In 2002, Pip and I drove 26,000 miles around America. We didn’t have a grand plan and went pretty much wherever we felt like. I did insist, however, that we stop in a tiny town called Leonardo in New Jersey. I tracked down the Quick Stop convenience store where Kevin Smith shot the movie Clerks. I bought 2 decks of Marlboro Light and two bottles of Mountain Dew, and marvelled at just how goddamn tiny the place was. Amazing how the camera can make things look bigger and more important. The only indication that this was anything remarkable about this particular convenience store was one tiny press cutting about Clerks blu-tacked up behind the counter.
I love an awful lot of Kevin Smith’s work. Not all of it, but a lot of it. More than that, though, I love what Kevin Smith represents. Even more than Sam Raimi with his cabin, even more than Peter Jackson with his DIY gorefest, to me Smith represents the ‘fuck it, I’ll do it anyway’ spirit. The idea that a guy working in a shop could do a day’s work, then close the shutters and shoot a feature film that would go on to be distributed all over the world is an idea that I find vital and exciting. Hell, even if you can’t stand Smith’s work, if you don’t find something to applaud about the methods and determination by which he got that work to a global audience then something inside you just ain’t working right.
I’ve seen Kevin Smith doing live Q&As a couple of times.. The last time he came onstage at 7.30 and was still going strong well over 4 hours later with no interval. The guy can chat, endlessly. It’s kind of remarkable to watch.
As you’ve probably already heard, this week KS used the Sundance festival to launch his new flick Red State, and (after a fake auction) sold himself the distribution rights. He gave an impassioned 25 minute speech about what’s wrong with the Hollywood distribution model (specifically on how much is spent on marketing vs how much is spent on the movie) which you can check out over on YouTube, and explained how he’s going to tour Red State prior to conventional release and bypass regular marketing by using word-of-mouth, social networking, podcasts and so on. Funnily enough, the reaction to this has been strangely hostile in certain parts of the internet. Anti-Smith articles and message-board diatribes have been popping up, saying that Smith’s speech was spitting in the face the community he was purporting to be supporting.
Personally, I love seeing someone work outside their comfort zone and I love the fact that KS is trying to approach the distribution model in a different way. Yeah, of course his plan of four-walling works rather better when you’ve got a huge built-in audience like Smith has, but where did that audience come from in the first place? This was a guy who had no contacts, no industry experience, nothing but a shitty job in a convenience store and some black & white film stock. At this point, the man can do whatever the fuck he likes, and good luck to him.
I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the bored-looking dude slumped behind the counter at that Leonardo Quick-Stop when I bought the smokes and sodas. I wondered about him all day. A wannabe filmmaker? Someone who was an acquiantance of Smith’s crowd back when Clerks was shot? Or just a guy working in a shop for minimum wage, vaguely aware that someone once something there?
“Yeah, someone filmed something. Some movie with a load of dick jokes. I dunno. Listen, d’you wanna hear my band’s demo? We’re gonna be huge one day”