by: Chris Eaton
Smith says good bye and fuck you!
So. Red State. Kevin Smith’s long talked-about film. His first foray into the horror genre. Well, after much anticipation, it debuted last night at Sundance. Kevin had been going on for weeks now on both Twitter and on his various podcasts (Red State, Smodcast, and Hollywood Babble On hosted by Ralph Garman and Smith) that his plans were to not screen the film for critics and have one big premier for the general public at the festival. After the premiere, he would hold a public auction of sorts for a company to purchase the film (which was made independently) for distribution. Already this tactic was a bit unorthodox. But why not? Crazier things have happened.
It appears that Smith had other plans.
Red State screened as planned. So far with mixed reviews. Some people are hailing it Smith’s best work to date, while others are mulling over how disappointing it is and have begun to condemn it. That’s just the screening part. The post-screening festivities turned out to be a bigger deal that the premier of the movie itself. There was something bigger. News that would reshape Smith’s career.
The big news is that the auction turned out to be a huge swerve, one that would make Vince McMahon blush. Post-screening, Smith brought up producer John Gordon to sell the film. When Gordon put out the first offer, in a room full of executives from many, many studios waiting to buy Red State, a film many had passed on in the script stage. Smith threw out twenty bucks for the first bid and Gordon sold it to Smith. It was here that Smith’s grand scheme was brought to light. Smith is saying FUCK YOU to the system – the system of Hollywood. The system of critics. Smith will be taking the film on a tour starting in March, (dates found here) where he hopes to recover roughly half the cost of the film. He will then distribute the film in October through his newly formed Smodcast pictures, and dealing with the theaters first hand, instead of going through the usual routes of the studios. The press release explains it all:
The Harvey Boys have witnessed first hand the vagaries of “studio math” – the byzantine numbers game that sees an uneducated media and public celebrating “huge” openings at the box office while ignoring the obscene marketing costs attached to reach those figures. We believe it’s a pyrrhic victory to simply “buy” an opening weekend by pouring millions of dollars into TV spots, billboards and print ads. As storytellers, why not instead use our creative abilities that resulted in a film in the first place to also creatively SELL that film directly to our public? We believe the state of film marketing has become ridiculously expensive and exclusionary to the average filmmaker longing simply to tell their story. When the costs of marketing and releasing a movie are four times that film’s budget, it’s apparent the traditional distribution mechanism is woefully out of touch with not only the current global economy, but also the age of social media.
Therefore, The Harvey Boys will not spend a dime on old world media buys (such as TV/Print/Outdoor) as we self-distribute our film, Red State, in an admittedly unconventional, yet extremely cost effective, word of mouth/viral campaign.
Knowledge is power, and we believe in empowering the filmmaker – so the Harvey Boys vow to make the financials of Red State open and transparent from which anybody hoping to follow suit can learn. We will do what no studio has dared: open up our books for the world to see so anyone interested in pursuing a similar independent release strategy has a better understanding of the BUSINESS of Red State.
And if we’re successful – or even merely effective – at producing a film distribution apparatus that can stand apart from the cost-prohibitive studio model currently viewed as the only way to get a movie into a theater? It is our intent to use the groundwork we lay with Red State to aid other filmmakers in releasing THEIR films, via our newly launched SModcast Pictures.
Don’t hate the studio; BECOME the studio. Anybody can make a movie; what we aim to prove is anyone can release a movie as well.
The Harvey Boys
Jon Gordon & Kevin Smith
The Harvey Boys being a reference to Harvey Weinstein, head of the Weinstein Company, and former head of Miramax, who bought Clerks and gave Smith his break in filmmaking.
That’s not all. The other big news is that, besides telling both the critics and the studios to go fuck themselves, Smith announced that Hit Somebody, his next film, will be his last. Hit Somebody, a period piece hockey film based on a Warren Zevon song, will star almost the entire cast of Red State. So far, that includes Michael Parks, John Goodman, Ralph Garman, Nicholas Braun and Kyle Gallner. Hit Somebody, SHOCKINGLY, will be distributed in the same manner as Red State.
All of this is a lot at once. It’s bold and it’s something new. It’s also rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. There are more than a few critics who are swearing off Smith’s work tonight after this “stunt”. The carnival that was put on appalled many. There has been a considerable amount of bashing as well. None of this is new to Smith, who has been a giant whipping boy on the net for the last few years.
After Zack And Miri essentially failed to deliver financially, Smith has started focusing more on his podcast. When Cop Out drew considerable backlash and unmitigated hate towards the man, he focused more on writing comics and touring his Q&A sessions. Around the same time, there was the Southwest incident where he was kicked off a plane for being too heavy – though the ruckus caused by that incident is as much on Smith’s shoulders as it was the media’s. Out of that incident, he expanded his podcast to a full network, akin to Adam Carolla, and took it on the road. Currently on his SModcast network, Smith has five podcasts that he either hosts or is a part of, with several other podcasts that are hosted by his friends and colleagues. He has also opened his own podcast theater in LA to run most of these shows in front of a small intimate crowd. Again, to an astounding success. Two of these shows grew so popular that venues had to be changed. Currently, Hollywood Babble On, hosted by Ralph Garman & Smith and Jay and Silent Bob Get Old, with Jason Mewes & Smith, run weekly shows at the John Lovitz Theater at Universal Studios. All of these show that the man still has the passion for performing. So his “retirement” isn’t him backing out of the public, but more of Smith finding something that he enjoys doing more. The podcasts – where he’s free to speak his mind and have fun, and make a dime at what he’s naturally good at. Talking.
You know what. I’m glad. I’m glad that he’s taking the bull by the horns and doing what he wants. We live in a country that is supposedly full of opportunity and you can make what you want of yourself. Yet, we live in an age where you can’t reshingle your roof with out getting the permission of five hundred retards in suits. He’s had enough of playing ball with the people he’s been fucked by and he’s doing something about it. It’s the American spirit. It’s punk rock. It’s ballsy and risky, the two things that once made this country great!
I also get his denouncing of the critics (mostly online). Why? Because the online film community has become an ugly beast; one that’s full of rape and AIDS. Ten years ago, when sites like Ain’t it Cool were starting to reach their apex, there wasn’t as much scorn and bile being spewed. Sure, there was nameless bashing from the comfort of the computer chair, but back then, it was merely a shadow of what it is today. Smith has been very open online. He’s one of the first filmmakers to really embrace the Internet. He has the fan base he does today by being reachable on his forums via his website. His films were comedies that spoke to people, and they were able to speak back. Again, that was over ten years ago. Today, we have people writing online that were in grade school when Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back came out, calling Smith a cock juggling hack who has no business being a filmmaker or even having an online presence. The only person I can compare the verbal corn holing that has been given to Smith is George Lucas. People who claim that they know good film when they see it, but do nothing but bitch and complain at every little thing that gets released. An opinion is an opinion, and like the old saying goes, they’re like assholes. Everyone has one. But there comes a point when one’s opinion stops being critical and starts being hateful.
I’ve grown up loving movies. Every kind under the rainbow. From Godzilla to Frank Capra and everything in between. That’s the main reason I started working on this site with my friend and editor. Like every online blogger, I wanted my voice to be heard. Sure, I’ve gone out of my way to call a film shit when it’s deserved it. The Last Airbender comes to mind, but when I’m reading about how just mediocre films, films that aren’t really that bad, like Prince of Persia, are being compared to to the works of Uwe Boll or the guys who make “parody” films like Disaster Movie, I question the “journalistic integrity” of this community. I’ve listened to critics bitch about 3D, how films are plain shit because they’re “unoriginal”, how it’s a waste of money – when in reality most sites get invited to press screenings and don’t pay a dime. (We here at the RealmCast don’t. We’ve paid for every theatrical film we’ve reviewed.) I want to bash my head against my keyboard. There’s no reason to put that much energy into being that spite filled. It’s the same on the other end of the spectrum. I’ve heard nothing but smoke blown up the asses for roughly the same eight to ten filmmakers and their movies for a while now. Granted, many of them deserve the kudos they get, but there are times when they clearly do not deserve it. (I’m sick of hearing people praise The Social Network for being a bold, smart film. It’s a decent film with a lot of talking by a group of assholes.) The community has felt it’s acquired the right to be judge jury and executioner of taste. What’s good and what’s bad. Frankly, it sickens me.
That’s why I’m all for Kevin Smith and his new system. Yes, there are some distinct flaws in the idea of self distribution. Clearly someone like Kevin Smith, who has a built following, is going to do well with a business model like this, while many of those other films playing at Sundance (say, Hobo With A Shotgun) probably wouldn’t stand a chance. There are currently many detractors to this idea. That this will not work, theaters ain’t going to make money. Guess what? They already aren’t under the current practice.
Working for an independent theater for six years taught me a lot of the studio/theater relationship. I can only compare it to a pimp and prostitute relationship. The Studio puts the Theater to work to earn. The Theater comes back with the money after blowing the John, and possibly giving him herpes (in this case, the movie goer). The Studio takes half the money and bitch slaps the Theater and tells it to get back to work. When you read about a film doing thirty million dollars on it’s opening weekend, the theaters get roughly 30 to 40% of that. Take that $10 dollar ticket. The theater gets four, the studio gets six. Why do you think concessions are so goddamned much? That’s the life blood of those theaters. That $8 popcorn makes up the difference. Then there’s the middle men involved. The brokers that deal between the studios and theaters and their fees. Not only that, but the insane amount money that goes into marketing. One of the reasons that Tron Legacy isn’t considered a success is that it reportedly had nearly $100 million sunk into marketing. That’s beside it’s $170 million budget. A film has to at least make double its money to be considered profitable. Take $270,ooo,oo0.00 and multiply that by 2. There you go.
Basically, the system is flawed as it is. Yet, like alternative fuels, no one has really thought of a way to do it better. In an area were people are heralding change, one man tries something different, and gets shit for it. Just, fuck you. I’ve been hearing about On Demand and the doing away of physical media for a few years now. Many people are on board with this. I’m calling it a bad idea, as it’s still going to be the same people in charge. Who do you think gets to control the price, and when you get to see said media? Still think your 60 inch LED TV and surround sound is great in your 10×10 living room compared to a movie theater? It isn’t. You can tell yourself that, but you’d just be telling yourself a lie. People are still going to go out out on a Saturday night and take in a film with a group of other people. It’s something that’s been happening for over a hundred years now. DVDs might disappear one day, but there will still be people who want to have something that they can show for their money. Not just a file on a hard drive somewhere. That still doesn’t mean we have to let one group dictate the cost of our entertainment.
We’re entering an age when a big budget film can be done with a $500 digital camera and a few hundred dollars worth of software on a home computer. 2010 alone saw two such films. Monsters and Skyline. Say what you will about the quality of the films, they were bold statements that the days of the studios forking out millions of dollars for blockbusters, and controlling what gets made, are starting die. Smith went out, scrambled together $4 million from private investors, and made the movie he wanted to make. He’s generated buzz online that many other sites, like this one, have passed on to their readers. We’ve essentially given the man free advertising, like we do with all the films we cover. The curiosity is out there now. People will pay to see his film. First on the tour, then the theatrical run, finally, on whatever home video release he plans for it. I have no doubt in my mind that Smith will not only break even, but will turn a profit. Even if it’s a small one.
Kevin Smith has pissed off a lot of people today. I say good. In this era of self gratification and ego, he’s fought back and took a few people down a peg or two. While I am sad to hear that he will be retiring from making movies after Hit Somebody, I’m glad that he’ll be putting more effort into his podcast network. Another form of media, one that’s starting to overtake radio, and anyone can do it – hell, check out our podcast if you don’t believe me. Sure Smith can be vocal, and admittedly, deserves some of the criticism he’s gotten over the years, but seeing him get cooked like a holiday bird over the last few years by people who think that their shit doesn’t stink has been tough. I salute Kevin Smith, and his giant middle finger that’s he’s given the system in an almost punk rock way. I eagerly await October to see what he’s promised all of us.