Thank You Kevin Smith

Back when I was wee lad I saw a Disney movie staring kid actor Johnny Whitaker (of Family Affair fame). It was called “Mystery in Dracula’s Castle”. In the film Whitaker and his friend use a Super 8 movie camera to film a horror movie at an old light house. They stumble on some jewel thieves and the high jinks starts.

What I loved about the movie was it sparked an interest in making my own movies. I went to the library and checked out any book I could find about filmmaking. I wrote some scripts and even did some crude story boards. My problem was that I didn’t own a Super 8 camera. Our family couldn’t afford one and one I did scrounge from my grandma didn’t work AND I couldn’t afford the film.

A few years later I got the bug again but this time I had some money and a local camera store rented movie cameras. It was like pulling teeth getting my mom to rent the camera for me. My first film was a simple 3 minute and 21 second story of a cola test that goes awry and Superman has to save the day. Having no editing equipment I shot the film in sequence at the end of one of my Boy Scout meetings using my troop as the cast. It took like 2 weeks to get the film back from processing and when I saw it for the first time my heart skipped a beat. The focus was a bit dodgy especially in zoom ins but it wasn’t bad.

When I got to Ohio State I found out they had a film department (this was in the mid 80’s). I took the beginning film class and we watched great films and planned to make our own 5 minute film as the final. By now I owned a Super 8 that I bought through a discount catalog so making my project was not a big deal. The film was about a killer issue of TV Guide and the cast had my friend Dave as the hero and girl I liked Heather who played the damsel in distress. The twist was she saved the day by setting the magazine on fire. Hearing my classmates applaud after showing the finished film to them filled me with joy. I knew it was something I had to do – be a filmmaker.

Life led me in another direction and while I continued to write my short stories and enjoy watching films and the process of filmmaking, I didn’t think I would get the bug again. That was until I met director Kevin Smith – again.

Smith wrote and directed the film Clerks. (1994) about a day in the life of a convenience store clerk and his slacker buddies. It was funny and crude. He shot it for $23,000 and change with one 16 mm camera and on black and white film. He sold it at the Sundance Film Festival for about $200,000 to Miramax Studio and it was one of the films that started the independent film craze of the 1990’s (along with Slacker and El Mariachi).

On a lark I bought the 10 year Anniversary DVD of Clerks a few months ago and the parts I loved is the behind the scenes stuff especially the commentary audio. I learned that Kevin was a lot like me growing up wanting to make movies for the passion of making them. He decided in 1993 to do it and he did.

Smith describes himself as a media whore and that is why I like him. He interacts on a daily basis with his fan base and tries to include them on his filmmaking journeys.

This year he started a blog called simply “My Boring Ass Life” where he details, as much as legally possible, his daily life. He writes of going to the bathroom, playing house with his young daughter, having sex with the wife, and the various goings on in Hollywood.

This week he has started filming the sequel to Clerks. called right now “The Passion of the Clerks”. Don’t think it will be a spoof on Mel Gibson’s “Passion of The Christ” but the title is a nice dig on that film.

As Smith says, Passion is a return to the well. I think he is at a point in his career where he wants to revisit the time when he had the most fun making movies. He gave up writing and directing two big films to do the sequel and he brought in the two main actors to reprise their roles from 1994.

He also started a blog detailing the “Train Wreck: The Making of The Passion of the Clerks” where in video entries he gives his fans a sneak look at the making of the film as it is being filmed. I’m sure a lot of the material will show up on the DVD but it is thrilling for me to come along for the ride as if I am on the crew. One entry showed Kevin being fitted for his Silent Bob mullet and another had Dave Klein, the Director of Photography telling about the 4 day camera prep the crew was doing last week to get ready for filming this week. Dave was also the DP on the first Clerks.

Of course being Kevin Smith, he has included a couple of funny fake trailers and spoofs of Hollywood.

The video blog, I’m sure will influence another future filmmaker just as Smith caused me to finally write and finish my first screenplay “Kindred Revision” and enter it in a contest.