able to pick up indie movies that found no homes at film festivals and find them a life — put them up on VOD and stuff like that. Then the company we were doing it with, Phase4, just got sold to E1 and it all just went away. I loved every movie we found a home for, but “Dirties,” that was a dream for me. This voice is so new, so original. This movie needs to be seen not just because it’s important and about bullying, but it’s an ass-kicking high-wire act of filmmaking. So the moment I got near it, I was like, I’m all over it. I pushed it as much as I could.

When I’m done telling all my goofy stories, I want to be able to use this touring mechanism for stuff like that, for other people, so that when I run into the next Matt Johnson, I have this model in place. I can say, OK, I’m going to take this movie out on 10 dates across the country. We’re going to find a 300-500 seater, and I’m going to show the movie with the filmmaker. Afterwards, I’ll do a Q&A with the filmmaker and afterwards the filmmaker goes by himself for a while. Now I know I can fill a place with me just standing there on my fat ass just talking about my life. So I know that if I bring them a movie, like I did with the “Yoga Hosers” tour, I know that will sell. The question is, will they show up if I screen someone else’s movie. I think if I’m standing there shoulder-to-shoulder with the filmmaker, then absolutely.

This is important for me to do at this stage of my career because I’m not going to tell stories forever. I was a guy who enjoyed having stories told to me. Then got into the making mode, and I love to dream stuff and see it come to life, no matter how fucking stupid it is. But I know it will stop. It happened once before and I know it will happen again. And when it does, I want to go back to watching stuff. I want to see things that are up my alley and the best way to do that is to help things come to life. I’m not a money man. I can’t get you your money. I’m still trying to figure out how to get money for my stuff. But I do have this distribution thing down, man, and I think it may be useful in the future — not for me, for others. That’s what Harvey Weinstein did for me. Because of that, I’m still working today. It’s not as good as the earlier, better films, but now I’m doing it in a way I never learned how to do back then. I can do that thing that I always associated with indie film. Four-walling and shlepping from place to place. That, to me, was the dream indie filmmaker life.

I don’t sweat it now. “Moose Jaws” will be an insanely well-oiled machine. After doing the touring thing for “Red State,” “Tusk” and now “Yoga Hosers,” boy do I know how to do it. We can get all our money back in a quarter of the year before we even get home video. I’ve learned so much in the time I’ve been here.

“Yoga Hosers” might be a stupid fucking movie, but behind the scenes, we were trying to figure out how to make a stupid fucking movie with no help so that in the future we could do it more effectively.

You’ve had a weird, rollercoaster relationship with critics. You swore them off after “Cop Out,” and now you seem a little more tolerant of their work. But can you at least admit that critics played a role in supporting your early work?

I guess this is something I’ll carry with me like herpes for the rest of my life. I didn’t hate all of them. A lot of critics were my close friends. Janet Maslin was one of them. But for me, I had become behold to it. I never started this thing looking for a good review. I just wanted to see “Clerks.” Because we came up through the Harvey Weinstein school, critics were everything. They could make and break your film. With “Clerks,” that opened the door for my career. But then I became dependent on it. Back in the early days of Miramax, it was like, “Hey man, you have to suck a critic’s dick to get a good review. We don’t spend money on these movies so we need the good review.” In the first half of my career, I became very Pavlovian. I was making shit to get a good grade. That’s nice, but should never be the aim. That way lies the ruin of the pure artist.

As I was heading into “Red State,” I came to this weird crossroad where I thought, “How do I undo this?” I wanted to go back to making shit where you don’t care what they say. So I picked a fight and burned down my relationship with critics. My next film “Moose Jaws” is a quasi-apology to critics. It’s about this old Nazi who lives under the ground. Spurned, he turned on the world and became a fucking monster. Now he’s built his old art into this unwieldy beast that he uses to kill critics. And then some girls come in and say, “No, we don’t let him kill the critics.” When I began this career, I took myself way too seriously. I’m a fucking clown. You’re not going to get everybody back. I can only answer for myself, not the world.

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