Independent Film Week
Sunday, September 14, 2008
FIT – Haft Auditorium – New York, NY
Filmmaker Kevin Smith, whose new film Zack and Miri Make a Porno opens in theaters this Halloween, came to the Independent Filmmaker Conference to talk about his new film, his career, his upcoming politically-driven film Red State, and to shoot the shit with the audience during a fun and F-bomb-filled Q&A. It was 15 years ago that his debut independent feature Clerks was shown at the IFFM, or what’s currently called Independent Film Week. Below are selected highlights from the Q&A. (This Q&A is rated NC-17 by The Film Panel Notetaker Association of America.)
Audience Question: Can you talk about Zach and Miri?
Smith: I said raise your fucking hand! Some people seem to think it’s funny. I was trying to make an insightful exploration of the Holocaust. It turned into this other fucking thing. There’s this whole other thing about it turning from an NC-17 to an R rating. I’m kind of nervous about that. I remember last time with Clerks when it got an NC-17. Miramax hired Alan Dershowitz to defend the film. We did get the NC-17, but it’s not censorship. I’m kind of hoping this time it would be a little quiet. Sure enough, people on the Internet said, it’s a publicity grab. It’s so not. That’s the last thing we want. We just screened at Toronto. It went really well for us. We got some really great reviews.
Audience Question: After making Clerks, you made Mallrats? Did you have any problems going from independent work going to a studio?
Smith: I made one independent film in my life and that was Clerks. Mallrats was made by Universal through Gramercy. Chasing Amy was made for $250, 000 with Harvey’s (Weinstein) money. Every other flick was financed by a studio. Harvey’s pretty much paid for every movie accept for Mallrats. Mallrats was made for $6M and grossed $2M, and I felt shitty after that. I lost someone $4M. The next one I’m going to do, Red State…it’s the first time in 15 years I have to look for money. Every time someone says ‘no,’ maybe I’m on the right track here.
Audience Question: What got you thinking about making Red State?
Smith: I’m not a political person by nature. I don’t go out and campaign for the candidates. I’m the dick and fart joke movie guy. Basically, I’m thinking about the climate of the country right now. It’s fucked up, there’s no one to root for in the movie. It’s a series of horrible, bad, selfish immoral students paid by a bunch of unlikable characters. Wouldn’t you pay to see that? It’s weird. It’s not a movie that should be made, but I got to do it.
Audience Question: How important are film festivals, for example with Red State?
Smith: Red State is totally a festival film. Geoff Gilmore introduced us at Sundance in ’94. It’s the film festival story that people love to read…about a fucking guy from Jersey who works at a convenience store who made a movie. It kind of worked out for us. Film festivals hold a place in my heart, because without them, I would not be standing here talking to you. I’d still be working at that fucking convenience store.
Audience Question: There’s been a lot of changes going on in the independent film industry such as the closing down of specialty divisions. Do you care about those changes? Does it affect you?
Smith: No, I don’t think so. Obviously I was affected when Harvey and Bob left Miramax and created the Weinstein Company. Do I stay or do I go? I felt like they gave me my break. The closing down of specialty divisions, it’s kind of sad more than anything else. I’ve seen that happen so often. Now I’m kind of used to it. I think everything goes cyclical. In 10-15 years, a bunch of specialty divisions will open up again because somebody else is going to make a movie that makes $100 million and it looks like shit, and it will be viable again and open up a bunch of places.