Sundance Diary: Exclusive Q&A with Kevin Smith

115618__smith_lThis is the seventh year I’ve attended the Sundance Film Festival. And one of the things that make coming back so rewarding — aside from the chance that I might once again experience something close to the sheer terror I had watching the first ever screening of The Blair Witch Project — is catching up with all of the Sundance regulars like Kevin Smith.

Of course, Smith made his name and his career at Sundance in 1994 when his profane little black-and-white cheapie Clerks debuted here. Along with Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi, Smith’s debut film became a sort of do-it-yourself blueprint and lottery-ticket talisman to wannabe filmmakers armed with a little talent and even less money. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Smith owes his career to this festival. If it weren’t for Sundance he’d still be selling smokes from behind the counter of a Jersey mini-mart. All the more reason why Smith, who recently completed his sequel to Clerks for benefactor Harvey Weinstein’s new Weinstein Company, should be unveiling his flick here. And yet he’s not.

Smith is in town this year with a documentary he produced called Small Town Gay Bar, a fascinating look at a pair of, you guessed it, gay bars in the Deep South. When I sat down with the artist sometimes known as Silent Bob, I asked him about his debt to Sundance and Clerks 2‘s conspicuous absence

Tell me about what this festival has meant to you.
Look, I came here with a five-buck-an-hour job and I left here with a career in film.

Where would you be without Sundance?
Hopefully at a six-buck-an-hour job. And we were going to come back. [Festival director] Geoff Gilmore said we could bring Clerks 2 here. No problem; we got a slot for you. And we were done, ready to be here. Ready enough. And then Harvey Weinstein, for whatever reason, put the kibosh on it.

addCredit(“Kevin Smith: Rob Loud/WireImage.com”)

Really?
It broke my heart — because, think about the bookend. How poetic it was.

Why did he put the kibosh on it?
He felt like he wanted togo to Cannes instead. Here I was going, ‘We don’t even know if we’regetting into Cannes. Sundance we know we can be in.’ Sundance means alot to me. That’s where my career started. And it’s also my audience.That’s who I preach to. That’s who I write movies for. That’s mymilieu, for lack of a better word. But he felt trying for Cannes wasthe better choice. And I’ll always regret that. And it’s even moreheartbreaking knowing that we’re done and it’s sitting on the shelf. Itwould have been nice. It would have been the sh–, sir.

Well, I guess he writes the checks…
I gotta believe in myheart of hearts he knows what he’s doing. He’s been doing it a lotlonger than I have. But I’ll never understand it for the rest of mylife.

Comments (92 total) Add your comment
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  • Ep Sato

    Two words for Kevin Smith: JERSEY GIRL.
    After he spent so many months defending a movie he clearly made for a paycheck, the man is still unrepentant for making such an “offensive” movie (offensive- defined by EW’s movie critics as a bad movie with a cheesy self congratulatory “message”).
    Hopefully, the man who put New Jersey on the map has returned to his indy roots. However, taking orders from Weinstein seems very anti-indy to me. Could it be that Mr. Anti Establishment himself has sold out to the man? Say it ain’t so!

  • Jesse L.

    Kevin has long stated that he stopped being indie and “sold out” the minute he sold Clerks to Mirimax. Jersey Girl was not written for the paycheck. It was a love letter to his wife, as well as his feelings about being a father.
    Why shouldn’t he “take orders” from Weinstein? The guy put up the money to make his latest flick.
    As far as “returning to his roots,” Kevin’s films have always been films that he would want to see himself. He makes them for himself and his friends. If others like them so much the better.
    That said, rest assured that Clerks 2 isn’t some “offensive” movie like Jersey Girl. The rumor has it that Clerks 2 will most likely go out unrated. Not exactly a big budget studio film move. Kevin has stated that he won’t change his film to make the MPAA or the theaters happy. He is presenting his film the way he wrote and shot it. Not to make money, but to tell a story.

  • Kevin Smith

    <>
    Two words in return, sir “F*ck” and “you”.
    <>
    Sir, say what you will about “Jersey Girl” not being your cup of tea, but insisting I made said flick for a check is just silly. I love that movie. I understand that you don’t, but I did (and do), and making it had little to nothing to do with a paycheck.
    If I wanted a paycheck, I would’ve directed “Green Hornet”.
    <>
    Why am I explaining myself to a person whose lexicon is “defined” by an entertainment magazine?
    Of course I’m not repentant for making a movie that means so much to me. “Jersey Girl” doesn’t mean anything to you; I get it. I don’t share your point of view. I’ll respect your opinion; how about you respect mine by not making assumptions about my character (i.e. “he clearly made for a paycheck”), simply because you didn’t dig on the flick?
    <>
    He did what he’s always done with every flick he’s made: told a story he wanted to tell at that particular moment in time. Maybe you’ll like this one, or maybe in a year or two, you’ll be howling on the ‘net somewhere about how I need to repent for the sin of making a movie you didn’t care for. Either way, the world will still continue to spin.
    <>
    Um… I’ve been doing that for 12 years now. When someone finances your work, they have ultimate control over its exhibition. Keeping control of the content: THAT’S what makes someone “indy”.
    <>
    Technically, I sold out the moment Miramax bought “Clerks”. If I wanted to be truly “indy”, I’d have never sold the flick, and screened it exclusively for my friends, so we could thumb our noses at the distribution system we were far too cool to be a part of. But that would’ve been kind of stupid.
    For over ten years, I’ve worked with Harvey and made flicks that most have described as decidedly “indy”. While taking what you describe as “marching orders”, I’ve made flicks like “Chasing Amy” and “Dogma”. If you consider those flicks as being made by someone who “sold out”, you clearly have a naive view of how movies get made that’s informed solely by reading EW.
    I’ve got no problem with you not liking “Jersey Girl”. My only issue is your wholly incorrect conjecture that I made that movie “for a paycheck”. Feel free to hate on the flick all you want, but don’t spread misinformation about me that can just as easily be fact-checked by a little research (like at, say, http://www.viewaskew.com).
    That being said, I hope you check out (and like) “Clerks II”, and hit me with two new words “Love” and “you”.
    Kevin

  • donaly

    Where’s the rest of the Q&A? There has to be more. If BSing were a martial art, Kevin Smith would have a black belt.

  • Nick

    Wow… Kevin Smith is in the HOUSE. Cool.
    So I can say this to him. The only Kevin Smith film I saw was _Dogma_.
    Terrible. Awful. Unfunny.
    Since you made it for your friends, can I somehow get $7.00 back?

  • Tom Brazelton

    I love that Kevin is in here checking on the comments people are leaving. People like Ep Sato think the internet affords them some anonymity and security. Good for you, Mr. Smith for putting these snipers in their place!

  • Laurie

    Go, Kevin Smith. I really don’t think any director makes a movie just for a paycheck, unless a roman numeral past five appears after the title. And even then work in the entertainment industry can be so sporatic, who would choose that for a carrer unless they really love it. I myself did not see Jersey Girl, only because at the time why pay for a movie starring Ben Affleck and Jennider Lopez when they appeared for free everytime I turned on the TV or went to the grocery store. Love Liv Tyler, love Kevin. PS I sellout everyday when I show up to work on time wearing hose and a skirt and only taking my one hour lunch.

  • Kevin Smith

    <<Wow… Kevin Smith is in the HOUSE. Cool.
    I don't like where this is going…
    <<So I can say this to him. The only Kevin Smith film I saw was _Dogma_.
    Terrible. Awful. Unfunny.
    And yet, EW's own Owen Gleiberman put it in his top ten for 1999. Different strokes, I guess.
    <<Since you made it for your friends, can I somehow get $7.00 back?
    Sh*t… outsmarted by the likes of a Nick. Who do I make the check out to…?
    Wait! Wait! I've got it!
    Nick, I now consider you my friend. Hence, I made the flick for you. Therefore, I no longer owe you $7.00.
    *phew!* That was a close one.

  • Kevin Smith

    -I love that Kevin is in here checking on the comments people are leaving. People like Ep Sato think the internet affords them some anonymity and security. Good for you, Mr. Smith for putting these snipers in their place!
    To be fair, he’s just as anonymous as he was before I posted. But at least I got to correct his inaccurate info.

  • Annette

    Whoa! Kevin Smith hanging out in the forum and clearly not taking any sh*t! That just perked up my afternoon here at work. Now, I’m totally in the mood for Clerks 2. And I too agree that there’s gotta be more to that interview. Where the heck is it. Don’t make me get Oprah on the case.

  • Laurie

    I am doing ‘The Randall’ at my desk at my sellout job. I hope Clerks 2 has new random dance moves. Please Kevin, my friends are tired of ‘The Randall’.

  • Nick

    Well Kev,
    Nice to know you have some semblance of a sense of humor. I just wish’d I could have recognized it when I saw that film (Owen Glieberman notwithstanding…). Our humors aren’t the same, but keep on working on yours; perhaps you might make something of yourself…

  • Kevin Smith

    -Whoa! Kevin Smith hanging out in the forum and clearly not taking any sh*t!
    Let’s not get carried away. I just felt the need to clear up the dude’s inaccuracies. Certainly not here to give anyone any sh*t. I’m a lover, not a fighter.
    I’m also an eater.
    Gotta bolt. If you wanna come chill in my web-house, come on over to…

    http://viewaskew.com/theboard/viewforum.php?f=1

    Or if you just want to check out some more info on “Clerks II”, hit this joint…

    http://www.clerks2.com/

    We’ve got the now-standard web blog on the making of the flick. This short…

    http://clerks2.com/?p=48

    …is about Quentin and Robert Rodriguez watching the flick.
    This one…

    http://clerks2.com/?p=56

    …is about Jason Lee’s day on the set.
    And this one…

    http://clerks2.com/teaser/index.html

    …is the “Clerks II” teaser.
    Enjoy!
    Kevin

  • Hardshell Peppercorn

    I’m glad Mr. Smith doesn’t mind if someone flat out hates Jersey Girl because it sucks ass, because it does (I mostly blame the leads – Affleck, JLO, and Tyler – wooden sh*t factories). But to say the man is in it for the money is utter goat piss. He continues to make movies that HE wants to make and casts the people HE wants to cast – if he was a sellout he woulda made made Cleks 2 the minute he got big, and followed it up with some Sandra Bullock poop/fart rom-com with Jay as some wacky butler who says things like “You’re car is here my lady – Noogins!” He didn’t- he seems like someone who is just happy to make his little flicks. Nothing more.
    And for the record Clerks, Chasing Amy, and Dogma are the balls! Hope Clerks 2 is in the same league.

  • Annette

    Shortening the name to “Kev”. Ouch. Mr. Smith, you got served!

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