Kevin Smith, director, actor, comedian, will appear in Breckenridge on Sunday, Dec. 18
It doesn’t take much to get Kevin Smith talking about what makes him passionate. And that’s a good thing. Recently, the filmmaker, director, screenwriter, comic writer, actor, etc., took time out of his Colorado touring schedule to talk nerdy with me about movies, super heroes and independent filmmaking, to name a few topics. We didn’t have time to get to everything. Luckily, Smith will similarly entertain a Breckenridge audience this Sunday, Dec. 18, at the Riverwalk Center from 7–10:30 p.m. as an ongoing part of Breck Create’s speaker series. To tide you over until then, here’s a rundown of our conversation.
Success and failure
Those who don’t immediately recognize Kevin Smith’s name may recognize projects he’s created or been a part of. The 1994 movie “Clerks” was Smith’s breakout film. The black-and-white low-budget indie project about a day in the life of a convenience store clerk walked out of the famed Sundance Film Festival with a studio deal and high acclaim for its creator. His next film, “Mallrats” in 1995, was deemed a flop at the box office yet went on to gain popularity and a strong cult following after its release to video, and is the film that Smith says most people talk to him about to this day.
“If you wait long enough, everything finds its audience, everything finds it level,” he said. “Sometimes I make flicks that take a couple years to age, I guess.”
Smith admitted to feelings of failure after both movies — the very first showing of “Clerks” at a New York film festival had only two attendees that weren’t part of the crew. One had negative comments, the other was an industry insider with connections who stirred up enough buzz to get the film to Sundance where it made indie movie history. When “Mallrats” wasn’t an immediate success, Smith says he was “despondent.” But in time, that changed. Each of his projects has met with varied levels of success and criticism from all ends of the spectrum.
“I’m maybe one of the most successful failures of the movie business,” Smith joked.
Then and now, skill and will
Having started as an independent filmmaker in the mid ‘90s, Smith has witnessed what he calls a “radical change” in the business. Advances in technology have made high-quality filming cheap and affordable to many, while the advent of the internet and sites like YouTube and Vimeo have done away with the distribution issues early filmmakers like Smith faced.
“The version of indie film that I entered into doesn’t exist anymore,” Smith said.
His newest movie, “Yoga Hosers,” was just released on Netflix this past week, and already he’s seeing results. While the first round of critics veered toward the negative ends of the spectrum, with the widening of the audience in a streaming capacity, the perspective has changed for the positive.
“Now, getting seen is not the problem,” Smith said, of any filmmaker’s projects. “The problem is there are so many people doing it now.”
“Clerks,” Smith recalled, cost $27,575 to make, with much of that going into renting camera equipment and processing the film, costs that modern filmmakers don’t need to accommodate.
“Everything we did to make ‘Clerks,’ you can literally shoot on your iPhone,” he said. Through new technology, anyone can “live the entire experience of a filmmaker” with everyday products close at hand.
While that doesn’t guarantee a “magic ticket check,” Smith pointed out, it might just be the first step in a lifelong love of creating a film and showing it to others.
In the end, Smith attributes success in the filmmaking industry not only to skill, but will.
“Skill is not the end all — (the) be all, end all. Will can take you as far as skill in many cases,” he said.
A time of superheroes
In addition to filmmaking, Smith has a number of irons in the fire or, as he refers to them, “a thousand spinning plates” constantly at the ready to keep himself busy. Among these are writing comic books, owning a comic book store, recording podcasts and quick TV and YouTube shows, which involve him interviewing people in the industry and discussing all things pop culture, but especially super heroes.
While some may argue that superheroes are oversaturating the current pop culture landscape, Smith disagrees. He likes seeing different writers’ and filmmakers’ takes on his favorite iconic characters.
“The more they make these flicks, the happier I get and I’ve never seen a bad one,” Smith said. “I love watching every one of them. I remember when we didn’t have this, so I’m happy that they all exist.”
He’s even defended his view to the press recently.
“Some journalist asked me before I went into ‘Rogue One,’ they were like don’t you think there’s going to be too much Star Wars? Like, now they’re doing a Star Wars every year is that too much? And I was like, ‘Oh my god are you kidding me?’ Now I’ve got a plan for the rest of my life right up to the grave. I’m going to watch Star Wars every Christmas until I die, a brand new Star Wars adventure. Meanwhile they’ve got like at least six to eight superhero movies coming out every year and stuff. It’s such a fun time to be alive.”
Smith previously worked on a Superman script that never made it to filming, and recently has directed several episodes of television’s “The Flash” and “Supergirl.”
For fans and newcomers alike
Kevin Smith doesn’t quite fit the mold of Breck Create’s previous speaker line-ups of National Geographic adventurers and NPR personalities.
“We cater to a variety of audiences,” said Robb Woulfe, president and CEO of Breckenridge Creative Arts. “Hopefully folks will come out and have a great experience.”
Woulfe said that the organization isn’t interested in presenting only one kind of speaker from one kind of background, but wants to cover a multitude of topics and industries of interest to people in Breckenridge.
“We have a community that supports indie film up here,” Woulfe said. “I think a lot of people are excited for this and it’s a great opportunity to have him get into our community.”
Even those who aren’t familiar with Smith’s works will still enjoy the event, Woulfe said.
“He’s so many things too. He’s a writer, he’s a podcaster, he loves comic books. I think he’s a very well-rounded creative type, and it’s not just one thing,” he said.
“He’s a storyteller himself. You see that in his work, in his films, but I think he’s a great storyteller and that’s what people really respond to,” he added.
The audience for Sunday’s event can expect a one-man show that’s a mix of stories about filmmaking and celebrities, thoughts on pop culture, and question-and-answer sessions.
“There definitely will be a flow to the evening,” Woulfe said, “but it’ll be loose. He’s definitely not on script and will talk with the audience. (It will) kind of feel like you’re in Kevin Smith’s backyard, just chatting with him.”
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