That Kevin Smith is in a Red State of Mind – Part 2
A few things were apparent watching Kevin Smith speak at the Avid Booth during The NAB Show. After working in the film industry for nearly 20 years he is up for making some changes, which may be in part because he doesn’t view himself primarily as a director and because his new love affair with social media is more than a fling. It’s the real deal. When Smith appeared the area in the exhibit hall was filled to capacity with fans waiting for words of wisdom about filmmaking spiced up with Kevin’s well known raucous sense of humor and he didn’t disappoint. Although his latest film, the soon to be released horror story “Red State” was a prime topic during the conversation, other subjects were covered too including discussion about changes in his work process he’s made by using Avid, which he began editing with on “Chasing Amy”.
Smith went on to say that when he made “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” he started cutting the movie during production using Avid. “We should cut constantly while we’re in production. All I did is cut while we were shooting, he said. “Avid made me a better filmmaker,” he claimed before stating that digital was his real teacher because it made him willing to take more chances. “You can try it. If it doesn’t work you can do it again,” he asserted. “We had the springboard elements,” Smith continued explaining how they would dump the footage into the Avid and be able to see what the movie would look like. “It went from being a theoretical to something concrete,” he said. This changed two major points for him: first he could show people what he was thinking and second they knew if they were missing anything. “I became more of an editor in my mind than a director,” he remarked. “By the time it’s time to show people it looks like a movie. The impact that it has on a cast and crew is enormous,” he finished explaining that it’s difficult to translate what you’re looking for sometimes to a cast and crew, but with this technology they can see it. This created a different production experience from some of his other films like “Dogma” where he didn’t touch any footage until they got home from the shoot which was over two months later. Now, contrast that with his latest project “Red State.” “I was more daring. I tried more shit. I strived for a better look. The workflow and Avid are responsible for that look,” he said.
Speaking about his experience on the set of another earlier movie “Catch & Release”, Kevin recalled that only the key actors were allowed to view the dallies during the shoot, which he thought at the time was a mistake believing it’s more beneficial for everyone to be familiar with every frame of the footage and feels that “everybody works harder” when it’s done this way. He practices this belief when making his own productions where it’s up to him as the editor and/or director to execute his own vision and claimed “This just makes it so much easier.” Agreeing with Steven Spielberg that there is no such thing as a bad idea, he thinks that part of that director’s genius is that he uses everyone’s contributions. “That’s the way to roll,” Smith stated. “I would just tell everyone, cast and crew, what do you think? Everyone wants certainty from one person in the room,” he continued adding, “Put it back on someone and they will give you their best.”
However, Smith is still adapting and making more changes to his own process. After all of these years he now feels comfortable editing his work after it’s been seen by an audience and advised filmmakers to get rid of any inhibitions they have in this area. After the debut of “Red State” at Sundance he cut seven minutes to take out “stupid little shit” that he noticed when watching the film during its premiere. “Once it hits home video that’s it. That’s the way it lives,” he said adding that now he understands Stanley Kubrick’s belief that his work was his and that it was going to live forever, so he wanted to keep perfecting it. Now Smith is going to do the same. “The older you get the more okay you are with that,” he shared before concluding that “Failure’s just success training.”
One aspect Kevin needs in his work is passion, which is why he’s planning to stop traditional filmmaking and become more involved with social media and podcasting. He loves the way he’s been able to reach his audience and continue introducing people to what he’s doing using twitter and other internet resources. He told us that visiting college towns is different from studio tours where a 15 day schedule is locked in cement. “It’s kind of like flash mob screening. You do it at your leisure more than the schedule,” he said. Addressing the naysayers who have commented that he only attracts a niche audience of retards and reprobates, he responded, “My mother’s part of the audience. She’s no retard or reprobate.”
Starting with the “Red State” tour social media is also being used for bartering. People sent him musical tracks and in exchange he swapped them out and gave them tickets. “It’s been kind of neat like that. The art swap,” Kevin said. He thinks social media allows people to be more open for suggestion in a good way and that you can turn thoughts into reality using twitter. “They’re like your friends at a party when you’re drunk. People encourage you,” he jokingly concluded. Engaging the audience all the time is key and that’s another reason why he thinks it will prove to be increasingly successful. Smith is enjoying combining his promotion of “Red State” with social media and podcasting , so it will be interesting to see how this plays out during the film’s release, which it was announced this week has been moved up from October 2011 to Labor Day weekend. There is also Kevin’s latest project “Hit Somebody” based on the song by Warren Zevon and Mitch Alborn about hockey, another one of the filmmaker’s passions. In fact, during the conversation at NAB, Smith was wearing a hockey jersey. The desire to engage his audience using the internet has already extended to this film as well with Smith announcing his plan to publish parts of the script on his blog in order to get feedback from the fans.
Bristling at being called a director, Smith said “I wore directing like I wore a suit.” Describing his body as dumb and pear shaped he made the analogy of a suit not fitting him well and stated that he felt the same way about directing. However, that doesn’t mean he feels the same about being a filmmaker comparing it to the headiness of falling in love. “You didn’t mind playing the fool for that person. You go fuck in the Denny’s bathroom and that’s what your art has to be. Once you’re in there’s this feeling you don’t want to be kicked out. Once you get one done, you want to set up another one. I never phoned it in,” he said. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel that staying in the game might be a matter of diminishing returns despite the fact he said he’s never been embarrassed or ashamed of his projects and knows why he’s done every one of them. “Each one has meaning and exists for a reason,” he said before adding, “I never imagined it would end. You want to get in so badly you think you’ll do it to the grave.” Considering the nearly two decade career this unique and talented individual has enjoyed so far, perhaps the best piece of advice he offered was “Don’t do it for the money or to be famous.” Listening to Kevin Smith, it is obvious that those were never his reasons for choosing to be part of such a crazy, yet amazing profession.
Remember, you can keep up with what Kevin is doing next by following him on twitter @ThatKevinSmith.