2009 — The Year Kevin Smith Grows Up?

Kevin SmithIt’s been roughly two years since Mr. Kevin (“the Clerks. guy”) Smith and his other hetero life-mate (and producing partner), Mr. Scott Mosier, launched their own podcast series, entitled SModcast.  Since then they’ve posted seventy-six pieces of what I can only describe as some of the most absurd, silly, raunchy, and down-right brilliantly funny audio bliss ever!  And since that time I’ve been a devout listener, always waiting patiently each week for their next new posting — sometimes even having to wait up until a month or so for a new one to show up (I dare not complain, Smith’s a busy man).

For those of you unfamiliar with SModcast, the premise is as follows.  Each week Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier find time amongst themselves to sit down and, well, shoot the shit for lack of a better term.  In the beginning each show lasted roughly fifty-two minutes, plus or minus, with only a few notable exceptions.  Once the series began to reach double digits, however, the show began to change up.  SModcast was created partially as an attempt by Smith for he and Mosier to get together each week and catch up on things, but as the show progressed it became apparent that such a notion wasn’t always feasible.  And so with it’s thirteenth episode, “SFodcast (or SWodcast),” SModcast found itself with an absent Scott Mosier and special guest, sitting in, Walt Flanagan (“Fanboy,” to the fanboys), one of Smith’s best friends from his youth.  And while there is not, and probably never will be, a SModcast without Smith himself, we found that from time to time there will be one without Mosier, at which time we will be treated to a special guest.  Guests so far (aside from Walt Flanagan) have included Bryan Johnson (another friend from his old days), his wife, Jennifer Schwalbach-Smith, Malcolm Ingram, Jason Mewes, and even Smith’s daughter, Harley Quinn Smith (named after the Batman character if you didn’t know).

There’s also been a few changes to the shows format as well.  It’s original fifty-two minute run time has now been upped to around an hour (again, plus or minus) and the show was also briefly sponsored by the online retail site, ThinkGeek.com — it’s since picked up a new sponsor, Omni Consumer Products Corporation.

Through all of this, though, Smith provides his listeners with a real sense of connectivity — the man really has no shame in rambling on about his most private and/or personal shortcomings.  We see him as a flawed human being and he’d have it no other way.  Presently, however, Smith seems to be wanting to take his career in a new direction.

Jay and Silent BobIn early 2007, Smith directed the Pilot episode of the CW series, Reaper, a show about a young man who discovers his soul has been sold to the devil and he’s now been enlisted as a bounty hunter for escaped souls from hell (check it out if you haven’t — Tyler Labine is absolutely hysterical).  Smith discussed his directorial effort in an early episode of SModcast.  It was then that Smith began to speak about his career up until this point.  You see, Kevin Smith has always maintained that he’s not a “director,” only a “filmmaker,” but first and foremost, a writer.  Because he believes himself to be a better writer than anything else, his directing career has pretty well only involved him making movies that he, himself, has written.  With Reaper, though, Smith was finally able to break new ground, stepping outside his comfort zone to bring something to a project that wasn’t his own.  And for a long while, that’s all that we would hear about in regards to a possible new career direction…

Until his 2008 film, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, of course.

The film was green-lit by The Weinstein Company based solely on its title and with that, Smith got to finally work with the man he’d written the lead in the film for (and only for), Seth Rogen.  The project, as it turned out, was ill-fated.  It began mostly with the title of the film catching some early hate which Smith quickly overcame, and even exploited.  Then came the MPAA who initially slapped the film with a sobering NC-17 rating — a serious blow considering that many movie theatres won’t play NC-17 films on their screens.  Again, though, Smith successfully overcame this on his appeal to the MPAA, receiving the R-rating he’d wanted.  After that, Zack and Miri did manage to find some silver linings by garnering some really favorable reviews.  In fact, the movie was hyped up to be Smith’s biggest hit of his career.  Kevin Smith has always made his movies on relatively low budgets — his two biggest budgets to date have been for his 2004 film, Jersey Girl ($35 million) and Zack and Miri itself ($24 million) — which allows him and his crew more creative control over the final product.  Doing this, however, does have its drawbacks, namely that his films’ appeal are only to a much smaller audience.  This is something Smith has no problem with, though.  With Zack and Miri, however, Smith seemed to have finally found himself with a movie that could crossover with a mainstream audience as well as his own — Seth Rogen, himself, is, after all, the current Golden Boy of comedies.

Zack and Miri

So with the movie about to come out and so much good word of mouth being spread about the picture, it was inevitable that Smith would find himself flying high on his dreams of finally nailing high grosses at the box office.  To put it in perspective, though, one must first be familiar with Smith’s past box office performances.  Dogma, Smith’s religious comedy romp, cost $10 million to make and grossed over $8 million on it’s opening weekend and has gone on to gross $30 million.  Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, which cost $22 million to make, took in $11 million on its opening weekend and went on to gross $30 million as well.  And then his most recent picture, Clerks 2, was budgeted at a mere $5 million, grossed $10 million its opening weekend, and has since took in $24 million.  Each of these times, though, Smith knew that his films were still only playing to his small audience and as such he as well as the Weinsteins themselves were always happy with the box office turn out.  With Zack and Miri, however, it seemed that all of the stars were aligning for Smith: The Weinstein Company had entrusted him with one of his biggest budgets, he’d gotten the biggest comedic star of recent years to play his lead, and just for a little icing on the cake, the critics were being very generous as well.

So when the film still only grossed $10 million it’s opening weekend, he was admittedly a little heartbroken.  And when the film went on to gross $31 million in its theatrical run, just barely making it his highest grossing film ever, well… things weren’t apparently as they seemed.  It was over a month after the film’s release when Smith finally released a new SModcast, and boy did you just feel sorry for the man.  You realized that while he had high hopes for the film, they weren’t necessarily beyond reason.  Never in a million years did he actually believe his film would gross in the hundreds of millions, no, instead he figured it’d do about the same as similar romantic-comedy released several months before, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which grossed somewhere around $100 million (Smith, himself, was actually shooting for between $60 and $90 million).  Both films also had relatively the same amount of marketing and advertisements.  How things got so wrong, Smith never bothered to speculate much about.  But it was during this time that there seemed to have been a marked change in his attitude towards his career.

Over the course of the next several episodes, right up until the most recent one, whatever loss of high hopes had wounded him had, as a result, also made him stronger.  Smith, who before never fancied himself a great director, began to take pride in his work, noting that while a lot of his stories are inherently similar, the films themselves were not.  Clerks. served as his debut to the business and as a tutorial to directing, itself.  Mallrats and Dogma were basically live-action comic books, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was his live-action cartoon, Jersey Girl was his romantic-comedy, Clerks 2 his philosophy on continuing growth throughout adulthood and, finally, Zack and Miri, a comedy that was a culmination of all of his previous efforts.  And as Smith continued speaking about all of this, listeners also caught several revelations as well.  Smith no longer sees himself as a director who will only direct flicks that he’s written personally.  He no longer believes he has to continue writing comedies just because it’s where he found his niche in the beginning.

Kevin and BruceNo, it seems Smith is finally wanting to break real new ground and work on projects that he believes his empirical expertise can bring something to, and his next announced project may be an indicator that this is so.  The film is called Red State and is, as Smith describes, a horror movie, but not in the traditional sense.  And while it is still a film he has written personally, the change of genre speaks volumes.  The man’s ready for a change, and after over fifteen years of still being an adolescent, perhaps in 2009 his askew view will find something more to whet its appetite with.

I know I’m still interested.

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Also for your viewing pleasure, a fan-vid someone put together — it’s a cartoon created using excerpts from SModcast. Enjoy.