That Kevin Smith is in a Red State of Mind – Part 1
This August it will be 20 years since Kevin Smith discovered his passion for filmmaking and it’s obvious that this milestone has been on his mind, especially listening to the way he spoke to the crowd gathered around him at the AVID booth during the NAB show last April. He admitted that he is looking back reflecting on what he’s accomplished and figuring out what path to travel next. The New Jersey native has been an actor, editor and director on films that include: “Clerks”, “Jersey Girl”, “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” and his latest release “Red State”. His first movie “Clerks”, which won the highest award at Sundance, was actually filmed at night after the store closed in the convenience store where Smith worked. He spoke about realizing that he wanted to become a filmmaker after seeing “Slacker” 20 years ago with ideas for “Clerks” and “Dogma” already beginning to take shape in his mind. “That’s all I had in my head,” he said. However, because of the nature of the business he explained that people just keep going and going and then he asked, “At what point do you start making up movies or leave it once your passion movies are done?” He believes that he’s had the good luck to be blessed, coddled and spoiled making films like “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”, which he described as a 20 million dollar You Tube Video. “I got into it to tell stories. I’m a storyteller. When you’re not playing at the caliber you want to play at anymore it’s time to hang it up,” he claimed pointing to hockey legend Wayne Gretzky as an example.
Smith doesn’t want to be known as the guy who is just out there doing and executing projects with no real feeling for it. “I want to be artistic again. I want to try some stuff that I didn’t try. I want to push the envelope again,” he told us explaining that he found that with “Red State”. “I love this movie. I’m so glad I made it,” he continued.
Kevin wrote the grim script over a three day period while sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring regarding another project he’d presented to the Weinstein Brothers ”Zach and Miri Make a Porno”. Trying to avoid feeling like a boy in high school while waiting for the call, he worked on the screenplay, which he described as a Waco like standoff between the ATF and the Cooper Family. “It took a long time to find the money to make it,” he said of the five million dollar budget and one million in California tax rebates he was reimbursed. He said that people took pay cuts to get the film done. With a cast that includes such talents as Melissa Leo, Michael Parks, John Goodman and Kevin Pollak, Smith also directed his wife Jennifer Schwalbach Smith in “Red Slate”. “The chick that gets plugged in the end, that’s my wife,” Smith said adding that this isn’t the first time Jennifer’s wanted a part in one of his movies. He told her “You’re going to have to shoot a gun in the movie.” Although anti-gun she agreed and the day of the shoot, he sent her off to learn how to use an automatic weapon before planning to meet back at the bus for lunch. When she did show up late she looked relieved exclaiming, “I shot guns.” When he asked her what that was like she replied, “It’s like a vibrator with bullets.”
Despite the humor Smith interjected into the conversation, it was obvious that the subject matter of the film can only be thought of as dramatic with an ending he described as very stark in which he made the shootings as horrifying as he could imagine. Playing a member of a religious and extremist church family, Jennifer is shot in the end. She also happens to be an atheist, compared to Kevin who is more the Christian of the two. He claimed her idea of praying more closely resembled a samurai man than a parishioner, yet he found directing her to be really easy.
“On this movie I barely directed,” he claimed explaining that he feels like an editor first and foremost with the role of writer coming in second. “Now, I’m a lot more Clint Eastwood about it. He just kind of sits there and you’re acting. He gets what he wants and he moves on.” When the film was finished he created a controversy during its premiere at Sundance by announcing that he intends to try marketing it a new way too utilizing the internet and sites like Twitter and relying on word of mouth to reach his audience for the planned theatrical tour this fall. All of the screenings on the tour will also be followed by a Q&A with Smith, which he admittedly enjoys and looks forward to. Aside from traditional theatres like Radio City, Kevin would like to see the film screened in Mom and Pop venues like the Oak Theatre in Pittsburgh, which he discovered while promoting “Zach and Miri Make a Porno.” He found out that places like this one don’t always run the movies that preview there because the studios don’t believe they can make enough money utilizing smaller location with cheaper ticket prices. He hopes to be involved with “Red State” during its cinematic life and be able to include Q&As with him after the screenings if his schedule permits, since he enjoys watching his films with the audience and interacting with them afterwards.
More with Kevin in Part 2. Meanwhile you can follow him on Twitter @ThatKevinSmith.