Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reconsidering Kevin Smith: Red State

So this is interesting.

For those that don’t know, a few years back one Mr. Kevin Smith said that he was going to be writing and directing a horror movie.

He got as far as writing it, and then something strange happened: The Weinstein brothers didn’t want to make it.

The folks who put the money into every Kevin Smith movie not titled “Mallrats” read the script, and said, “Nah.”

Understand, this was not some big vanity project. When it got made, Smith put it together for 4 million dollars. Not nothing, but in the world of Hollywood, pretty close to nothing. If the Weinstein brothers had been involved, they might have tucked an extra 1 or 2 million in there, but not much more.

But they weren’t willing to take a chance like that.

What does that tell me? That something was wrong with the script. Possibly very wrong.

But no matter. Kevin put it aside for a while, raised some money, and made it himself. Then he promised to sell it at auction.

And he did sell it. To himself.

His plan now is to distribute the film, first in a roadshow version, where he goes around the country, shows the movie, and then does a Q and A after. He figures he can make back a little less than half the money that way.

Then, he’s going to get the film into theaters for Halloween, under his own steam.

After that, he’s going to finish his final movie as a writer/director, and spend the rest of his days producing and distributing with his brand new company.

Indeed. That’s what he says.

There’s a lot of information up there, so let’s unpack what Kevin thinks is going to happen, and then unpack what really will happen.

First, as far as Kevin Smith’s retirement goes… I’m willing to believe it. I like the guy, but he’s never been a great director. He’s improved over the years, to the point where I’ve looked at some of his shots and been impressed with them. But when it comes to action and suspense, he’s a weak visual stylist who mostly films his stuff like a stage play.

After 17 years of doing one thing and not being great at it, I can see where you’d step back from it. It makes sense.

Then comes the idea of producing. He’s been doing that already, really, helping his various friends write and direct movies, and then getting them into the hands of the people of the world. Though it’s worth mentioning, most or all of that has happened through DVD, and none of the movies with his name on them as producer have gone on to any great success.

(Except for Good Will Hunting – and I’d argue that Smith wasn’t the driving force behind that movie getting made.)

The fact is, Kevin Smith know some dudes and can probably find some money here and there to put together movies that he’d like to see. So we’ll trust that he can accomplish that for a while.

But let’s come back to that in a second, and talk about distribution. Yes. Let’s.

Smith plans to take Red State on a road tour. He’s going to hit a bunch of theaters, show people the movie, and then do a Q and A afterwards, along with one of the stars of the film. The tickets will run people about $50 or so.

As I said before, they’re under the impression that they’re going to pull in a little under half the budget on this tour.

They’re wrong.

Here’s why:

Number one, people don’t spend $50 to see a movie. For a rare DVD, they might consider it. But it would have to be something that gives them the power to watch the film over and over and over again, and this theater thing ain’t it.

Smith has his fans, yes. He even has a lot of them. But even his diehard fans could barely find it in themselves to drag themselves to the theater to see Cop Out.

No. People will pay $50 to go to a theater and talk to Kevin Smith. And it had better be a great talk. It better run a couple of hours. Or the seats in the showings down the road are going to be more and more empty.

Then, of course, it’s going to be time to get the flick into actual theaters, and that’s where things are going to go really, really wrong, I think.


Because Kevin isn’t going to tell anyone who doesn’t already love him that it’s there.

No TV ads. No print ads. He might do interviews, but he doesn’t even seem to want to do those. And he doesn’t want to screen for critics, either.

What does that mean? It means anyone who isn’t already a Kevin Smith geek isn’t going to head out to see the flick.

And that will murder the film during the first weekend.

People go to see movies because they know they’re there. That the film is good often doesn’t matter – if it sounds like something they’d like, they go.

Kevin Smith doesn’t seem to realize that the whole world isn’t on Twitter, or Facebook, or whatever other social media platforms will exist by the time next October comes around.

Which means that folk’ll see that a movie called “Red State” is in theaters… maybe. And then they’ll try to find out what it’s about… if they care. And when they don’t, the movie will fall on its face.

Then Kevin is going to have to figure out how to sell his flick online – with no reviews, no information, and no major company putting any money behind it.

Will the flick make back its cash? Oh, eventually. But it’ll take a couple of years. One if Kevin is very lucky.

Meanwhile, he’s supposed to be making another movie. A movie that I’m pretty sure is going to cost more than 4 million dollars.

At that point, he’ll wise up, and take a good, hard, look at how much work went into getting his film into the hands of the people.

And I think he’ll sell it, assuming he doesn’t do it for a studio. I think he’ll sell it as high as he can, and say that he’s doing it to fill the coffers for the indie-indie flicks that he’s going to get out on screens.

Then things will start crashing and burning.

He’ll get a couple of cheap flicks into small theaters, and watch them die on the vine because Kevin isn’t out there pulling for them. He’ll put them on DVD, and the movies will continue to do no business because no one outside of his Tweeple will even know the movie is out there.

And if he’s lucky, he’ll break even. But I doubt it.

If Kevin’s production techniques get him past five movies, I’ll be shocked. If he even opts to keep putting movies into theaters under his own steam, post-Red State, I’ll be shocked.

And if this distribution idea goes beyond five years, it’ll still be shuttered in ten.

I like Kevin. I think he’s a smart guy. But he’s about to learn a hard lesson.