Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Kevin Smith Biting the Hand that Feeds Him

With Sundance 2011 having come to a close last weekend in Park City, Utah, a new crop of ingénues, promising filmmakers and celebrated films have emerged. The Sundance Film Festival, which began in 1978 as pioneered by Robert Redford, has evolved from merely being a haven for indie film buffs into a weeklong party fueled by films. Celebrities descend on the small ski town each year in January to promote their films and pick up some free swag and attend some well-funded parties in the process.

Because of the spectacle, for one week each year Park City becomes the hub for the entertainment world. With the cluster of marquee names in town, there is always a flurry of stories to come out. One of the biggest this year started long before anyone arrived in Utah. Director Kevin Smith was making headlines before 2011 even dawned due to the promise of auctioning off his newest effort Red State, a horror movie about right wing fundamentalists and horny teenagers, at its festival screening. He outlined the idea online:

"Here's something that's not so much news as my stated intentions for RED STATE: if it gets into Sundance, my plan is to pick the RED STATE distributor right there -- IN THE ROOM -- auction style. Might even bring up a professional auctioneer to make it fun and unintelligible. And if you're a multi-millionaire who can't make it to the first screening of RED STATE, fear not: maybe we'll set up an eBay page for the post-screening bid-calling as well."

With the exception of Cop Out, where he was basically a hired hand, and Mallrats, Smith has spent his entire career under the wing (or as some might say, iron fist) of the Weinstein brothers. Over the course of his career, Smith has seen modest returns on his films thanks to a rabid, devoted fan boy base. Nevertheless, he has become bitter and unhappy with his chosen industry. Much of his ire has been directed at the fact that film companies spend almost as much money to market a film as it does to produce it.

But his openness, which is what endeared him to many of his fans initially, has given away to pointing the fingers at everyone except himself. Even though his movies have been middling, at best, over the last few years, he seems to think that critics are too hard on his films. To promote Red State, don’t expect to see any articles with Smith -- he’s not doing any because the press gets information incorrect.

According to a message on his Twitter feed, Smith said, "I'm not press-junketing at all, anywhere… In fact, I'm not doing any press outside of maybe a business piece or 2 to help sell the flick if needed, & radio (LOTS of radio)."

However, how did word get out of about the auction? Well, of course it was picked up (I presume accurately) by the mainstream media. Smith’s well placed publicity stunt created a frenzy with many people anticipating the screening and the chaos that could follow. But it was for naught because the filmmaker ended up selling Red State to himself for $20.00. Again, the media has run with the story and information about his Red State U.S.A. Tour that kicks off in March. The most ironic part of his media blackout is that his wife is a former journalist with the USA Today.

Perhaps this whole plan might be better received if the word out of Park City about Red State wasn’t mixed at best. Hollywood and fans give auteurs plenty of rope because the products they release is worth the eccentricities. But Smith hasn’t quite lived up to the hype that early films like Clerks, Chasing Amy, and Dogma promised. Rather Smith comes across as a spoiled filmmaker who has an average gross $22.6 million dollars and feels that people should bend over and worship him. He’s already made an announcement that after one more film, he will be retiring from directing and it may not be a moment too soon because you can only bite the hand that feeds you so many times before it fights back.

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