Kevin Smith buys his own film, plans to self distribute

“Ladies and gentlemen, I came here seventeen years ago, all I wanted to do was sell my movie. And I can’t think of anything f*cking worse seventeen years later than selling our movies to people that just don’t f*cking get it”

After talking non-stop for months about his plan to sell the distribution rights to his latest film Red State in a live auction following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, writer/director Kevin Smith has thumbed his nose at distributors by purchasing the film himself in front of a live audience for a scant $20.

Instead of a traditional release, Smith’s plan is to take the film on tour around the USA (full list of dates and cities here), selling tickets to the showings and post show Q&A’s for “six, seven, maybe ten times” normal cinema prices, before releasing the film in theatres on October 19th under his self-titled “Smodcast Pictures” label.

Following the debut screening of the film (the critical reaction to which has so far been mixed), Smith appeared on stage in front of his audience and delivered a long, humourous, self-depricating and typically profane diatribe in which he bemoaned how much studios spend on movie advertising and, how far too much stock is put in a film’s opening weekend grosses. Counting out the ridiculous numbers on his hands, Smith remarked:

“It took seven years for Clerks, a movie that cost $27575, to go into profit. When that’s happening, when you’re spending four times, five times the amount to market a movie or open a movie than you are to make it, that’s not an inspiring game at all”.

He went on to call the movie making world “impenetrable”, saying that:

“Even if you’re lucky enough to make a movie, how the f*ck are you going to open a movie?”

Finally, Smith brought his producer John Gordon onstage under the guise of opening the bidding to the many presumably eager distributors in the audience who were hoping to purchase the rights to the film. Instead, Smith opened the bidding at $20 and Gordon promptly declared the movie “Sold!”

While Smith’s plan may initially seem foolhardy, it seems to me to sort of make sense. As Smith points out, with over 1.7 million followers on Twitter, and a network of Podcast shows that regularly rack up more than three hundred thousand downloads each week, there are enough Kevin Smith fans out there to make this film profitable without spending a cent on traditional advertising. Smith’s Q&A sessions and live Podcast recordings regularly sell out large venues, include Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera house, so it’s not difficult to imagine his faithful audience paying inflated prices if it means an early screening of his latest film on top of his normal standup routine.

As if this weren’t enough, Smith also announced that Red State will be his second to last film as a director. He will follow Red State with a hockey drama entitled Hit Somebody, after which he plans to focus his efforts on production and distribution. This, to me, is the most interesting part of this story – Smith concluded his tirade by addressing young filmmakers:

“Smodcast Pictures belongs to all of us. You’re gonna make your movies, put them out through our studio, and it ain’t gonna cost you a f*cking dime.”

I’ve got a lot more thoughts on how this whole situation went down that I hope to get out in a post sometime in the next few days. But for now, I’ll throw the ball to the rest of you. What are your thoughts on Smith and his plans for the future. And perhaps more importantly, would you be willing to pay big dollars to see his latest film early?

For those interested, you can view Smith’s entire post screening performance here. For more details on Red State, click here.

14 comments

  1. Kurt Halfyard

    I’m all for self-distribution when Smith has the number of eardrums and eyeballs rolled up in his podcasting and speaking tours. But he is rather a unique case. thus far the ceiling for ‘online buzz film’ has been about $15-20M tops at the box office (Snakes on a Plane, Shaun of the Dead, Catfish, etc.) with only a few rare exceptions (Blair Witch Project).

    I imagine Smith’s ‘scorch the earth’ policy of calling all studio distribution wasteful (and calling out all of the small distributors as ‘not knowing their shit’) to be a little on the hyperbolic side. Sure there is a small portion of films that can make it nationally without $20M in advertising, but it is difficult to break through in general with the extreme glut of content out there, that should be scaled back, people simply cannot keep up with what is coming out and why they should see it. And this doesn’t even include all the TV show, Podcasting, Video Games, Social Networking and other content as alternative entertainment options that distracts people from simply ‘going to the movies.’

  2. Part of this is a very good and smart decision, and I would actually pay a bigger ticket price to see the Q&A

    however lets call it what it is, part of this is a genuinely good idea, and part of it is Smith’s answer to his oversensitivity/ego problem. Part brave, part extremely cowardly.

  3. Kurt Halfyard

    No offense to Kevin Smith. I like his speaking gigs, I’ve watched several of them, and been at festivals where he did Q&As (Dogma at TIFF in 1999, where his at-that-time website NewsAskew even picked up my grammatically incoherent review of the film)

    But this does seem like the film is merely an added incentive for his usual speaking Tour. (An Evening….And a Movie…With Kevin Smith) I’m not sure if reducing the film as an accessory rather than the main reason for going, is a good thing.

    I mean, I pay inflated ticket prices (over $30 to see The Good The Bad and The Weird at the Elgin) at festivals to see films and have their filmmakers do Q&As and such, but the primary reason in nearly all cases is for the film, not the filmmaker Q&A. This seems backwards, but I guess I shouldn’t judge. Know what you’ve got to sell, and use every tool to sell it. Smith is nothing if not a savvy self-marketer.

  4. I’m watching the video of his talk at filmrot.com and I’d have to side with the people pissed off at Kevin, he was even more petulent and whiny than usual, which is a lot lately.

  5. Thanks for the link, Goon!

  6. I’ve never really had a problem with Kevin Smith or his films. Saw Zach and Miri and didn’t really get much out of it, and haven’t seen Cop Out. The guy seems to be doing what he wants and getting paid for it so I can offer some kudos for that. I just don’t feel much in the way of anything toward his films anymore. But seriously, is he REALLY on about Jersey Girl still? I’m not sure I trust the author linked by Goon. Then again, I haven’t paid much attention to Smith as of late.

  7. While I’m not the biggest Kevin Smith fan (I don’t think I guinuinely liked a movie of his since CHASING AMY), I’m a huge fan of what he is trying to do here. That said, there is one aspect of this that annoys me on a personal level. I follow him on twitter and when the teaser trailer came out for RED STATE people asked him about the “Coming in March” card at the end. He went on about throwing the gaunlet down even when you do not know what’s ahead, even going so far as invoking John F. Kennedy as inspiration. Well, come to find out, that was all bullshit and he had a plan from the beginning. Why bother jerking around the very people you plan on selling your movie to? Simply say, “big announcement to come” and leave it at that. I’m already down with the cause. It’s an odd choice for someone who professes to be completely open and honest to his “real fans” about his intentions.

  8. Kurt Halfyard

    Phil, that’s wacky if it is true.

  9. @Tom, I’ll say! Seems like the through-line in a lot of these blog posts is that people are hoping Hit Somebody will be his last, like he said it might. :P

  10. Tom Clift

    I honestly torn about it. I’m a huge Smith fan, but I actually enjoy his podcasts and Q&A’s far more than his films, so I’m not that broken up that he might be quiting filmmaking.

    His handling of the auction was a little self-serving, but I’m still interested in seeing what happens in the next phase of his career. And his plans to start some kind of small independent studio of his own in “Smodcast Pictures” sounds really exciting.

  11. For what it’s worth, I went back and found the twitter post I was referring to and pasted it below.

    Via @ToastedSchizo “So ballsy of you to put ‘March’ at the end without a distrib.” JFK told a story about his Grandfather, who grew up in Ireland. Walking home from school, there was this long, high stone wall that – if gotten over – halved the time it took to get home. One day do something difficult, he committed – to a risky degree. Tagging that trailer with March was me throwing my hat over the wall.

  12. Kurt Halfyard

    Hasn’t Sundance always been about the circus and carnival barker style salesmanship? I don’t see why what Smith is doing is different than dozens of other wannabe mainstream hopefuls have done over the year. The only difference is that Smith is far more established than the usual Sundance gimmick-set.

    Moving On.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


four + 2 =

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>