Sundance: Kevin Smith premiers new film, tells Hollywood to suck it

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Writer/Director Kevin Smith premiered his new film Red State at Sundance today—he'd led everyone to believe that after the showing, he'd publicly auction the distribution rights to the highest-bidding studio. Instead, he bought it himself and used the attention generated to note how broken the studio distribution system is (why spend $20 million on a film that cost $4 million to make) and how he was convinced he could a better job handling things on his own.

Fans of Smith may be surprised, but shouldn't be too shocked by this move: Smith has long bemoaned the "business" of making and releasing movies, and has been particulary vocal about it on twitter of late.

Personally, I'm really excited about this. There is so much under-appreciated talent out there, and we all know that the web really does make it so much easier to get the word out. Someone as established as Smith deciding not to play the game anymore, and to instead explore new options, may have far-reaching effects on the rest of the industry. I can't wait to see what comes from this.

Smith also announced he'll be making one more movie (after Red State), but that he will then retire from the director's chair with plans to focus on the distribution side of the business, presumably to the benefit of others opting to work outside of the studio system. Go Kevin!

For more information about how this film will be distributed or to help out, check out coopersdell.com

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  1. Just a quick note: his next movie is about hockey; it isn’t a sequel. The end credits of Red State just said the cast would be returning in something more lighthearted ;)

  2. Kevin Smith is a really interesting guy, a wonderful speaker, and a good storyteller. He can even act a little. If his movies weren’t so lousy, we’d be talking about the complete package.

    I agree that his working elsewhere in whatever the replacement for the studio system becomes and allowing people who can direct to do the directing is an exciting development.

    1. I hear the Nolan brothers are putting that in their Superman reboot. It’ll be the same giant robot spider that crushes Batman at the end of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

  3. “…he will then retire from the director’s chair to foucs on…”

    …one juicy fat blunt after another. Seriously, a guy already prone to logorrhea did NOT need to get turned on to the wonders of whacky tobaccky by Seth Rogen.

    1. Hahaha. If you think Smith had not been introduced to weed before he met Seth Rogen, you must be seriously high.

  4. Kevin Smith is the Trent Reznor of the movie biz.

    II wonder if that means he will quit in a couple years.

  5. Just want to point out that Smith’s last movie won’t be a sequel to Red State but a hockey film based on the Warren Zevon song Hit Somebody.

  6. As an independent filmmaker who is also self-distributing their film (I did a documentary about R.Budd Dwyer called “Honest Man”), I’m really happy to see a mainstream filmmaker take the plunge into the unknown that is self distribution. Very excited to see where this project goes!

  7. Reminder that Kevin Smith is too fat to fit into a single airplane seat and cried like a baby over it on twitter when the airline tried to make him pay for 2 seats, which he could obviously afford. He also wears jorts in public

    1. t_s, you’re so wrong about this I don’t even know where to begin.

      He wasn’t too fat to fly, because he’d flown on the same plane with the same airline a week before. He showed them he could easily put the armrest down, but they still took him off the plane without (I should emphasize that) WITHOUT asking him to buy two seats. They never gave him a chance. Somebody made a decision before he even buckled his seatbelt and that was that.

      Educate yourself. The whole thing was written about exhaustively.

      You are right about the jorts. But so what?

      I’ll admit I’m a fan of the man. He’s made good movies and bad ones, but every single one has made a profit and I do respect him for that.

      1. @ unclemike in reply to tween_spirit

        “t_s, you’re so wrong about this I don’t even know where to begin.

        He wasn’t too fat to fly, because he’d flown on the same plane with the same airline a week before. He showed them he could easily put the armrest down, but they still took him off the plane without (I should emphasize that) WITHOUT asking him to buy two seats. They never gave him a chance. Somebody made a decision before he even buckled his seatbelt and that was that.

        Educate yourself. The whole thing was written about exhaustively.”

        Hmmnnnnn.

        C’mon, unclemike — it’s damn obvious it was all a beat-up by Smith to help promote his current movie (some piece of shit, I seem to recall…)

        I mean, the guy has no shame — he’ll even use his massive girth to gain some much needed publicity.

        Kevin Smith & his movies jumped the shark a loooooooooong time ago. Face it.

    2. Thank you for keeping this conversation on-topic, it’s just like the time I heard some guys talking about the lyrical content of a Kanye West album without expressing pity for Taylor Swift.

    3. yep — it was all to gain attention for his new movie release. The guy has no shame. And he has a HUGE girth.

  8. “why spend $20 million on a film that cost $4 million to make …”

    This is reasonable if every $4M movie was worth buying. But if less than 20% of these films are worth buying, it’s more effective to let others finance the production of the movies, and then purchase them for distribution.

    Think of it in evolutionary terms — the ecosystem of film production produces a range of offspring, some of which survive but a good number that don’t. The value of the ecosystem is the diversity of the movies produced, so that the best can be selected for broader distribution.

  9. It’s interesting that he’s done this, but I really don’t see this as much of a game-changer as far as distribution is concerned. People have done this before and gained decent (if not exactly spectacular) success, so it’s not like he’s blazing a trail. Plus, this isn’t exactly an option for everybody – only someone like Smith, with the kind of net presence and cult following that he has, has a chance of making something like this work. Plus, I can’t help feeling that if he was going to do this, he could have done it in a way that made him look a little less like an arrogant idiot (hyping an ‘auction’ for attention, and then using the opportunity to lecture all the distributors and sales agents who turned up on how evil and broken the system is).

    “We all know that the web really does make it so much easier to get the word out…”

    Maybe yes, but popularity and visibility on the web and the blogosphere doesn’t always translate into massive success, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World being the most recent example of this.

    Also- Smith’s next film is definitely not a sequel to Red State – it’s a Hockey comedy called Hit Somebody, although it will be using a lot of the same cast members as Red State.

    1. Yeah, didn’t David Lynch do this with Inland Empire? It meant that it only played in one theater here in NYC.

      I suppose once it hits video it is indeed all the same, but getting it onto screens is probably the big challenge.

  10. Kevin Smith is a hack. Sometimes he’s decent, but he’s still a hack. But this is very interesting. Indie-film distribution needs a revamping and needs a major name player to help get the ball rolling. This can’t hurt. Kudos!

  11. The problem with Smith is that he’s quick to blame studios, distributors, and even his actors for his own personal failings.

    It’s obvious that Smith has no self-control.

    1. Not really – Rodriguez (and many others) make movies outside of the hollywood system, but them use that system to distribute them. Smith isn’t doing any of that and will be taking his movie “on the road” so to speak, showing it in one city at a time – one theater at a time – as if it was on tour, then based on the popularity of those showings will go for a national release. It’s a very different thing than what anyone is doing these days, but similar to how things used to be before the studios started mass distribution. If this works, it’ll open the door for many other indie film makers to have their movies shown in real theaters without the hurdles of a national release.

      1. Ah, I missed that part. I suppose I should RTFA. I find Kevin Smith films are a mixed bag, but I’ll likely give it a look. Thanks for posting.

    2. @ Genteel Bartender — #18

      “Robert Rodriguez has been doing this very thing for years, but with less pageantry.”

      Indeed!!

  12. I fully support Smith’s adoption of the old-school, print-in-the-trunk distribution method used by John Waters, David Lynch and others in the 70s (and a handful of indie filmakers today). There are two big problems with Smith promoting this approach, however. There no longer exists the sort of “Midnight Movie” house distribution network of decades ago, nor is there time allotted to allow such a film to gain a following. Smith elides the fact that his following allows him to try something like this; no lesser-known filmmaker could pull it off. Also, booking a cross-country tour of large theaters to the tune of $60 a ticket hardly holds to the hardscrabble, indie spirit of this distribution method. I don’t begrudge anybody making money, but it’s a bit disingenuous to claim you’re sticking it to the man while sticking it to your fans’ wallets.

    And on that note – what the hell kind of show is this cast going to put on to justify this cost? This isn’t the cast of “Family Guy” putting on a full musical performance. Are John Goodman and Melissa Leo going to act out scenes from “Treme”?

    1. “There no longer exists the sort of “Midnight Movie” house distribution network of decades ago”

      That’s sort of the point, if the network existed he wouldn’t be doing anything new or interesting, he’d just be choosing another option. But since no viable option exists and he’s doing it anyway, it has the potential to create a new viable option which others could benefit from as well.

  13. This ties in beautifully with the Bruce Sterling Vimeo piece from over the weekend.

    It isn’t the 1930’s anymore. Why should business continue to use a century old model?

    1. It isn’t the 1930’s anymore. Why should business continue to use a century old model?

      That’s exactly what bankers and investors said about bank regulation in the 90’s… and look where it got us today!

      Just because something is new doesn’t make it inherently better than something that’s old.

  14. I no longer acknowledge creators when they say “X, coming out in the future, will be my last Y.” Hideo Kojima said multiple times that Metal Gear 3 would be his last. Jet Li AND Jackie Chan said they quit making martial arts movies, like, 6 years ago. How many times has a “retired” actor made “just one more” movie? Hell, Keanu just said he signed on for two more Matrix sequels.

    Don’t believe anything you hear in Hollywood! “Last” is just another empty buzz word.

  15. @unclemike fed the troll.

    I’d only subscribed to the SModcast a few weeks ago, and now I find out he’s naming his distribution company after it? That’s brazen, naming something people will pay $60 a ticket for after a podcast where two guys tell dick jokes for an hour. Not exactly the brand I’d expect you’d want attached to a film company. But, hey, if that’s where the online followers are, then why not?

  16. There no longer exists the sort of “Midnight Movie” house distribution network of decades ago

    Sure there does: repertory.

  17. Artists can only afford to thumb their noses at the Hollywood system (whether they are musicians, actors or filmmakers) once they have used that very system to make themselves a household name. It’s not like any of us have any chance of doing this.

    I co-wrote a screenplay (www.solitarymovie.com) which was made completely outside the Hollywood system and for the rest of us, trying to make films outside the system sucks. Our actors are stellar but are not well-known and so we had no chance of getting into theaters even though our film did well on the festival circuit (won 2 awards). Nobody wants a film, no matter how good, without well-known, sanctioned actors. We had to go straight to DVD. (And before any idiots comment about the quality of our movie, go to the website and watch the trailer).

    I wish Kevin Smith luck on his endeavor, but I seriously doubt that this is the beginning of anything that will benefit anyone but Kevin Smith, well-known actor, writer, director, i.e. celebrity.

    I hope I’m wrong.

  18. I’m sure somewhere in an film studio boardroom there’s someone screaming:

    “Quick! Get more money to lobby against network neutrality!”

  19. Yes, David Lynch did this back in 2006 for “Inland Empire.” It was mostly financed by himself (with some help from Studio Canal). He then bought the film and self-distributed it to theaters.

    The reason this didn’t make Radiohead-size waves throughout the movie industry is simply because Lynch is no Radiohead to the industry. He is not a blockbuster filmmaker. He has a very dedicated, established fan base and cult following, but Joe Sixpack will never turn out in droves to see his stuff. It’s the same with Kevin Smith. Yes, his dedicated legion of fanboys skews a little closer to mainstream, but he’s not Radiohead either.

    It will take someone with much more draw to truly be a gamechanger in the film industry. If someone like George Lucas or James Cameron were to do it, people would notice and the movie business would be rocked.

    Until then, diehards in lucky cities will catch Lynch’s and Smith’s new stuff in a theater. Everyone else will probably be fine seeing them on home video.

    1. Since when has Radiohead made ‘Radiohead-sized’ waves?! They weren’t the first to adopt/invent the download album model or the most successful. Bad analogy is bad.

  20. “Studio system”? The studio system died about 50 years ago. Lots of people make indie films that are then distributed by the studios but that’s not what the phrase “studio system” means.

    Smith’s idea of personal appearances coupled with showing a print of a film is cute, but it’s not going to make money for anyone but him. Actors that want %deals aren’t going to leap to appear in his films, which have an uneven track record anyway. He’s more marketable as a personality than he is as a filmmaker.

  21. When anyone needs to self release and promote their own films, it usually means their career in the industry is on a downslide. Hollywood does not believe Silent Bob has any more pull left to fill the seats.

  22. That’s kinda awesome on Smith’s part. I’m sad to see that there’ll only be 1 more film from him. I’ve always been a big fan of his movies (I’ll give him a pass on Jersey Girl…) but if he’s working on the distribution side, that in itself, could also be a good move. He’s got a good eye and I’m sure many great films will be distributed by him in the future!

  23. Wow. Kevin Smith in publicity stunt shocker.

    It must be awesome for a director like Kevin Smith, who has a large fanbase in part to the support of “indie” supporters like the Weinsteins, to tell Hollywood to suck it. a risky one for him to take.

    Lots of directors have been doing this for a long time, and haven’t gotten the kudos or the press that Smith will for this.

    @libraryboi – I think you mixed up titles and links there. Here is “Kevin Smith Isn’t Saving Indie Film, He’s Spitting In Its Face”:
    http://www.badassdigest.com/2011/01/24/kevin-smith-isnt-saving-indie-film-hes-spitting-in-its-face

    1. You know, it is entirely unclear what your point was other than restating the obvious and correcting people for saying exactly the same thing you are (only they’re doing it wrong).

      1. Sorry, nothing from my reading Boing Boing has led me to believe that the same opinion couldn’t be stated twice. And I will refrain from offering gentle corrections to post a link that someone else intended to share.

  24. What I haven’t seen here is WHY him doing the distribution himself is more attractive to the theater owners. Here’s why:

    For all studio releases, 95% of the ticket sales the first week(or longer) goes to the studio and slides down gradually each week, but always to the advantage of the studio. This is why food is so expensive at theaters. If Kevin offers them a flat 60/40 or 50/50 split for the entire run of the film, it would be a huge boon for the theaters and they would be willing to keep it in theaters longer than the usual 6-8 weeks for first run films. Theaters already do all their own local advertising, so giving him a little higher profile is a negligible cost for them. Kevin’s front end cost is having prints of the film made and shipped to the theaters, but for theaters with digital projection we’re talking a disc and a 1st class stamp (well, not quite THAT cheap, but close enough).

    This isn’t going to help “your rad no budget indie masterpiece” get onto 4,000 screens, but it CAN help get more good films onto 800-1200 screens since the individual theaters would get a bigger piece of the pie.

  25. “And this is definitely true: if you’re not in the distribution business, you’re not in the motion picture business.”–animator and producer Don Bluth, interview 10 years ago.

  26. A guide for the perplexed, via Film School Rejects:

    A Handy User’s Guide to Four-Walling, “…an ancient technique that’s so rarely done that Kevin Smith can get away with claiming he invented it without any uproar.”

    As they note,

    “Kevin Smith boldly claimed that he would be revolutionizing the distribution model for movies by using a brand new, century-old method.”

  27. There is, by the way, an amusing and generally under-appreciated Joe Dante film, Matinee, with the estimable John Goodman as “Lawrence Woolsey”, a character based on the king of the mid-century B-movie four-wallers, William Castle.

  28. after hearing kevin smith talk on marc maron’s podcast, wtf, iit doesn’t surprise me one bit.

  29. I don’t like his films, but after hearing him get up on stage and tell stories, he’s extremely entertaining. He’d make a good talk show host.

  30. There’s a big difference between quitting and getting fired. Smith decided ‘not to play the game anymore’ because he was kicked off the team. He’s Uwe Boll minus the boxing skills, for Christ’s sake…

  31. This is an interesting experiment that could actually bring about some worthy changes. It could fail but perhaps in an enlightening way. Smith should get props for being gutsy enough to give it a go. especially since truth is, how many studios would want the film anyway. It’s a ‘unique’ film that isn’t likely to make tons at the box office given the subject matter. This kind of film never does

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