Kevin Smith turned the Television Critics Association into one of his usual Q&As when he did his panel for the AMC reality series Comic Book Men. I asked him a question about how he found the TV industry which led to a long anecdote which culminated in Smith mimicking splooging over his AMC development deal. I would reproduce that here, but then after the panel I found Smith in the hallway and got a full one on one with him. So this became more of a film interview, with some big news about a new Jay and Silent Bob movie, but props to AMC and Comic Book Men for bringing Smith to the TCA.
CraveOnline: Was the Red State experiment a success?
Kevin Smith: It really helped build what followed. We learned how to take a movie on the road and I learned what I would do differently next time. Next time, I don’t know why we thought to go to big theaters. We should just have gone to mom and pop shops and to brew and views and sh*t like that and just doubled up. Instead of doing one city, one show, big room, just sell as many shows as possible. So the sh*t that we learned on the Red State tour, we did well with it but the sh*t I learned, it reminded me of I talked to Quentin once about Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 which I absolutely love, and he goes, “You know what, man? Now I feel like I gotta make one more chopsocky movie.” I said, “Why?” He goes, “Because I just learned how to do it. Like just as I was finished, now I’ve mastered it. I know how to do it so it would be nice to put that to use and try it.” That’s kind of what that whole Red State thing was. We learned something and then you feel like you want to put it to use. So I know there’s this tour that we want to do at the end of this year with another movie, not with Hit Somebody, with something else. F*** it. We’ve got this Jay and Silent Bob cartoon. It’s almost done. We’ve been quietly working on it.
You sure slipped that one under the radar.
We just never told anybody but it’s a cartoon movie that ends with live action, so we finally get back in the outfits. So we were like, “Oh, we can set it up somewhere.” And then we were like, “Why would we set it up anyplace? We know exactly who wants to see this movie. Let’s just go out to them ourselves and everything we learned on the Red State tour we can now perfect on this.” So the latter half of this year, man, after Hit Somebody, the idea is we’re going to take this Jay and Bob cartoon movie on tour like we did with Red State. I don’t know, you’ve got to make it fun for yourself otherwise you can’t make it fun for anybody else and it’s just so f***in’ boring watching it happen one more time the same old way with spending money. Sometimes figuring out a more creative way at it energizes you, energizes the audience that’s going to go see it as well.
Is the cartoon what was going to be the Clerks cartoon movie?
No, we didn’t pursue that because for a while the Weinstein/Disney divorce, Disney kept the cartoon and they didn’t want to do any business with Harvey and Bob. Now that it’s been sold, the new Miramax was like, “Hey, do you want to do a Clerks cartoon again?” We were like, “Oh sh*t, yes.” So we’re trying to see if we can make that work, but in the meantime with our boy Stark, he does the Smodimations on our website. We started putting this movie together, wrote a script and started recording voices and it’s a pretty cool cast of characters, man. It’s like a bunch of podcaster voices, a bunch of famous f***in’ people. It’s fun. It’s been fun and we do it by ourselves, there’s no rush. It’s just like, “Hey, a new chunk’s done, let’s check it out.” I don’t know, it’s way less corporate and way more organic and because of the tour that we did with Red State, it just suddenly became obvious that like oh sh*t, let’s just take what we learned there and do that with the Jay and Bob tour. Red State, all that money went to the investors and sh*t, to the pot to recoup. So I didn’t keep any of that money.
Is this a sequel to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back?
No. It’s a little more fanciful because it’s a cartoon so we get away [with it]. It’s a lot of superhero stuff and whatnot but it’s pretty f*ckin’ funny. The best sh*t lately is the sh*t that I’m not really involved with. Like this show, I let everyone else shape it, like Original [Media] and AMC and the boys and it’s wonderful. The cartoon movie was a side project that Mewes started. This is the crazy thing. Mewes was like, this is when we first started the Jay and Bob Get Old podcast. He’d just been clean for a couple months at this point and he’s just like, “I got somebody who wants to invest money. I want to do a project.” I said, “What do you mean?” He’s like, “They want to make a movie and I want to do something. Do you have anything?” I said, “Well, I’ve got this thing. Do you want to do this?” He goes, “Yeah, that’d be fun, can I do this?” I was like, “Yeah, do you think you could get this made?” He said, “Yeah,” and I was like, “Well, you and Jordan take it, kick it around, see what you can do, let me know how it goes, but I won’t charge you for it. You’ve got a free script.”
Six months later they f*ckin’ handed me a chunk of footage, dude, that literally made me laugh out loud. I’m not saying I’m the toughest critic on the planet but when you make funny for a living, it’s tough to find other sh*t funny. Like you’ve got to hit Ricky Gervais before you start f*ckin’ belly laughing yourself. But this f*ckin’ piece of film they put together, you know it’s animation, it was f*ckin’ funny. I was like, “This is quality, man. This will f*ckin’ work. This could play. You could put this on a movie theater screen.” And then we started talking about, “Wait a second, we learned everything we need to know with Red State, man. So treat it like we were a music act.” That’s the way we kind of go about it at Smodco is you look at the music business and you kind of ape that. If we were a music act, we would go out once a year with a f*ckin’ big old tour. So all that wasn’t the aim of Red State. Suddenly it was like oh sh*t, that opened up the door to do this. So suddenly it’s like let’s tour with this and instead of giving the money to investors this time, we get to keep it all. It’s all ours. It was insanely inexpensive to produce as well so we’ll be in profit after the first f*ckin’ screening/Q&A. And it’s always fun to go out there. I got so spoiled by the Red State tour there was a period where I was like, “I’ll never let this movie play somewhere that I’m not” because I liked being in the room with it.
You originally planned to go for a normal theatrical release after the road show. Did you change your mind on that?
Well, that was part of it. The other part of it was the theaters didn’t want to work with us after we did our VOD deal.
How does Magnet do it then? They have VOD before theatrical releases.
But on a very selected amount of theaters and screens. We could’ve done that as well in terms of like okay, here are a handful of screens that are not f*ckin’ AMC and Regal and Cinemark and sh*t like that and we could’ve pieced it together. I don’t know, after the Red State tour, I honestly don’t care about it ever playing in a room that I’m not at. It just felt like part and parcel of the same thing but then we did the streaming thing. The streaming thing, I was involved in that too because we got Q&A afterwards. I don’t know, that movie was special and it’ll always be special to me and led to all this. It led to even this, it’s crazy. It’s like all roads led to Red State.
Did you do Cop Out to learn the industry from the inside so you could bring it down?
No, but definitely I wanted to meet and hang out with Sue Cole because I thought she was a brilliant marketer. I thought her marketing on Dark Knight was intense so I was just like I want to see this chick, meet this chick. I thought she did a decent job on Cop Out but didn’t have much help. The one dude didn’t want to take no pictures.
You always talked about how you hated doing action scenes in movies. How did you get over that for Red State and I imagine Hit Somebody?
You know, you do something long enough, even if you suck at it, you just get better at it. Almost 20 years of doing this, some of it rubs off. It has to on some level. So you just kind of get more comfortable with it and you realize this is all part of the storytelling. I used to just think about this, this is how I always looked at it. I make this movie, it’s two dudes sitting around, black and white, talking behind a f*ckin’ counter. The whole world f*ckin’ celebrates it. I’m not exaggerating, the whole world celebrated that flick. Well, not everybody but world renowned. Like that movie traveled, Clerks. It just appealed to people on some weird level. All great reviews, anywhere you went with it people embraced it. So that’s what gets me in and that’s what creates my career. So in my mind, I’m just like okay, it should always be very snappy dialogue. I read everything about what they wrote about it. It’s all dialogue centric and performance centric. So I was like okay, just as long as I do this, the picture can look like sh*t. Who cares, because Clerks looks like it was shot through a glass of milk, but as long as the content is what it is, we’re good. So for years all I concentrated on was I don’t care what it looks like. Look at Mallrats, Dave [Klein] was so frustrated with that because it was very flat and a lot of two shots and sh*t. I’m like, “Dude, it doesn’t matter. We’re here to f*ckin’ have these guys talk to one another so as long as they’re in the frame and in focus, it’s f*ckin’ all good.” Then you mature as a filmmaker and I’m close to 20 years doing this, you get to a place where you’re like, “All right, that’s just being lazy. You’re telling stories with pictures. Use the medium. You can’t just rely on one muscle at all times. I’m going to walk on this leg because it’s my strongest.” That’s what I did for a long time. I’m gonna walk on one f*ckin’ leg because people like my dialogue. Then you get older and you realize well, I’ve got to f*ckin’ develop every muscle in order to be a fully functioning human being otherwise I’m hobbling around all the time. So you start to go, “Well, maybe I can move the camera like this or maybe this works.” You start to listen to other people more. Dave I used to shut down and be like, “No, Dave, we don’t need anything special.” On Red State I’d be like, “What do you want to do?” He was like, “Oh man, I have this rig that I want to try out.” I’d say, “Let’s see it, bring it.” We’d look at it, shape it together. I don’t know, the moment I realized it’s more than just people talking, people are looking at these pictures as well, I kind of started amping it up a little bit.
Are you still wavering on doing Hit Somebody as one film or two?
Now we’re one. We’re one. It makes sense. I was saying on Twitter because it’s a movie about taking one great shot and honestly, that was a lazy thing too. I’m trying to be less lazy. Doing two scripts for Hit Somebody is me being lazy because it came out of I wrote a lot of stuff that I love and I didn’t want to lose anything. So I was like, “F*ck it. I’ll just make two scripts. It’ll be my last movie, I’ll do it the way I want. I’ll make two separate movies. That way I can put anything I want into them.” And that’s being lazy. That’s the opposite of being the editor that I am in my head and heart. I should know, as much as I hate to borrow the phrase that he rubbed into my head, cut the chuffa. Lose the chuff. Especially if you’re trying to make an elegant last film, I don’t need it to be more of the same. Everybody knows I can write dialogue. Do something different this time. Show ‘em stuff that you can’t do. So it’s about being less lazy and me going from two scripts to one script is about okay, knock the laziness on its ass and just be diligent. If it takes more time, if you’re putting up more hours to try to construct an entire screenplay in the framework that they usually look for, 120 pages or something like that, just be more diligent. So I’ve given myself 150 pages. I’m giving myself that much space because I feel like the movie should be about two and a half hours.
It’s not a straight up comedy. It’s more of a dramedy than anything else. Somebody asked me about Goon and I’ve seen the Goon trailer and I think it’s very funny but I was so relieved when I saw it, I said, “Great. They made the hockey movie most people would expect me to make. That’s a good thing because that means now I can’t make that.” So once again, shooting laziness. It would be very easy for me to do a Clerks type movie in a hockey rink and try to go for Slap Shot but I love Slap Shot and Slap Shot cannot be touched. I’m sure Goon does a good job. I’ve seen the trailers. It looks funny. I can’t wait to see it. I like Sean even though he f*ckin’ walked off, did that movie but still, I’m there. That being said, I got so happy when I saw that trailer because I was like, “All right, I can’t do that.” Meaning that option is closed to me. I didn’t want to do that but it’s good to know that I can’t fall back on the tropes of oh, it’s like one of my movies but it’s in hockey. I want to make something different. If I want to end, what I loved about Red State, the f*ckin’ drug of Red State was when people were like, “You didn’t make this movie. This doesn’t look like anything you ever do.” That f*ckin’ makes you go, “Yeah, I want more of that.” So I want that on Hit Somebody in a big bad way. I want people to go, “Holy sh*t, you had nothing to do with this.”