Monday, October 31, 2016

Director Series: KEVIN SMITH

Welcome to another instalment of the DIRECTOR SERIES, where we take a look at directors in the world of film and the advancements they have made, the style they possess and where their place is in the history of cinema. Today, we look at one of the most popular and unique indie filmmakers out there...KEVIN SMITH.

The year was 1998. I was 14 years old and flipping through the channels looking for something to watch.  That's when I stumbled across a great, underrated comedy called Mallrats.  It had a bunch of people I'd never seen before and a couple I had, such as Ben Affleck (who had appeared in Armageddon that year and Good Will Hunting the year before) and Shannen Doherty (who was starring in a brand new show I started watching called Charmed).  I fell in love with this film and with these characters, and shortly after I learned there was much more to this world that I had been missing out on.

Kevin Smith grew up in the small town of Highlands, New Jersey, and found himself eventually employed at a convenience store/video rental shop known as Quick Stop/RST Video.  This may sound familiar as it is the setting for his directorial debut, Clerks.  This was a film that Smith had wanted to make after seeing Richard Linklater's film, Slacker.  He made it for just over $27,000, going so far as to cast his friends in multiple roles and even film on black and white stock to save money.  This endeavor would prove, in the long run, to be the beginning of a great career, whether it seemed like it or not at the time.

His second outing, Mallrats, failed to impress critics and audiences initially, but found a cult following later in its life on home video.  It wasn't until the success of his next two films, Chasing Amy and Dogma, that Smith would become more of a household name.

Smith has gone on to create one of the biggest pop culture careers ever.  He opened his own comic shop in New Jersey named Jay & Silent Bob's Secret Stash, attends Comic Con regularly and moderates several panels, has written comics with both Marvel and DC, has started directing TV (with The Flash and Supergirl on The CW), and has even created a podcasting empire called SmodCo.

In recent years, Smith has moved away from the straight-up comedy, and into the realm of horror.  This started with the 2011 film Red State, which was such a huge departure from anything he had done in the past.  But ultimately the film failed critically and financially, causing Smith to contemplate giving up filmmaking.  It was after this that he decided to make a change in his career and only make films that were uniquely his, the types of films that no one else would make, and that's where Tusk comes in.

On an episode of his podcast, SmodCast, with Scott Mosier, they began talking about an Internet ad asking for a lodger who was willing to dress as a walrus for two hours a day and act like a walrus in exchange for free rent.  This spun into a horror tale about a man who turns another man into a freakish version of a walrus.  Smith felt that this was a story that no one else would make, so he took it upon himself to do just that.  And what was born was the beginning of a new Kevin Smith universe, The True North Trilogy, which began with Tusk, continues with Yoga Hosers, and will end with Moose Jaws, which, as he describes, is simply Jaws with a moose.  He is also working on sequels to his first two films with Clerks 3 and a Mallrats sequel TV series

I have enjoyed Smith's films for nearly two decades, and still recommend them to people who have yet to see them.  Smith was the first to open me up to the world of indie film, and I thank him greatly for that.  With it seeming like Smith is in the height of his career, I am excited to see what he does next, and will be there to see it, no matter what it is.

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