Not everyone sees eye-to-eye. You might love something that’s reviled by most others. When we at PoP! feel like that, we make an argument In Defense Of…
What is it about Kevin Smith? Fanboys just love bickering about New Jersey’s favorite son. This isn’t the first time PoP! has been home to a point/counterpoint and I usually find myself in the pro-Smith camp. Apparently it’s that time again. Just last week, our own Ben Gilbert let his grievances known with Kevin Smith’s Red State Tour. Ben’s no fool and made some excellent points about Kev’s newest project, a lot of them about the announcement itself. It WAS more than a little dicky, but I think that was kind of the point.
Nothing about this development is a shock to anyone following him on Twitter or a listener to one of his many podcasts on the Smodcast network. The tweets and conversations over the past few months have absolutely been pointing towards a move to self-distribute. The man’s mindset surrounding this movie is different than any other he’s done, and maybe that’s a byproduct of this being a different kind of movie than he’s ever done. Then again, he’s gone on record as saying he’s no longer just a director or a filmmaker; he’s an entertainer, as the nearly constant touring and hour upon hour of free podcast content can attest to. Now he’s moving into live streaming radio. He’s a showman, and what better show than the one at Sundance to get the word out. Was it a bit misleading? Yes. But the point was made and it sure as Hell got people talking about it.
Filmmaking doesn’t get more independent than this, and for all the crap he caught for “selling out” to Warner Bros., you’d think people would be more supportive. But no. He’s wrong because he’s “exploiting his audience.” Right. That argument is absolute crap. EVERY artists “exploits” their audience. That’s what the audience is there for. “If you build it, they will come” and all that. He’s not doing anything any other artist would do. He knows he’s got a good thing with his installed fanbase and he’s counting on that audience to finance his distribution instead of a studio. I do NOT understand how that’s wrong. If the film’s investors are okay, who are we to pass judgment?
It’s a risky move, to be sure. If the necessary capital isn’t raised, what does that mean for the flick’s theatrical release? It’s an experiment and it may not pay off. I think it will, but the unknown here is pretty fascinating to watch. So far, he claims he hasn’t made a dime off of the movie, and given it’s modest $4 million budget, I believe it. I don’t think this exercise is designed to pad his pockets; it almost can’t be. The ticket prices aren’t high enough and the tour isn’t long enough. This is about the movie, and that’s kind of awesome.
This isn’t the first instance of Smith doing something just for the sake of his art. For four years, he’s been giving away Smodcast for free before spreading out to an entire network of shows (something we know a thing or two about ourselves) and now going live with 10 hours per day of free streaming content to his fans and listeners at SmodcastInternetRadio. Yeah, this guy is a raging asshole for taking advantage of people by asking for money at these Red State screenings, huh? Right. I’m being sarcastic, but in all fairness, ticket prices are a little steep; but he’s being completely up front about what the money is being used for. Plus, how often does the general public get a chance to watch a movie and then immediately engage with the filmmakers live? It can be a once in a lifetime opportunity and again is part of this genuinely interesting experiment in film distribution and promotion.
Am I a fan of Kevin Smith? Absolutely. Does that mean I have to hang on his every word and praise his every move or piece of work? Not at all. The Evil That Men Do and the ending of The Widening Gyre are REALLY not good, in my opinion. This, however, is not some money-hungry villain trying to capitalize on his sucker fans, nor is it an ungrateful filmmaker spitting in the face of his industry. I genuinely feel like Kevin Smith’s only crime is daring to try something new in an industry that is CONSTANTLY coming under fire from insiders and fans alike for always doing the same old thing. I’m just glad I get to watch the experiment unfold and see what’s next. Am I going to see Red State on the road? No, unfortunately. The nearest venue means a four-hour drive each way on a work night. Otherwise, I’d have bought a ticket weeks ago.
The Red State Tour begins tomorrow in New York City. To see if Kev’s rolling through your town, check out CoopersDell.com and be sure to read the Red Statement, a simple mission statement from the Harvey Boys about their vision behind this project.