It’s going on almost two weeks since Kevin Smith took his new movie RED STATE to the Sundance Film Festival to a room full of eager fans and distributors. Immediately following the screening Smith began stating his distaste for the Hollywood release system and the tendency to overspend to release and advertise movies. This is all old news by now, what has been consistent since then is the amount of people chastising Smith for what he is doing. It ranges from people calling Smith ignorant for his remarks about the business to plain old personal insults about his weight and attire. It never fails to make me sick the amount of people that lower themselves to the point of personal insults when judging someone’s decisions and work, especially when these people doing the insults want to appear that they are professional. Once you start hitting below the belt about things that don’t have anything to do with the work, professionalism goes out the window.
Since the infamous January 23rd screening I’ve read and listened to many thoughts about RED STATE and nearly all of them fail to adequately separate their personal bias against Smith with constructive criticisms about the film. I listened to someone give specific details about the way Smith looked on stage in his traditional hockey jersey and long shorts and then talk about how much they didn’t like the movie. Once you’ve taken the time to critique someone’s personal appearance before your thoughts on a movie, your opinion on the movie is no longer relevant. One could argue how someone’s dress code is relevant to the conversation at all. Almost everything released so far in regards to reviews and coverage on Smith’s announcement of self distribution and The Red State U.S.A. Tour are slanted due to opinions that can’t seem to separate themselves from Smith’s negative remarks about movie critics and the way in which he made the announcement at Sundance.
Having listened to Smith on every podcast on his podcast network (Plus One, Hollywood Babble-On, Jay & Silent Bob Get Old, Smodcast, Red State of the Union etc.), it’s pretty obvious that he’s worked out the numbers long ago. In fact, he’s mentioned several times on recent podcasts that he’s been talking this out since the fourth day of shooting. Smith’s announcement at Sundance to some seemed mean spirited and many have accused him of luring business execs to the screening just so he could give them the finger. To me his delivery might have seemed heavy handed, but he did it in an entertaining way that even if I was there looking to buy the film it would have been hard to be that mad. Kevin Smith is a showman; he is a gifted speaker and his speech hinted at a filmmaker who has been beat down by the Hollywood system over the years and has decided that it’s his turn to do things his way, and I couldn’t agree with him more.
Full disclosure, I am a huge Kevin Smith fan; I listen to all the Smodcast Network podcasts, I’ve seen almost every movie he’s directed and I can even recall a guest appearance he made on the TV show, Yes Dear. I don’t want it to seem that because I’m a fan that I’m predisposed to like and agree with everything Smith does, because I also was not a huge fan of COP OUT, but I didn’t hate it. I find Smith to be a brilliant comedic mind and a very talented writer. There are few people I can listen to talk for hours at a time without getting bored and eventually tired of altogether, so that animosity toward movie critics and any other antics Smith is up to that people are in an uproar about do not apply to me.
I’ve had a chance to listen to Smith talk about why he’s doing what he’s doing and write about why he’s doing what he’s doing on his new blog about the business of RED STATE at The Red Statements. Kevin Smith has never struck me as a dumb person and listening to his reasoning about the situation it’s hard to disagree with anything he says. At this point in his career Smith knows he doesn’t owe anyone anything, except the $4 million given to him for the movie by investors and between the Tour and selling distribution rights overseas in the foreign territories, that’s exactly what he’s going to do. He knows that all signs point to pure profit once the movie opens on October 19th and he has no plans to spend a dime to advertise outside his Twitter followers and fans that will go see whatever he makes. The handling of RED STATE is being done out of pure passion for the movie that he doesn’t want to see go down in flames when a studio immediately pumps millions upon millions of dollars just to advertise to people that wouldn’t see the film anyway. Doing things this way he at least guarantees the people that actually want to see it will see it and anything beyond that is a bonus, including any audience it finds on DVD.
I was excited for the film pre-Sundance, I was excited for the film before its initial screening and I’m excited about the film post Sundance and I wasn’t even present for the event. I wrestled with the decision to buy tickets to one of tour dates, but it was a decision that I didn’t wrestle with for long. I will be in attendance on the March 12th screening in Kansas City, which has the making of an interesting experience as it strays very near the Westboro Baptist Church home turf, who traveled all the way to Sundance to protest the film. I plan on returning just to talk about the Red State U.S.A. Tour experience and the film itself. The tickets were a justifiable purchase just to listen to Kevin Smith talk live, and my most optimistic outlook would be to be able to have a chat with Smith himself.
In the end it’s become sad that the majority of the talk coming out of Sundance is all personal attacks either aimed at his appearance or his business decision, rather than the merits of his new film. Critics have all said that RED STATE is different from anything he’s done but because of their bias against him they carry over their negative thoughts to the film itself. I’m always ready to accept negative criticism to a movie but not when it’s made purely out of spite. As the years have gone by Smith has become a filmmaker who is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. He’s bound to be chastised if he makes the same movies he’s been making for nearly two decades and because of the reputation he’s gained over that same time span he’s chastised for trying to do something different. I honestly feel that the reputation he’s garnered amongst haters is completely undeserved. I am able to separate the person from the director due to the amount of time I’ve spent listening to him speak and he’s never been a stickler for divulging details of his personal life. I admire Kevin Smith for the passion to his craft and just his ability to put personal, yet public struggles behind him (ahem Southwest Airlines). I look forward to the opportunity to see RED STATE in the coming months and hear a gifted speaker do what he does best. I can only hope that once the film hits its audience that what he’s done doesn’t hit the deaf ears its hit so far and that it shakes up the way movie releases are currently handled.