Conversations with Kevin Smith2
by Joel Cunningham
Kevin Smith, the popular director of Clerks, Chasing Amy, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and the upcoming Jersey Girl, has always been nothing if not upfront with his legion of fans. He posts essays outlining his film's production on his website, visits comic book conventions around the country, and has developed his college campus "lecture series" into a cottage industry (but don't let him hear you call them lectures—he thinks he's a random idiot with very little to teach his thronging devotees).
Now, Columbia TriStar is releasing Conversations with Kevin Smith, a three-hour, two-DVD set that collects the best questions and answers from his cross country tours. The chats are an open forum to the fans, and they are able to walk up to the microphone and ask him anything from how he got his start to his sexual history with sidekick Jason Mewes (aka Jay).
You'd think that after all that pontificating, Smith would have run out of things to say. But on the morning of Tuesday, December 10th, in a teleconference with participants from digitallyOBSESSED! and other media outlets, he proved his inability to never stop running at the mouth (not that his fans want him any other way). Over the course of an hour, he revealed his plans for his next film, outlined his participation in the Scary Movie franchise, and relived adolescent torture and nourished the seeds of doubt that fester in the black, dark pit of his soul. A fun time was had by all!
Note: Contains "colorful" language.
Transcript: KEVIN SMITH TELECONFERENCE December 10, 2002 11:00 a.m. CST
C. Reichert: This is Chris with MPRM Public Relations. I just wanted to thank everyone for joining us. I'd now like to introduce filmmaker Kevin Smith and have him tell us a little about how his new DVD, An Evening With Kevin Smith, came about, and then we'll open up the session for individual questions so take it away, Kevin.
Kevin: I've been asked to explain why the DVD came about so we can cut down on that question. The DVD came about because I've been doing a lot of college gigs since roughly '95, and usually about 10 to 12 a year. Mike Stratford over at Columbia Tri-Star, who we'd done the Dogma DVD with, was in attendance at one of them. Afterwards he said have you ever thought about putting these on tape? I said no and he said we'd love to; so he started asking about when I was hitting the next few colleges. I lined up a crew, including the director Jame Kinney. He's the guy who directed the documentaries on the Mallrats and Dogma DVD, although the one on the Dogma DVD got kicked over to the ... DVD, and we were off and running. That's the short version full of ... That's creepy. I wish I could hear everybody. I'm working in a vacuum here.
Q: First of all, I have to mention Osalkie's Fun Market in Monticello, Minnesota. That should ring a bell to you.
K. Smith: Yes that was our dirt mall in Mallrats.
Q: That's right. I live close to there and I've been there quite a few times, so it's wonderful to see that on film. Indeed it is. I have to say some like Mallrats. Again, it starred lesser-known people. I should say lesser known at the time like Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Kevin Smith, I mean not as prominent as you all are today. Do you find that with your status now that people are giving greater weight to the movie?
K. Smith: I don't think people are giving greater weight to the movie, but it's the movie that really found its audience much later on, and it's the one movie that people come up to me and talk about more. It's just probably the one they talk about the most. People will come up and be like, "You did Mallrats. I love Mallrats." I always feel like where were you when the movie came out? Why didn't you love it then? No real weight. Nobody ever says you know what, I've revisited Mallrats since watching Chasing Amy or Dogma. Let me tell you, I can appreciate the subtext you were working at me because there was none.
Q: Certainly it seems like people responding on the Evening with Kevin Smith would say the first movie I saw was Mallrats, so I mean it does mean quite a bit to some people or a lot of people.
K. Smith: It's the one that they caught on video and heard that there were others, like heard there was a prequel of sorts like the black and white Clerks, and then that there was another one that followed Chasing Amy. People kind of got into the notion of the movies being interconnected, but, yes, usually the jump on point for a lot of people, for a lot of kids, especially college kids, was Mallrats.
Q: With these Q&As that you do, I mean obviously they're a lot of fun, a lot of laughter. Do you hope that they somewhat learn from your experiences as a filmmaker or is it mainly ...
K. Smith: Jesus Christ, no. I don't really have any great wisdom to impart. They're always billed as lectures, and I always tell them that I don't know how to lecture except to say don't fuck and smoke, so there's really nothing I can impart. I'm just kind of there to entertain. If they take a kernel of truth away from it and some kind of experience, some kind of education, then that's great, but no, I'm the last guy in the world you want to be taught by.
Q: Affleck, and then Jennifer with Jersey Girl coming up, do you foresee Jennifer becoming a part of the Kevin Smith acting company?
K. Smith: I would be all for it. I mean she was great in this movie, so yes, I'd be all for it.
Q: Obviously when you first started doing filmmaking, DVD was probably not even a factor. So now that your DVDs have become so successful and you've gotten such a reputation for putting together a good DVD product, how has that changed the way you approach a film like Jersey Girl or even thinking about future films?
K. Smith: It doesn't really change the approach to filmmaking, but what it really makes helpful is the editing process because it's always tough to edit the movie. It's always tough to take stuff out because you always start the movie going, that is the whole movie, that scene. I can't lose that moment, and sooner or later that moment has to go.
The nice thing about DVD and how it makes the editing process a little more palatable is you know that it will be seen. Whatever you cut will eventually be seen. If you're so in love with it, it will find its audience, just not in the body of the theatrical release. You just pop it on the cut scenes of the DVD so nothing is wasted. That's always kind of a good feeling. It makes it easier to go in there and be a little more ruthless editorially.
Q: After going through and working on the Superman draft and working on other people's screenplays, do you ever think you'll be in a spot where you'll take somebody else's screenplay and direct it? Or do you feel like your track is, you write, you direct, that's your thing?
K. Smith: I think it's more the latter. I don't know that I could do somebody else's script justice. I'm primarily a writer, and I just happen to direct my own stuff, so I don't know that taking somebody else's script and trying to realize it would be the best idea for me.
The closest I ever came was on Good Will Hunting. At one point they had asked me to direct that, but I loved that script so much I didn't want to fuck it up. I knew that I would constantly be deferring to the writers on the set because that's what I would want a guy who was directing my script to do. To ask me what I was trying to communicate or say or is that delivery accurate? So I knew if I was directing that movie I'd constantly be turning to Ben and Matt and be like is that right? Is that what you guys saw when you wrote it? Rather than do all that, just skip the middleman and not do it at all and just kind of appreciate the film. You know they got Gus, and who's better than Gus?
Q: And the same thing if you're a writer, do you think now that ... has retired do you see acting again or is the Kevin Smith acting career, outside of cameos, now a thing of the past?
K. Smith: Pretty much a thing of the past. I got through this movie successfully without ever appearing in the film, and I was quite happy for it to be that way.
Q: [Related to the release of the Conversations video:] Watching the tape sessions it's pretty clear a lot of the people asking you questions are trying really hard to impress you or they're performing little bits that they've cooked up for the show. With your regular guy roots does some of that attention feel awkward sometimes?
K. Smith: From time to time sure, but you just kind of smile through it, I guess. I mean it's flattering, but it's weird. As a dude who grew up fat I always kind of feel like I'm overcompensating anyway or trying to, for lack of a better description, get over don't feel fucking good enough. So when somebody gets up there and is going out of their way tripping over themselves, making themselves look kind of silly to impress you, it's always kind of awkward. It's like going out with a girl who says that she's attracted to your body and you're like that cannot fucking possibly be. I have to pull up my gut for you to find my dick so I know you're lying. I know it's got to be the personality. So yes, it's a little tough to reconcile sometimes, nice but at the same time yes, it can make you feel a little awkward.
Q: You've always been very open with your fan base doing these tours for years and through your Web sites. Why is it so important for you to engage your audience who'd likely adore you and your movies either way?
K. Smith: You just kind of stated it in the question. They adore me, right? Why not talk to them? Who else am I going to talk to? When I started somebody had pointed me to a Clerks Web site, the one that Ming Chin was our Webmaster on and has been our Webmaster for years, made when he was in college. Somebody said did you ever see the Clerks Web sites on the net, and I didn't even know what the net was. So I went to an Internet café and checked it out. I was flabbergasted because up until that point when I'd see people at Q&As or read reviews in the paper, that was kind of the only feedback I would get on the movie on Clerks and Mallrats. So after Mallrats... somebody hit me to the Internet, and suddenly I was able to go and find people who I could talk to regularly or get their feedback regularly.
I was always into that and that's never really changed. You kind of make these things in a vacuum, and it's nice to know what people will think about them beyond the mainstream press. It's nice to hear what the audience actually has to say about them because you take what the press says with a grain of salt, but the people that are actually buying tickets you tend to lend a bit more credibility to them.
Q: What's the weirdest thing you've been asked while you were on stage, whether it's on the video or not?
K. Smith: I don't know if it's on the video, but somebody asked how did you get to fuck Joey Adams, which I thought was like thanks, man. I mean it was just kind of a twofold cutting question. Of course, it's certainly a little ...
Q: Just right to the heart of all your insecurities.
K. Smith: Exactly. I mean the motherfucker must have had a book at home with everybody across the planet's insecurities listed and then mine was right there. But also I thought it was really unfair for Joey. I mean Joey wasn't even there so it didn't fucking matter, but I thought it was just like what is that, man? Maybe I got to fuck her because we were in a relationship and she liked me and I liked her, and all the normal issues that go along with a relationship. I don't know, but that was the weirdest one.
Q: I stayed up way too late last night watching all of this stuff, and I couldn't help but notice that a lot of people seem to like to dress up as Jay and Silent Bob, as well as even other characters from the universe. I think I saw a guy dressed up like Ethan Suppley or maybe it was actually him, I don't know. It's an obsessive thing, and I'm just wondering if for you at any point that becomes overly disturbing, frightening or conversely can you relate to it?
K. Smith: The first time I saw it I thought it was kind of flattering. I think I saw it at a ... convention first. Then I started seeing it more and more, and then I started wondering if maybe I just had my head up my own ass and really they weren't dressing to look like me. I just kind of look like them. It's not too difficult to cultivate my look ... and wear a beard and sometimes you wear the backwards hat.
The person who kind of brought it to light recently, I'm just kind of used to it. You go places and some people look like Silent Bob. Affleck went to the San Diego ... this summer to promote Daredevil way in advance, and he came back and he was like do you know that there are people that look like you at those shows? I got up to speak and I saw, no lie, easily ten dudes looked like you. There was one who was making eye contact with me and I fucking thought it was you. And I said to him, I see you there and he's like and I thought it was you and this dude was looking at me like what's up? Then I realized it wasn't you. He's going, dude, what is that? My look is much easier to cultivate than yours. It's easy to look like schleps, tough to look like a god.
Q: A lot of the anecdotes that you launch into, many of the most hilarious ones sort of give people a peek behind the Hollywood iron curtain. You name names; you're not afraid to say who's a jerk. I'm just wondering if that's ever come back to bite you in the ass? If you've ever found yourself in a room with somebody that you've dissed publicly or at a cocktail party and suddenly there's Jon Peters or whatever.
K. Smith: The key to that is to never go to cocktail parties.
Q: Business wise then, I mean has there ever been opportunities or anything like that that have been soiled by ...
K. Smith: Business wise it's yet to bite me in the ass, although the wife is constantly warning me against it. She's always like if you keep burning bridges there'll be nobody left to work with. But I burn the bridges of people that I would never want to work with even if I was fucking desperate, and it's like these people could put food on my God damned table, these are people that I wouldn't want to work with ever again; like I've had such a bad experience I don't ever want to back down the road. It's actually a safe place to take shots at people from because, like I said, there's nothing I would ever want to be involved with these people on again.
The only time I was ever in a room with somebody that I spoke about, and it's on the DVD, but it's not in the body of the document feature, whatever. It's not in the body of the program. It's an Easter egg. There's some shit that, as if there's not enough of a dude standing there talking, there's like 16 minutes of Easter eggs of more of a dude standing there talking that I guess just we had no place for in the body in the main program. One of them is somebody addressing the Paul Thomas Anderson thing, which I had said something about Magnolia.
Q: That is in the main body of it. Running into him at the physician's office.
K. Smith: Interesting. Yes, that's in there so that's the closest I came. Saying something about a movie or about a filmmaker, and then when they're running into the dude, and the dude was incredibly gracious and who knows if he even knew us. I know he knows us because I heard from his agent back when I said it, but he never brought it up, never said anything, which I thought was kind of a classy move.
Q: I also just want to let you know that I think that if you have an opportunity somewhere down the road, like if a talk show could be in your future? I think you're really good at putting the anecdotes ...
K. Smith: I don't think I have enough to talk about. I mean that's the thing. I'm so worried that I'm ...
Q: You just filled two full DVDs.
K. Smith: I know, but I'm worried that I'm tapped out now. Like I'm terrified to go speak at the next college because they'll start something. They'll be like you did that on a DVD and I'll be like all right, hold on. Let me come up with something else.
Q: I was wondering if you had any amusing/scary stories about an extreme fan or maybe kind of like a stalker-ish type fan since you do attract the extreme guys?
K. Smith: That's the thing. I don't really have extreme fans or stalker fans. I'm glad, but I've always wondered why not. A, it's because I'm a guy, and guys won't stalk other guys and chicks would never stalk me. But I always figure, and this is how I console myself about the whole lack of stalker, that because I'm kind of as accessible as it gets, there's no need to stalk me; like you don't have to try to get in touch with me. You can just get in touch with me. It's like you can show up at a college or you show up at a comic book show, you can go to my comic book store, the one that I own in Red Bank. You can find me on the Internet. My e-mail address is fairly public. If you wanted to call me or if you wanted to get in touch with me and be like I fucking hate you and everything you do, you can do it. If you want to get in touch with me and be like I love you and everything you do, you could absolutely do it so there's no need to stalk.
Q: Now that you've kind of gone through the films with the Jay ... and are moving on to do other things, and you've got a kid who's getting a little bit older, have you thought about doing some kind of material, perhaps a book, film, cartoon or something for specifically children?
K. Smith: There's this kids book that I've been threatening to do since the kid was born, and my wife is always bugging me to do it. There's this kids' bookstore that we go to in Los Angeles called Storyopolis, which is great. We go in there at least once a week, and every time I go in there I'm like I should write that kids' book and she's gotten tired of hearing it. But hopefully I'll get around to it before Harley is like 22 so that she can appreciate it. C. Stulce: Sure. Now I'd read, and I don't know how much of this is true, that you're involved with the Scary Movie 3 with one of the Zucker Brothers. Is there a truth to that or is this going to be like an Airplane-type spoof?
K. Smith: There is and there isn't truth to that. I mean I guess it's all true, but I think it was overstated a bit. Bob Weinstein called me up when they were putting together their version of Scary Movie 3 because I guess the Wayans' moved on to Revolution Studios to do what is essentially a version of Scary Movie 3 without the title. So Bob still wanted to make another one even without them. He called me up and he said I'd appreciate it if when we have a draft together you take a look at it, maybe add some jokes if you got anything. I said yes, no problem. I said who's writing it, and he said you know we're not sure yet. I said there's this dude I know who's really funny who's a friend of mine named Brian Lynch, and he wrote this Muppet Movie that the ... Company bought. He directed this small movie for us a few years ago called Big Helium Dog, and now he's developing a script over at Warner Bros. called Night Crawlers. I said he's so funny in this kind of humor; it's right up his alley. He does that kind of parity/sketch humor stuff.
So Bob met him and really dug him and put him on the movie, and then called me up and said you know, thanks for introducing me to Brian. As a thanks, would you like an exec producer credit and I said all right, sure because Lynch was involved and I like Lynch, and that means it's going to be funny. Then also David Zucker and Pat Broth were involved and the movie starts sounding better and better.
Then they put out a press release saying I was exec producer and somehow I also became the co-writer, but I'm really not. Like Pat Broth and Brian Lynch and a dude named Craig Mason are doing all the writing right now. Once it's done, I'm reading it and seeing if there's anything that I can add, but like how do you improve upon the guy that did Airplane? You know what I'm saying? Like what joke do I fucking have that's going to be better than any joke that they have there. And Lynch, who I've known for years, is an incredibly funny dude and I know I can't improve on that dude's shit. So I can't anticipate doing much writing myself. If I got a funny idea, if P.C., Jay, and Silent Bob wound up in the movie I can almost guarantee you that came from my pen. But I think I should stay away from it for that reason.
Q: For fans of George Carlin what can we expect from his first big dramatic role in Jersey Girl?
K. Smith: I think people will be really, really surprised because he's kind of the heart of the movie in many ways, and it's a really strong performance. The only resemblance he has that George has to the role is maybe facially. I was incredibly proud of him. I knew he could do it, but, man, he took the ball and just ran with it. He's really, really great in the movie and holds his own opposite Ben, Jen, and Liv. He's really, really strong.
Q: You kind of touched on this briefly before, but do you have any plans to retire some of this material now that the DVD is out and just go on?
K. Smith: I would imagine I would have to. It would be tough to go out there, and it would be like being Frampton and doing Freebird yet again where the audience is like yeah we know dude.
Q: Especially with this kind of crowd. Your audience is kind of ...
K. Smith: Exactly, and I've already run the risk of that. It's never been very bad, but like there are some people that will go see you in more than one venue, and there are definitely people I've seen, like at a comic book show, when I've done like Q&A there who, I guess, have gone to a college gig or read the story; I guess it was printed somewhere. Anytime I tell that Superman story there's always a very small percentage of the audience that rolls their eyes where they're like, yeah, this again. It'd be great. That's what's nice about the DVD is now there's kind of permanent record of it, so I don't know if I have to do it anymore. Maybe that'll cut down on people asking.
The weird thing about the Superman story is that people, I've read like he's still bitching about that Superman story. I said, dud, I am not bitching, but when somebody asks me about it and I try to duck out of the question, and then if I wind up telling the story it's like that's certainly not me bitching. This is something that happened five fucking years ago. But if somebody's curious, I'm more than happy to tell them about it.
Q: That's a great story. Being out in LA now, what do you miss most about being over here in Jersey?
K. Smith: I certainly don't miss the fucking weather you guys have there.
Johnson called me up the other day, and he said it dumped about eight to nine inches of snow, and I was like it's 75 degrees here. So no, I don't miss that. Right now I miss nothing because I just spent five months out there, so I was just very happy to get back home here. But post-Christmas I guarantee you I'll start missing something about the East Coast, although I don't know what it is. I miss hanging out with Walter and Brian that's for sure.
Q: Actually this is kind of a kick from me because I actually went to one of your "lectures" when you were at the College of New Jersey about five years ago.
K. Smith: That's going way back. Do you mean the Rutgers one?
Q: Not the one at Rutgers, the one near Trenton. Actually you signed a film review of mine of Mallrats. I have it framed in my bedroom.
K. Smith: That's too funny. Five years ago?
Q: Yes, five years ago, '97.
K. Smith: How much of the stuff that I did there was on the DVD?
Q: I don't think anything. I haven't seen the DVD myself, but I think you hit like Wyoming and Kent State, but I don't think there's anything from TCNJ, which is a shame because it was hysterical. My brother and I still talk about it.
K. Smith: That's so weird because I mean I'm trying to back in my head and be like what did I talk about five years ago.
Q: Let's see. Jon Peters was the center point of that. You talked about your favorite movies, and I was surprised that A Man For All Seasons was one of them, up there with Star Wars and Jaws, but yes, it was great. It was fantastic, and I'm looking forward to seeing the DVD when it comes my way hopefully.
K. Smith: You'll definitely see some of the same material.
Q: That's no problem.
K. Smith: That Superman story is on there.
Q: I've forgotten all of it so I'm fine. I guess this is a good question to lead into. When you mentioned your favorite movies of all time, it was quite an eclectic mix and Star Wars and Jaws was in there. I was wondering, have you ever thought about doing a big blockbuster movie like a Jaws, like a Daredevil that you're in? Would you like that?
K. Smith: No. Every once in a while, like I remember when they were shooting Daredevil before we went into Jersey Girl. I would visit the set, and I visited the set so fucking frequently that they started to refer to me as the fifth Beatle. And Mark, who was the director, was kind and that's what ... through my endless curiosities about making a very large movie. Every once in a while I would be like, man, I would love to do something like this. This is fun, but it just kind of seems cool in the moment because you weren't involved when all the prep work and all the grunt work that it took to get there.
I just don't think I'm ambitious enough, and I know I'm too lazy to want to go into an action movie. Sometimes you're shooting one two-minute action sequence for a week, two weeks. I like to shoot a few pages a day of dialogue, and it's real tough to kind of go in there, for me, to warrant shooting for two weeks on something that will last two minutes because I'm not the Washofsky brothers. It's not like I'll take two weeks and come up with something brilliant. I'll take two weeks and come up with a standard action two minutes.
Q: But it just seems so natural because you have such a comic books background, and you seem to have a genuine love of those blockbusters. I would pay good money to see Green Arrow or Batman by Kevin Smith.
K. Smith: Read the comics, which are probably far better than the film would be if I was involved. Otherwise, my version of Batman would be like him standing around talking for two weeks and not getting anything done. The Bataranger would never leave the utility belt. It would just be chatting.
Q: I can see that. I guess a ... question to that is, we're talking about blockbusters. A lot of big Hollywood talent, obviously Affleck, Jason Lee, and Matt Damon, all kind of started in your films. Affleck is on the cover of People and Damon is doing the Bourne Identity. Do you ever watch these movies and think these guys were kind of character actors when they started. Now they're big stars. Does that still blow your mind?
K. Smith: Certainly not with Matty because Matty was off and running before I got involved. Matty had done Geronimo and he had already done, what was that movie, The Rainmaker before we even used him in Chasing Amy for that brief scene. But Ben and Jason Lee, yes sometimes I look, but I never feel anything but kind of like proud, like man, I was fucking smart. Like I saw it. I saw it before. I caught it before everyone else did and that's what I get out of it. It's certainly never like what the fuck? Why those guys? I know exactly why those guys and, like I said, it just kind of fucking gives me a boost where I'm like, I'm smart enough to call that from way out. It makes me look good that those dudes became huge.
Q: Obviously, you just finished working with Jennifer Lopez. What was it like working with her because your movies have sort of this, I think it's a compliment, they have kind of this intimate feel. I think of Mallrats and Chasing Amy and there comes J. Lo onto a set. Did she fit in well with everybody?
K. Smith: Totally. I mean the thing is I guess she's kind of J. Lo to the world because of the album, and that's kind of the thing she cultivated. But she's certainly not J. Lo in real life; she's just Jen. At the end of the day she was perfect for the part. She worked incredibly hard, and that's the one thing I really fucking dig about Jen. Aside from like she's really a great actress I think, but she works so hard. She's so committed and so into it. She doesn't fuck around between takes. She's just ready to go with the next take.
Most of the time it was just kind of sitting around with your friend and his girlfriend because they just started dating. I never really thought of her as my gosh, she's pretty huge and famous and a big international star or something like that because we didn't interact on that level. It was more like I need you to be here when you say this and then you turn here. It was kind of more directing, and even the directing was more tweaking than anything else because she came so prepared. We'd rehearsed for like two weeks, so by the time we got to the set there was very little to do, but tweak and sit back and watch them. She worked out really well.
I would definitely admit that in the beginning we had kind of reservations like, man, the cast is really big. It was one thing when we made movies with Ben back before he became famous because he was just a dude, a good actor, a really great actor that I loved working with. Then we were kind of with him while he became big, so you never think of him as a movie star, although that's what he is. You never think about him like that because you were with him when.
With her, you know she comes into the mix as a movie star and I had nothing to do with that. She did that all on her own, and also you hear tons of stuff before she got there. We just heard she's got like a 20-person entourage, and she comes to the set only when she's ready to come to the set. You hear any number of rumors and nothing turns out to be true. I can't impart to you enough that I did not have problem one with her or Ben.
I think the wonderful thing was that they just amused themselves all the time. They were never up in your grill. Never insecure. Never demanding. They would do the scene, and then kind of retire to their trailer because it would be 8:00. What's better than that? They were never sitting there going hurry up. They were never sitting there between takes going this is taking too long. They would just constantly amuse themselves. It was really sweet to watch when they were around. It was nice to be around new love. It's kind of inspiring. She was nothing like the rumors suggested she would be.
Q: We've heard them all I think. It kind of reminds me of when Shannen Doherty was on Mallrats. You heard all the ...
K. Smith: Same thing.
Q: Like she's so difficult to work with, and then I think I read in Entertainment Weekly when the movie came out that she was a complete joy to work with.
K. Smith: Yes, she was great. She was fantastic to work with. It was the same thing. It's like all the rumors you hear and none of them are true. None of them really apply. She didn't even have an entourage. She had one person. She had an assistant, and Ben's got an assistant and I have an assistant. If one assistant is an entourage then I have an entourage. It was none of that. None of that was there.
Q: My question is, you talk a lot about being somebody who is kind of overcompensating for some of your own feelings about yourself. I was wondering if now that you've gotten to a point where you can do a lot of the material you want to do, have your feeling about that changed? Do you feel more secure?
K. Smith: No, because one has nothing to do with the other. One is what you do for a job and the other is who you are, what you look like every fucking day of your life whether you're doing that job or not. It's certainly nice to wake up and be like, wow, I don't have to go to one of these jobs that I can't fucking stand. I want to take my ... and I look like this.
It's nice that I don't have the career woe, but it still doesn't change the fact that when I'm brushing my teeth I have to stare into the mirror and go I've got to do something about this. Why have I never been able to do something about this? Why can't I accomplish this one simple thing? Why can't I weigh what I weighed when I graduated from high school? That doesn't change. It doesn't matter who you work with or the amount of press you get or how well your movies do, at least for me. I still always feel the same way.
Q: One of the things I saw, which was really actually kind of touching about all the people who come to see you at these lectures, was that they seem to be really responding to having those same feeling themselves. Really also responding to your ideas about religion and just life in general, and maybe a lot of the sexual themes in Chasing Amy. Is that comforting to you that you've become, I don't want to say a spokesperson, but at least somebody who's kind of articulating all of those thoughts and ideas and insecurities and worries?
K. Smith: It was the by-product of what the first movie did. When we made Clerks or going even back before we made the movie, when I wrote Clerks, I chiefly wrote it for myself and then my friends secondarily. I wanted to write something that amused me or that I really enjoyed. Something that I never saw represented, like I wanted to see myself up on the screen. You go to a lot of movies and you don't really see yourself. I wanted to see myself represented on the screen with me and my friends, so when we made the flick and then started traveling and doing the festivals, and then when it went theatrical, you start realizing that the movie has this identity factor to it, like what you're saying, people can totally identify with.
It was a movie like I never thought it would really play outside of ... County where we grew up, and then it starts playing outside the state and it starts playing outside the country. You find that no matter where you go, people kind of identify with what you're saying. It was kind of inspiring. It was like okay, then I should always follow through and do what I did the first time, which is write for myself and then there will always be people. They may not be a huge audience, but there will always be an audience of people that understand where you're coming from and feel the same way. So as long as you're kind of true to yourself in a weird way, enough people will follow that you'll get to do it regularly.
I don't know; it's kind of worked out for me. I so appreciate it. I don't take it for granted. It's not one of these things where I'm a fucking guru. People listen to me. I just thank God there are people that identify with what I'm saying. Otherwise, I'd have to go get a real job so it's worked out pretty well.
I don't think it's about saying anything earth shattering either. It's just kind of talking about stuff that not a lot of people talk about, or it's easier to stomach coming from me because I look like these folks. I'm not that different. If you threw me into the audience, I would look like the audience. It's not like, Affleck gets on a stage, it's like that dude belongs in front of a crowd. He looks like the dude who belongs up front. I look like a dude that belongs sitting in the crowd.
I think it's easy to kind of relate to me because it's very easy to make that substitution in your mind where you're sitting in the audience going I could be this guy. All I have to do is fucking apply myself or be as lucky as him.
Q: Your movie is damn funny, laugh out loud funny, but obviously they address some pretty heavy issues. Do you find that the issues that you address, your perception of these issues, like sexuality, like religion, when you're examining the material, making the film, do your perception of things change and do you change up maybe what your original thoughts may have been going into the film?
K. Smith: Not until afterwards. This was a conversation I was just having with my producer, Scott Mosher, recently. Going into Jersey Girl, the big fear was will it be as good to us as Chasing Amy? Chasing Amy was kind of for us the high watermark. Like that was the movie to live up to. Jersey Girl is kind of a spiritual sequel, but it's spiritually related to Chasing Amy, tonally related to Chasing Amy. The tone is very similar. It's dramatic and there's humor in it. There's less humor ... than there was in Chasing Amy. I was particularly, Mosher didn't seem to care as much, but I was terrified that people would be like Chasing Amy had something very important to say or very original to say or very obscure to say that connected with a particular audience. What does this movie really have to say, the one that we're making?
Mosher was just the one who was kind of talking me down off the limb recently where I was talking about how I used to, we went out to lunch recently, and I was talking about how before we made the movie I was so terrified that it would never live up to Chasing Amy. I said and now I just don't give a shit. Now I like this movie better than Chasing Amy, and it doesn't matter that it doesn't have what I thought was in Chasing Amy, an "edge." It doesn't have the pop culture references. It doesn't have the hard-core talk about sex and what not.
Mosher's point was yes, that's the thing. Could you have even written Chasing Amy now if you wanted to? Wasn't Chasing Amy a means to an end? Like when I wrote Chasing Amy it was more of a therapeutic exercise to get past that mindset that the main character finds himself mired in, that kind of hung up on your girlfriend's sexual past mindset.
Once the movie came out and once we were done with it, and people started seeing it, suddenly I didn't feel that way anymore. Making the film would up being very therapeutic, so I couldn't even make Chasing Amy again if I tried or if I wanted to because I'm in a completely different place.
I think it's not so much while you're making the movie your ideas don't change or something like that because the would be dangerous, to go into a movie and suddenly be like wait a second, it's not about that, it's about this. You'd be kind of fucked because these things have to be meticulously planned, so that you're maximizing the amount of what you're shooting compared to what little time you have to do it in. I couldn't really go in there and just start changing up while we were in mid-production.
That would be bad, but what happens is you make the flick and then you grow. I look at Clerks, and of course I can identify with it on some level because I made it, but at the same time I'm like why didn't that dude just get off his ass and go do something? And Chasing Amy was the same thing. I sit there going, dude, who gives a shit? It's better that she has fucking experience. That's a bonus that's not a fucking drawback. Get over it. That comes later. The change kind of comes later.
How your feelings change about what you've done or what you're saying comes later, I hope. God forbid, you're the person that still feels the same way. I would hate it if I was the guy who still had the exact same mindset as both Dante and Randall. It would mean that in nearly ten years I haven't fucking grown an inch.
Q: Maybe you'll have your mindset going into the film, but then again you have the situation now, the suits to contend with. Does that make a difference or do you stand your ground?
K. Smith: I would say that we've played our careers very smartly, Mosher and I, inasmuch as we've elected to always be with people that let us do what we want, which is Miramax, Harvey and Bob. We've never gone in and said we want to do this and they've said no. They've always like gone sure, go ahead. It's not because they're fucking salt to the earth and they love us to death. I think they absolutely do dig us, and I think they're good guys at heard, but I think chiefly that we've made them money. It hasn't been a lot. It's not like it's enough for them to retire on. It's certainly not enough to keep you coming and going for five years. We've never made a Pulp Fiction for them. We've never pulled a Quentin, but every movie we've made for them they've turned a profit on, and some of them they've turned a heady profit on. Every time we come into them they're like go ahead, yes do this. Do what you want.
Based on that, why would we go anyplace else to make a flick? Why would I throw myself into the Jaws of the studio system where, as I've seen working on the Superman flick or listening to how Mark had to deal with the many cooks that he had to deal with on Daredevil, the director, Mark Steven Johnson.
When you're making these movies by committee with the studio and the production company, and in the instance of Daredevil you're also dealing with Marvel brass as well. Three sets of cooks to answer to, to be able to pull together one movie. All of that has nothing to do with the director's particular vision, and in this case he was also the writer. That's just too frustrating. Why would I go there when I could just simply stay where I am and keep doing exactly what I want, never having to deal with the problems that other filmmakers seem to deal with when they go into the studio system.
We made one movie with a studio technically, which was Mallrats, which we did at Universal. In Mallrats I'm not going to say that the first draft was brilliant. Though the first draft was a lot better than what the movie turned out to be. They kind of hammered that first draft out of us in an effort to help it reach the widest possible audience.
I remember the execs saying don't you want to reach the widest possible audience? That's not bad is it? You make something, you want as many people as possible to see it, don't you? I was like yes, I guess that kind of makes sense. So actually if you just change some of these things, and I've never had to deal with that at Miramax. In terms of the suits, I've never really, with the exception of the Mallrats experience, the Superman experience, I've never had to deal with the suits. That's because Harvey and Bob don't wear suits and they don't act like suits. It's easy to relate to a guy that kind of looks like you and has the same taste in movies as you. There's an East Coast sensibility, I think, that works between us and Miramax as well, so I don't know, I've never had that problem. I don't anticipate having that problem because I'll always just stay at Miramax. Rather the devil you know, right?
Q: Apart from the suit troubles with Mallrats, I hope you had a good time in Minnesota. In fact, Mark Steven Johnson is from there too.
K. Smith: He's from Minnesota as well.
Q: That's right.
K. Smith: He is total fucking Minnesota.
Q: You betcha!
K. Smith: He really is. He's such a sweet guy. You breed them well in the Midwest.
Q: I want to know now that Jersey Girl is kind of wrapping up and such, what's up next? Are you pretty much done with it?
K. Smith: We're done shooting. On Sunday we finished our first assembly minus our first cut, whatever you want to call it, minus one scene, which we have to shoot on January 8th, so we're pretty much done. But we'll spend the next two months probably wheedling it down to a fighting weight because right now it's a little on the long side, so I'm not done by any stretch of the imagination. There's still ton's of Jersey Girl left to do.
Q: You haven't really started given thought to what's next or have you?
K. Smith: The next thing? No, not at all. This is the first time in my career where I'm actually finishing a movie and not knowing what's next because normally every time we finished something I was ready to go with the next thing, or at least knew what the next thing was going to be if I hadn't already pitched it or submitted it. But this is the first time I'm kind of sitting here going I don't know. I have no idea what to do next.
Q: Are there things in view ... vaults, either things that you've produced or things that are out there that haven't hit DVD that you're going to look at putting on DVD?
K. Smith: Yes. We've got to get Brian Lynch's movie, Big Helium Dog, on DVD because right now we've got three of the flicks out on DVD. We've got Vinny's movie, A Better Place, Malcolm's movie, Drawing Flies, and Brian Johnson's movie, Vulgar, are all out on DVD. The only ones not out on DVD that we made of the smaller movies was Brian Lynch's Big Helium Dog, which is really funny, but I think we'll get around to doing that this year.
Also, I know we're going to do a Clerks tenth anniversary DVD, re-mastering it so that we're kind of going off the negative. It's not going to look as grainy, which will be weird because I think most people are used to seeing Clerks look grainy, and suddenly we're going to be presenting them with a version where all that grain doesn't really exist because we wouldn't be going off the blowup; we'd be going right off the 16mm negative.
Q: Have you thought at all about doing anymore animated stuff or did the Clerks animated ... carry you ...
K. Smith: I know I've got that as well. We've got the Clerks cartoon, which I'll be writing next, but I've been writing that for a little while and then I just kind of put it to the side while I was working on Jersey Girl, but yes, there's a Clerks cartoon movie that we're going to be doing.
Q: The final question is are you blown away that movie Poop Shoot.com is actually now a real Web site with ...
K. Smith: I dig that so much. It just occurred to me one day. I get up in the mornings and I hit the Internet and I read a bunch of different sites for a bunch of different information. I said we can put it all under one roof and then I wouldn't have to go to all those sites. I could just go to one site and that would be mine. We already have Movie Poop Shoot, let's put it together.
I contacted the editor, the guy who runs the site, Chris Ryall, and pitched him on it and said would you like to do this? Would you like to pull it all together? I mean we got the name and there's kind of awareness for it. The name sometimes works against us because it's tough to, like I don't even know if Movie Poop Shoot would get on this teleconference call because of the name. This I find so fucking deplorable. There are studios like Warner Brothers who won't let our journalists be on the screening list because they represent a site called Movie Poop Shoot because the term "poop" is in the title of our Web site.
Q: I think sometimes people don't get on the list because they have a dot-com in their title.
K. Smith: That too. Not for nothing, I'm too ... but this dot-com has a dude behind it where it's like, look I work in your stupid fucking business. Let my guy in. It's not your studio business; it's the studio's stupid business. There's dead silence. The dude's like fuck you, your business is stupid.
The studio side of the equation, I recently had to call and intercede with a studio that I'd worked with before on behalf of one of our journalists going why are you cock blocking this dude? He just wants to cover your movie and give you press. And they're like the title of the Web site is kind of. I said fuck the title, man. What are you, fucking nine? You've got a problem with the term "poop?" In this instance it's like a double entendre term, you know, the poop, the inside, the skinny. Poop Shoot granted, a little funny, but still.
It's fantastic having the site. Sometimes it's an uphill battle with the title, but the guy who runs the site is a fucking whiz and has committed so much time to it and made it really what it is. He deserves all the credit. I was just the idea guy.
Q: There's a guy who does our theatrical column on our site and he's like yeah, I'm doing a book thing over at Movie Poop Shoot and I'm like, wait a second, they have stuff? It's not just Kevin Smith and ... Bob ... site anymore?
K. Smith: We had to take down the message boards because after a while it got ridiculous because people were incensed that there were actual columns; that it wasn't just kind of a joke because originally we had Movie Poop Shoot up to promote Jay and Bob. It kind of looked like it does in the movie, and functioned as it did in the movie, and we made up fake content for it, but when we decided to take Movie Poop Shoot into this different area to make it a viable entertainment news Web site for the people that were kind of way into James ... Bob ... were disappointed or pissed off when they got to the site and found out that it wasn't just about the movie; that we were actually trying to accomplish something with it.
So we took the message boards down because it just got to be too much with people just getting up there being like all you mother fuckers are going to pay. You were the ones who are the ball breakers. I guess we'll eventually go back to the message boards once everything kind of calms down and some people understand like, hey man, it's a news Web site. We're using the title, but it's not for making Jay and Bob ...
Q: You'll have to put a column up that says the stuff in Jay and Silent Bob is satire. It's not how we feel about the Internet.
K. Smith: Exactly. Some people don't get that.