Sundance: Kevin Smith debuts bloody 'Red State' and severs relations with Hollywood

Red-State-Kevin-SmithImage Credit: Danny Moloshok/AP ImagesSeventeen years ago at Sundance, a chubby New Jersey convenience store worker broke into Hollywood.

Sunday night, he broke out of it.

Kevin Smith, who became a hero to aspiring filmmakers everywhere by selling his comic book collection and maxing out credit cards to create 1994’s Clerks, premiered that film at Sundance and sold it to Harvey Weinstein’s Miramax, which turned it into a cult-hit that spoke to a generation.

“Cult” was the operative word Sunday as Smith premiered his latest movie, the bizzaro horror thriller Red State, about a gay-hating minister (Michael Parks) who goes on a blood-drenched rampage against an equally murderous squad of federal agents, with some sex-crazed teens stuck in the middle. In addition to Red State being a film about a cult, Smith also announced plans to leverage his own cult-fanbase to break out of the studio distribution system and put the film out there for audiences on his own.

Though Smith had promised via Twitter he would auction the film to a distributor live from the stage after the premiere, it turned out to be a joke. When the auction started, he immediately “bought” the $4 million movie himself for $20, and announced he would use Twitter (where he has 1.7 million followers), his popular comedy podcast, a 15-city roadshow tour, and word-of-mouth from fans to release the picture himself.

“What we want to do is, like, ‘Yes, anybody can make a movie,'” Smith said — at the tail end of a nearly half-hour long speech. “We know that now. We know that because I’ve made ten, you know what I’m saying? That means anybody can make a f—ing movie. What we aim to prove is that anybody can release a movie now as well. It’s not enough to make it and sell it now, I’m sorry.”

He compared laboring to make a truly independent film and selling it to a studio distributor to having a child and giving it to someone else to raise.

Smith said the one thing he can’t do in-house is get the movie onto screens. So he put out the invitation for theater owners to cut a special deal with him, which he pledged would be better terms than what they get from studios. “We want to partner up, man,” he said, taking a shot at his last movie, the critically slammed Warner Bros. comedy Cop Out: “We won’t screw you over. We won’t be like, ‘You gotta f—ing take this piece of s—. If you want The Dark Knight, you better take this piece of s— Cop Out.”

His plan is to have the movie in theaters nationwide Oct. 19, the anniversary of the Clerks release. He didn’t make the project sound especially inviting to potential exhibitors, however, saying he would not do any advertising or interviews to promote the film, instead relying on his fanbase to spread the word. The ecclesiastical irony was not lost on many in the audience. “Kevin Smith intends to market Red State, a film about a church-cult, directly to his fans.The irony of ‘preaching to the choir’ is piquant,” tweeted James Rocchi of MSN Movies.

Smith apologized to studio scouts in the audience who may have thought he was sincere about selling the film. Then he joked: “I’m not that sorry. It’s a film festival — come see a movie…. I will say this in my own defense, a lot of you work for studios and s—. Studios make movies. Movies have trailers. So you guys make a lot of trailers; you’ve lied to me many times.”

His next project is the hockey film Hit Somebody, which he announced would be his last film as a director. After that, he said he wanted to focus on his fledgling distribution company, helping other indie filmmakers get their films to an audience without going through Hollywood.

Or would his becoming a successful distributor actually make him just another part of Hollywood?

To put it in one of Smith’s beloved geek-friendly Star Wars metaphors, is he defying the Darth Vader of studios — or simply joining them to help rule the indie movie galaxy?

Footnote: About six members of an anti-gay extremist church used as the model for the religious group in Red State showed up outside the theater to protest, but few festival-goers paid attention to them besides a few dozen counter-protesters carrying goofy signs. Smith marched over himself with one that read: “God Hates Fat.”

More on Red State from EW:
Red State at Sundance: See Lisa Schwarzbaum’s reaction

Comments (156 total) Add your comment
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  • Superhonky

    Not even shooting for $30 million this time. This seems like a bad idea.

    • Mark

      It’s a 4 million dollar flick. No advertising, other than his own means. He doesn’t need a wide release to make money off it.

      He doesn’t need to make another film in his life, actually. The podcasts and the Q&A’s are his bigger business.

      • Joe

        I love Kevin, he’s probably the most open honest star out there, he doesn’t dodge any questions on his q/a’s and podcasts which makes them even more interesting. Hopefully this indie marketing thing works out for him, it it doesn’t I highly doubt he’ll give a sh!t, he’s loaded to the 9’s.

      • KC

        *yawn*
        just retire already

      • Barry

        Hopefully, he WON’T make any more movies in his lifetime. They all SUX.

      • Jango

        He’s a great self-promoter.

        If only his movies were worth said self-promotion.

    • LOL

      Red states fear Kevin Smith.

      • Devin Faraci

        He is a complete no-talent idiot. I hope he really does retire.

      • Jennifer Truth

        Fat Kevin Smith jumped the shark a LONG LONG time ago.
        EW just continues to suck on his balls in between vampire movies.

    • Snsetblaze

      Even if it doesn’t get into theaters outside of LA and NY, if he sells it like he sells his “An Evening with Kevin Smith” cds, he’ll do fine.

      • KC

        I think he should seriously consider the direct to video route with all of his films.

    • JD

      Good idea. Fact is K Smith films seem to have a 30 million dollar max gross, and that’s with a lot of advertising.
      He may have a certain number of fans who’ll by default will see his film. so if that’s 8 million bucks
      worth, he’ll make profit and still own his film.
      Why spend 15 million in advertising? You could make 4 Kevin Smith movies with that.

      • Iron Man

        You’re forgetting the $45 million “Cop Out.” Plus, he even recognizes that more money comes in from DVD sales anyways

      • Quirky

        @Iron Man. Cop Out was not really a Kevin Smith movie. Yes, he directed it but it was a studio created film that he never had much input into. It’s nowhere on the same level as Clerks or Dogma which Kevin created from scratch.

      • @ Quirky

        But if he directed it, it’s still very much a “Kevin Smith film.” Spielberg didn’t write ET or Jurassic Park.

    • Jason

      A few things about the Great Kevin Smith. He’s not great. Hasn’t been for several years now, and seemed more like a guy who got just lucky with 2 decent films: clerks, mallrats. The rest have all been pure garbage, with Vulgar being the worst movie, ever. I’ve seen Gummo. To put Vulgar behind Gummo is huge….for Gummo. His Podcast can’t technically be considered a Podcast, as it is usually just an hour of Kevin Smith laughing at his own jokes- which aren’t funny at all. I did listen to a few episodes, hoping maybe he was just having a bad week, but no. Since Zack and Miri, this guy has just become a self-stalking individual. He is so impressed by himself, that he thinks every word that falls from his lips is pure gold. Well, it’s not. As a fan of his first 2 “hits”, I feel I’ve been tricked. I feel like I was told “Hey, there’s a hilarious guy out there making movies that seem to deal with real issues, however pointless the issues might be”. Only to find out that he’s more a lotto winner, than a solid filmmaker. He got lucky with 2 funny films, and then at least 10 pieces of garbage since then. Why do we regard him as one of the great humorists of our time?!

      • Brett

        What Jason said.

      • Merrydan

        He did not do Gummo or Vulgar. I agree with everything else though.

      • Peter

        I also agree.

      • DvD

        KS didn’t do Gummo. Your entire point is irrelevant.

      • marven gardens

        J & SB Strike Back and Dogma were pretty effing good.

      • Chinpokomon

        Sounds like you are forgetting Chasing Amy. Easily one of the best View Askew films. You know, that said, he makes really good films, and if he pisses off the Hollywood elite while doing so, more power to him. Distributors are the biggest problem anyway, escalating ticket costs, and driving independent movie theaters out of business. Movies shouldn’t have “talent” costs making up 50% or more of the budget.

      • David Churchill

        Jason, it’s unfortunate you got your facts wrong, re Gummo and Vulgar, but your points are still valid. The said ‘filmmaker’ Kevin Smith has made one bad film after another. He has the gall to take a shot at his last film Cop Out. Hmm. Who directed that said piece of Sh#T? The doth protest too much.

      • brooke

        i agree with your point completely, except for the part about making two good films. all his films are self-mastubatory pieces of crap. and his podcast (the one with ralhp garmin) is so completely annoying. all he talks about is weed, masturbating (who wants to envision that?!?), how his wife is too hot for him and how much hollywood sucks. he’s a twerp.

      • chimingin

        I think all of you saying that Jason got his facts wrong with Vulgar don’t understand what he is saying. Kevin Smith produced Vulgar, as well as Big Helium Dog and both were pure stinkers that were not successful at all. He always showed them during his annual Vulgarathons movie marathon event(I don’t know if he still has them). So far – not including Red State- Kevin Smith has directed 9 films. Jason said 10 of his 12 are bad, meaning he is including the one’s he produces and that Vulgar was the worst film ever, which I’ve heard it called before. Go look at the imdb.com page for Vulgar and it says right on the poster on it’s main page Kevin Smith and View Askew present…

        So don’t act like he had nothing to do with the film.

      • Sammy Shawn

        Wrong chimingin… Dogma was a great movie. I loved it.

  • Prunella Von Schleidlhaagen

    Kudos, Anthony Breznican, on not even naming that “anti-gay extremist church”, but I also think it’s time to replace “church” with “hate group”.

    • Zack

      Well nobody is gonna see that movie anytime soon.

      • Joe

        it’s sickening those nutjobs even call it a church, it’s demeaning to all the other normal churches out there. The word cult was created for a reason, which they’d use it.

      • billy roumes

        ahahah the “normal” churches he says! …..u are all fairy tale following weirdos

    • Kool Kat Walk

      I think that’s similar to now showing the streaker on TV during sports events. Many streakers crave for attention, so let’s not give them. No need to give these gay-bashing hate groups all the PR they don’t deserve.

      • Kool Kat Walk

        NOT showing streakers.

    • Korbermeister

      Love your name!

    • Xero

      Isn’t that the same thing?

  • Indiewire Reporter

    In other words, this movie FAILED to find a distributor. I’m sure if someone was serious about buying the movie, then he would’ve sold it. This isn’t a choice but his way of making the best out of a bad situation. This is going straight-to-DVD and however he plans to make his $$$ back in a token sense isn’t to be taken seriously, it’s his way of licking his wounds. This movie has no major stars, a controversial title and a filmmaker attached to it (Smith) who has back-to-back duds on his hands. In other words, no one wants to buy a film from this guy. That he announced his early retirement seems to suggest that Kevin’s moviemaking days are coming to a close…

    • Weary of Hacks

      “That he announced his early retirement seems to suggest that Kevin’s moviemaking days are coming to a close…”

      Wow, what a keen observation.Imagine someone retiring and then no longer doing the thing they retired from. No wonder you’re a reporter!

      • Chase Dunnette

        He obviously isn’t a reporter, as he has done absolutely no research and therefore no reporting. You blowing air out of your crack doesn’t make you a reporter. If that were the case, Kevin Smith would be Lois Lane. Do you honestly think Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, and John Goodman would just choose to do a straight to DVD flick? Not in the slightest. The last movie he WROTE was incredible. It’s not his fault that Hollywood and all that shiz are the way they are. THAT’S why he is doing it his own way. And as someone aspiring to make movies, if he can actually distribute this way, then by golly I’ll sell my comic books (in which I have none) and max out my credit cards to be a part of it.

      • heynow

        you win life, “weary of hacks”.

        team kev! i think this is a fantastic idea.

      • Devin Faraci

        Indiewire is correct. After the film was done, even Smith could see he had a complete failure on this hands. But his ego won’t let him shove it off into DVD-land. He has to go on tour with it so he can get validation from his cult-like fanboys and pretend he didn’t make the worst film of the year. It’s truly horrible.

      • Jason

        All I’m saying is:

        Goodman: In The Electric Mist & Sophie Monk

        Parks: Smokin Aces 2 & El Muerto

        Leo: Runaway & Bordertown

        All 3 “stars” with very recent “straight to DVD films”-

        I guarantee others posters are 100% correct that this new “promotion” is a direct result of Smith’s failure to establish any kind of real distribution.

        By the way – should I even mention Kevin Smith’s straight to DVD films?!

    • Sandro

      First of all, it isn’t going straight to DVD; he’s taking it on the road to theaters himself, and then wide releasing it to theaters in October. Second, no major stars? Michael Parks, John Goodman, Melissa Leo? I don’t know where you’re from but those are some pretty big names in the real world. Leo just won a golden globe like last week! Just because Zac Efron and Miley Cyrus or whoever isn’t in it doesn’t mean there are no ‘major stars’. Might wanna check ya facts, son.

    • Weary of Hacks

      Also, if this is just a reaction, how does he have so many dates for the tour already lined up? He has a dozen venues booked already!

      • Snsetblaze

        I think that’s for his comedy tour (that’s the way I read it), not the movie directly.

      • Weary of Hacks

        No it’s looking like he’s showing the movie on the tour.

    • Dominique

      I think you are way off the mark. Kevin Smith does have a huge fanbase, distributors know that. This is a cheap flick, it could’ve been sold to a distributor easily.

      I think you’re being a tad too cynical.

      And your username is obnoxious.

    • Crafty

      That sounds just like the limited thinking that he is talking about avoiding. It’s a dare to actually think and imagine beyond what small minded rational we have been taught is the norm. Hop on, or get out of the way!!!

    • Nancy

      “This is going straight-to-DVD and however he plans to make his $$$ back in a token sense isn’t to be taken seriously…”
      Kevin has always made way more money off of DVD sales of his movies than box office sales, and other studio movies mostly do too. Straight to DVD is not a bad way to go really, if you understand the numbers. He has enough fans to make this work, and I say kudos to him for having the balls to tell Hollywood to take a hike. The Hollywood system is stagnant and doesn’t reward independent thought and true creativity, it just wants more explosions and bigger special effects *yawn*. Just look at all the lame remakes and sequels Hollywood is producing. I will go see a Kevin Smith movie any day, but you can’t drag me to another James Cameron, Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich moronic mess. Go Kevin! You rock!!

      • Devin Faraci

        Indiewire is correct. After the film was done, even Smith could see he had a complete failure on this hands. But his ego won’t let him shove it off into DVD-land. He has to go on tour with it so he can get validation from his cult-like fanboys and pretend he didn’t make the worst film of the year. It’s truly horrible!

    • BlankXIII

      Is it a supprise to anyone that a self-described “Indiewire Reporter” (or indeed any reporter) would take a shot at Smith after suffering a well reasoned lambasting at his hands, lo these many months? Not really… Especially considering that the reporter in question is precisely the kind of lazy reporter who offers readers zero facts and 100% supposition. Had he paid attention, he’d have realized that at no point was Red State actually up for sale… So how did it fail to sell? (i.e. if I’m not selling bubblegum, I can’t be said to fail at selling bubblegum) Unfotunately, we need to prepare ourselves to read many negative Red State articles from a media whose feelings are hurt to not have the opportunity to make bank on this film, and did not see the flick, themselves. Remember, if Smith does no advertising, that translates into a real loss of advertising revenue for the media outlets themselves. And the very thought that Smith plans to help others follow suit? To them it amounts to heresy…
      And to those of you keeping score at home, Smith has been saying for months now that Hit Somebody would likely be his last flick, so why would you want to put stock in any of the myriad of articles, by lazy reporters, who are just now serving this up as news? Research, People!

    • tarc

      In other words, Indiewire Reporter not only is clueless, but didn’t actually read the article. It sounds to me like Smith is starting a new, very interesting business that could be quite prifitable for all those involved (including movie theaters). With all the lousy movies being released by the major distributors, my local theaters are always running anniversary re-releases, sing-along versions, live simulcasts of opera performance, and mini-film series of indie film (like the horror one near halloween). This sounds great to me!

  • Ian

    How long until we see another View Askew film???

    • Chase Dunnette

      Well, since he won’t make another movie after Hit Somebody, I would say never. And since he owns the rights to Jay and Silent Bob but not the rights to Clerks or the View Askew Universe, I would highly doubt that anybody else will make one either.

  • Traci

    Can’t wait to see how this all turns out. Hopefully I can see the film one day.

  • Mark Christie

    Thank you Smith! Your movies are good and I hope you succeed.

  • Ted

    Can Kevin Smith retire now, please? He’s like a gay, male Rosie O’Donnell. Some of that is redundant, I’m sure. The guy is a total, desperate, desperate attention-whore; I don’t care which he insists will be the last movie he directs, he’ll be back for more.

    • tarc

      Sounds like sour grapes from someone in a group that Smith likes to poke fun at. I wish Kevin Smith every success.

    • Jason

      TARC – Kevin Smith only talks about himself, and the movies he’s done, and the people he’s met…. which group is he attacking, since every single story he has ever told comes down to his involvement in the story? Basically: how can he talk bad about someone else, if he only ever talks about himself?! How is Kevin Smith any different than these loser American Idol rejects that always say “they don’t know what they’re talking about. I’m so talented, and so amazing, they can’t even handle it!”? He couldn’t find a distributor (very well known fact), and is now acting as though he’s above seeking a distributor….well, he wasn’t above it for the first 4 months he shopped the film….now that no one wants it, he’s above it all? Really? Let’s not forget that the majority of those that see this movie will do so while attending his comedy tour. How bad do you anticipate the box office to be, if you basically give it away as a “free gift with purchase”?

      • tarc

        Is Kenvin Smith somehwat self-absorbed? Well, welcome to America – the land where most people are more self-absorbed than Kevin Smith. Of course, if you knew his films, you’d know that he talks about all kinds of issues here in the good Ol’ USA and pokes fun (or just pokes) quite a few groups of people. Smith is famous, makes enough money to keep doing what he loves to do, and has a podium to saywhatever he likes. Don’t like it? So what. Smith *did* find a distributor – himself! And getting into that business is a great idea for indie films. Maybe we have a shot at actually seeing some truly creatibe american movies witout falling victim to the Smithsonian effect (eg – the people in charge caving to censorship like ice in the sun under the gentlest of Repubican criticism).

  • Kevin Smith is washed up…he’s four-walling this. Lame…

    When Sundance movies fail to find a distributor then often the filmmaker will create his own production company and take it on the road as a way of salvaging losses. It’s called “four-walling” and it’s nothing new. Clearly this film FAILED to find a distributor so he’s trying to salvage this with a ridiculous roadshow and then later in the year he will quietly release this on-demand and straight-to-DVD. He wanted to sell this at Sundance and he was bragging on twitter for months now that this would happen. The fact that he is now suddenly changing course and then announcing his retirement in the same breath suggests an emotional response to an understandably disappointing outcome.

    • Weary of Hacks

      He’s been speaking about retiring for months. He’s already got the dates and venues for the tour. Another poster here mentioned that there were distributors waiting the lobby for the auction. All of this suggests that he did have interest from distributors, but planned to go this route the whole time.

      • Weary of Hacks

        Like I said below, i take it back.

        Looks like this movie failed to find an investor. My bad.

      • Weary of Hacks

        Wow, whoever is resorting to impersonating me is incredibly pathetic. Is that the best you’ve got by way of rebuttal?

  • Jay

    I severed my relationship with Kevin Smith years ago…

    • Meier

      True story: The only reason I rented ‘Cop Out’ was to see how quickly far down his talents slid. The answer is “really, really fast.” Where’d the guy go that made ‘Dogma’? Why’d he dump us?

      • Traci

        You know Kevin Smith didn’t write Cop Out only directed it. So judge it on the direction not the writing.

      • Devin Faraci

        But he did re-write Cop Out, so your argument doesn’t hold water.

      • frank

        Actually, he did NOT write Cop Out. So many uninformed people on this thread spouting off.

      • Traci

        He didn’t re-write it either , Bruce Willis did.

      • Traci

        on set

      • AltDave

        I just watched COP OUT this weekend and enjoyed it. My only gripe early on was that the soundtrack seemed to be ripping off BEVERLY HILLS COP, then I saw that Harold Faltermayer did the COP OUT music! I’m not usually a fan of Tracy Morgan but found him actually funny in this, and thought he had pretty good chemistry with Bruce. Not at all the trainwreck I expected!

  • DavidJ

    I’ve liked some of Smith’s movies in the past, but man… he can sure sound like an obnoxious d-ck at times.

  • Hollywood severed its relationship with Kevin… not the other way around

    This is so silly. Hollywood basically fired him, not the other way around. His film simply didn’t sell so he’s off pouting. First he takes on Southwest Airlines. Then the critics who panned his buddy cop comedy film. Now he’s giving Hollywood the finger? What’s next? The mailman?!? He’s got an anger management problem and watching it play out in his war against the media is getting old.

    • Weary of Hacks

      Nonsense. Hollywood is too chickensh-t to distro Red State, but don’t kid yourself that they wouldn’t be all over another View Askew flick. The man could work in Hollywood for the rest of his life if he wanted to. Instead he wants to make the films that he is passionate about instead of playing the game. Short-sighted people like you can’t handle that kind of thinking.

    • Brett

      Absolutely.

      Kevin Smith has definately got issues. He makes terrible movies and writes god-awful comic books.

      I think when he retires, he should become the spokesperson for Jenny Craig. Maybe it will be good for his physical health ’cause the guy looks like he’s eating himself to death.

  • Bob Dinitto

    I love weird cult films. Kevin Smith is my hero!

    • Brett

      You should aim a bit higher when choosing your heroes.

  • Johnjohn

    So, basically Mr. Fatty-fat Whiner About His Fat Butt Taking Up Two Seats is doing exactly what Prince did to the music industry, after Smith b*tched about how kooky Prince is.

    Well, Mr. Smith…look how great self-distribution worked out for Prince. LOL!

    • Andrew

      Actually, Prince has made more money independently than he ever made in his “heyday” during “Purple Rain”. That being said, let’s hope Mr. Smith doesn’t screw his fans the way Prince has.

      • John Berggren

        How has Prince screwed anyone? His last release was 3 discs for $9.99. Prior to that, he gave his CD to you if you went to his concert. I don’t think Smith dislikes Prince – he just has an amusing story about him.

  • Laufman

    Good for Smith! There’s nothing wrong with trying to be different and sometimes it takes someone like Smith that has the means and the Balls to change the way we look at an industry. iTunes and Apple proved you don’t need to be a big game studio to make a hugely profitable video game. So why not movies? Go get em’ big guy!

  • Kevin Smith made a fool of himself

    “Red State” might have been a difficult sale for any distributor. Harvey Weinstein, whose Miramax Films distributed “Clerks” and several of Smith’s other works, waited for Smith in the Eccles lobby, to see if the auction would in fact happen. When Smith announced his self-distribution news inside the theater, Weinstein and a few other buyers left the Eccles, and piled into their SUVs to go see other movies. This is being reported ALL over the media. This backfired on Smith. Sucks to be him.

    • Weary of Hacks

      Sooo…there was interest from distributors and Kevin chose not to go with them. Thanks for confirming what Kevin was saying, and debunking the claims of many posters here!

      • Weary of Hacks

        Okay, I guess I have to eat my words here. Turns out that you were right. Look like Kevin failed to find a distributor and all this talk about him choosing not to go with a distributor was just creative spin.

        My bad. Maybe Kevin’s next film will have a shot. This one looks D.O.A.

      • Weary of Hacks

        Impersonation. Pathetic. You’ve got that much invested in your feeble speculation that you have to resort to trickery to save face? Wow.

      • John R

        This is how it normally works – you take an independent movie to Sundance or some other big festival and you screen it. In the audience are studio people who may or may not offer to buy it from you to distribute.

        So, Smith says BEFORE the screening that he won’t be selling (at the time of the first showing, he also released a couple podcasts that mentioned this whole plan along with theaters and dates)… and that’s “proof” that he couldn’t sell? Before he gave anyone a chance to make an offer? Some folks need to work on their logic.

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