Convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein is now in a correctional facility, facing 23 years in prison in addition to pending Los Angeles charges, and documentarian Malcolm Ingram has made a film about one of Weinstein’s success stories, Kevin Smith. However, telling Variety that “You can’t tell this fairytale story without mentioning the monster,” he opened up about the shady financial dealings of the former movie magnate while supporting the filmmaker’s 1994 debut, “Clerks.”
Smith said he sold “Clerks” to Harvey Weinstein and Miramax out of the 1994 Sundance Film Festival for $227,000, with Smith to receive a backend if the movie profited theatrically. The black-and-white indie that centered on a group of foul-mouthed video store employees grossed $3.2 million in North America, and went on to become an endlessly imitated cult hit.
But Smith said it took Weinstein seven years before he paid Smith royalties owed, and that Weinstein deployed shady accounting tactics such as billing “Clerks” for a yacht he rented for “Pulp Fiction,” Miramax’s crown jewel of the 1994 Cannes Film Festival.
“I’m still out money,” Smith said. “It took seven years for us to see any profit from that movie. For seven years, they were like: ‘Nope, the movie is still not in profit.’ And we were like, ‘How?’ And then there were things.”
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Smith said that while “Clerks” didn’t make it into the official competition of that year’s Cannes, it got a slot in the Critics’ Week sidebar, usually reserved for first- or second-time filmmakers, and won. “I get flown over by the festival. I was given a free hotel room from the festival. This is a long way of saying Miramax didn’t have to pay for anything,” Smith said.
“There was a yacht, the Miramax yacht, it was called. That’s where all the stars were. We hung out on it, hung out with Quentin [Tarantino] after he won his Palme d’Or and stuff. But that yacht wasn’t for us. When the festival was over, we got the financial statement. They had taken the entire Cannes bill, everything they spent in Cannes, and just chopped it up into four and ‘Clerks’ was charged as much as ‘Pulp Fiction.’ So we all paid an equal share.”
Smith said that his lawyer urged him to audit Miramax for the expenses, but Smith brushed it off, saying “No, I can’t audit people I’m in business with. That’s gross.” It wasn’t until “Clerks 2” that Smith began auditing The Weinstein Company. “If I was a better business person, I would have gone for more money. But it felt like, ‘Oh, there it is. That’s their process. Movie math.'”
Smith said he continued to work with Weinstein because “I got paid upfront for each movie. Believe me, I ain’t crying poor. And I got ridiculous escalating salaries.”
The documentary “Clerk” was scheduled to debut at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival, but is now on hold. “The Harvey part of the doc was one of the last things that made it into the movie,” Smith said. “Having watched the doc without any mention of him in it, it felt like — well, whitewashing. It felt like something was missing.”
Harvey Weinstein, who’s currently awaiting extradition to face four charges in Los Angeles criminal court, now faces an additional fifth charge regarding an assault in a hotel room dating back to 2010.