One thing I’ve begun to notice when bringing up my favorite directors is that people always seem to nod in approval when mentioning The Coen Brothers, Edgar Wright, Spielberg, Nolan, Abrams, but every so often when the name Kevin Smith is uttered, often alongside Tarantino, about twenty to forty percent raise an eyebrow, or their face contorts into a look of questionable reasoning. Now, I know the man is not everybody’s slice of pie, but I believe he’s one of the best, if not most well known, indie filmmakers that made it. He’s a goddamn sage of the indie film community for Christ’s sake! So, here’s my defense for Kevin Smith’s place on my mantle of inspiration.
One of the main reasons his films caught my attention in college was because he was doing something palpable with filmmaking. In my wide eyed early ambitions of deciding that film was something I wanted to do Kevin Smith’s work made it seem possible. Were the laughs somewhat childish, yet adult in content? Yes. Did I laugh every time Jason Mewes found a new way to incorporate the word “Fuck” into every other sentence? Yes, yes I did. In fact it was the first Clerks that really truly opened my eyes to the fact that if you wanted to make a movie, all you had to do was gather some well trusted close friends, find a decent location, and have at it!
After I became acclimated to Smith’s directorial style I found his Q and A series of videos starting with “Too Fat for 40” and seemingly immediately after came “Burn in Hell Kevin Smith”. Those two specials motivated and inspired me more than I could even imagine, because now not only had I seen his work and thought “I think I can do that” there was the former beloved Mute telling me, “Anybody can do this, Hell if I can do this, You can do this!” His encouragement of art was astounding, world breaking to me, but not in a negative light, it merely broke my perception of a world where only connected studio backed directors like Spielberg and the like were allowed to create magic behind that coveted curtain of movie making.
The next big moment of surprise from Kevin Smith for me came in the form of “Red State”. Here was a movie that was tonally, stylistically, and creatively different from anything he had done before. The fat guy from jersey did indeed have another ace up his sleeve, he had become a chameleon in his work, proving to me that if you are passionate enough and pour your heart and soul into something you can chase your heart’s fancy. That you can change and not be locked into an accepted version of you for the rest of your life. That was a powerful message to me. You don’t have to fit into the box that everyone expects you to fit in, if you simply accept yourself and follow your imagination with a vigor and unrelenting fervor, you can succeed, even if that success is a bunch of radical church nuts kidnapping teenagers in the middle of nowhere to cleanse them of their sins. I didn’t say success was measured by the amount of “fucks” you get out of a movie, cause if so Smith would have four oscars, just short of Scorsese, cause really, “Wolf of Wall Street” had a lot of “fucks”.
I haven’t even mentioned the podcasting phenomenon, his ruling of the social media that is twitter, his complete knowledge of Star Wars and Batman, or how he goes out to film fests, film schools, and everywhere in-between to talk about film, inspire new and upcoming filmmakers, and probably tell a joke or two about the gooey origins of every human being that we all so lovingly don’t want to mention in public. The man is a force to behold within the last five to eight years, he “quit” film, then found some inspiration of his own and came back into the fold. Not everybody went to see “Tusk”, the box office numbers proves this. But I did. Was it my favorite Kevin Smith movie? No, but it wasn’t horrible, and hell I had fun going late at night with friends to a totally weird monster flick. We had a good time with it. The most important part though was that Smith chose to make a movie that he was creatively invested in. Because of “Tusk” we’re now getting a sequel to “Mallrats” and a third “Clerks” movie. This, I am okay with. Not to shut down the True North Trilogy either because I’m quite looking forward to “Yoga Hoosers” and “Moose Jaws” in particular.
So Kevin Smith will be around for awhile creating more stories. Whether he will hit the highs of his original works or not is up to the future, but personally I’ll enjoy the ride as it happens. I’m glad to have the guy around, it just proves a good indie director’s merit and gumption can keep him around for the long haul. Oh and for the record, my favorite movie of his is “Dogma”, it’s just wonderfully written and was an excellent chapter in the book of his works. Write on Silent Bob, write on.