I had the opportunity last Tuesday to see Kevin Smith's latest film Red State, along with the director himself. I had bought tickets almost a month in advance at the behest of my fiance. I rarely get to travel out of Colorado and it dawned on me this may be my only chance to see live one of the directors who inspired me to make movies.
In 2004 I was attending the University of Northern Colorado as a Theatre student. I had just come off two years with an independent theatre troupe and was looking for something to do.
I had been writing for the stage since college began but what I really wanted to do was make movies. Believe it or not this was a time when moviemaking was still fairly expensive and Youtube was in its infancy. In the summer and winter of 2004, Monty, Steve and I made our first film, The Dance. This is a film I'm sure very few of you have seen, since it has only played once at a local screening. It was during this time I became an admirer of Kevin Smith.
While we were slogging through the editing process, I began watching his films on a regular basis and beyond the sophomoric humor and goofy conventions, I recognized a kindred spirit. I was a blue collar kid from a Western Colorado mining town and suddenly, the idea of someone like me making movies for a living became possible.
And that, I believe, is why Kevin Smith has such a fan base. He's the average joe who made it. Between his films, writings, podcasts and public appearances we have someone we can all relate to. He's kind of a filmmaking older brother. Stephen Spielberg is director royalty and therefore remains unapproachable, but Smith welcomes questions and chats with fans as if they were house guests. I can think of no other filmmaker who would come to Colorado-not for the Telluride Film Festival-to talk about their work.
Which isn't to say I think Smith is a filmmaking genius. He's faltered the last couple of years and while I've enjoyed most of his films, I feel like he's been too comfortable using his usual bag of tricks. Smith's last film, Cop Out, was considered a critical bomb and he's hit many such bumps along his career. Usually we hear him dog himself with regard to these failures in interviews. However, failure is by far the best friend of the artist, as it it forces him/her to try something new. And he has...Red State.
Red State is by far Smith's most artistic and different film. At the Q&A he told the audience that this was a labor of love-it shows. He also mentioned that this is his second to last film. "It's refreshing to actually see the end of your career. I like the idea of bookending it." While I will miss his films, I respect his decision to move into other pursuits. One of which will be to release films under his Smodcast Films banner. He's come full circle, going out the way he came in-a true proponent of indie film.
While I have yet to get a studio deal like Smith-shit I haven't even made a feature yet-I still view him as a bit of a hero. Not for his films necessarily, but for the journey he took. Because of filmmaker's like Kevin Smith, I can continue to move forward with my shitty animations and short films with the idea that it is possible, because someone like him made it possible.