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The Press, The Fans and Kevin Smith…

Red State hits UK cinemas today but thanks to the media this could be Smith’s penultimate trip to multiplexes…

The press is a weird thing.  Despite trying to be subjective it ultimately influences almost every aspect of whatever it chooses to lock in its crosshair. For filmmakers working today it’s a necessary evil.  Something they have to put up with because once hurdled, it allows them to move onto their next big thing.  They may not enjoy it, but they play the game none-the-less. Kevin Smith is no stranger to the press. Hell, his relationship with the media has had more ups and downs than an amusement park.  So it seems apt that he would be the first director to openly give them the finger.

Red State arrives in UK cinemas today after one of the most unconventional journeys to the screen ever. Having ruffled feathers at this year’s Sundance Festival, Smith announced that instead of giving his latest flick a vanilla theatrical release (complete with an overpriced marketing campaign) he would distribute the movie himself.  And that’s just what he did. Edgy and exciting, dark and dangerous, funny and thought provoking – Red State is Smith’s bravest work to date.  Every frame is drenched in a reluctance to conform. An edge of your seat unease hangs over every second of its 88 minute running time. It’s a movie that feels so close to its director that you can almost see the umbilical cord connecting Smith to his onscreen baby. Hyperbole aside – Red State is why Smith fell in love with filmmaking in the first place. So why has he decided to call it quits?

Perhaps this would be a good time to clarify a few things about the media and Kevin Smith. Whenever Smith is mentioned in print or online, talk of his loyal fan-base is never far behind. The implication? That his movies speak to these people and these people alone. This is stupid.  Every filmmaker worth his salt has a fan-base – Smith’s is just easier to collectively locate.  They’re usually seated in front of him at one of his many Red State tour stops or raucous Q+A sessions. This rant, blog, comment piece – whatever you want to call it – isn’t intended to be the ramblings of a journalist.  It comes from a fan. Someone who’s enjoyed, engaged and benefited from Smith’s cannon of work (both onscreen and off) and is pretty bummed out to see him retire just as the sparks begin to fly.

Smith is a unique director, one who is willing to throw everything on the table.  What you see is what you get and it’s this transparency that has earned him such a loyal following. He’s the best buddy you know inside out but have never met, he’s every pop-culture obsessed twenty-something’s onscreen pal. Granted it’s a very one-sided relationship, but it’s one that runs deep.  There are plenty of directors out there who give to their audience but very few who engage so sincerely.  For a director who gives so much of himself to the public (we’ve not even touched upon his colossal collection of Smodcast podcasts – all of which are free, by the way), the press has never quite known what to make of him. His controversial, yet seemingly sensible decision to self distribute Red State sent the media into a bi-polar frenzy with some accusing the New Jersey director of publically imploding. Funnily enough, during that period no media outlet really bothered to glean the thoughts and opinions of that fan-base they’re usually so quick to namedrop.  If they had, they would have no doubt been inundated with quote upon quote of excitement and support.  Over the past year Red State has toured America, Canada and the UK, selling out cinema screens at each stop – its success speaks for itself.

So for fans of Smith’s work, the news that ice-hockey two-parter Hit Somebody will be his last hurrah evokes mixed emotions. There’s no doubt that the media is largely to blame for Smith’s decision to concentrate all his efforts onto the overwhelmingly rewarding Smodcast network. That part pulls at the heartstrings of every Silent Bob fanatic.  However, having witnessed the raw intensity of Red State, you can’t help but get giddy at the thought of just where he’ll go next. It’s bittersweet. Smith has played the media game long enough and now he’s enjoying some ‘me’ time. Something every fan will agree is well deserved.

Words by Simon Bland.

Originally featured on ThisisFakeDIY.co.uk.

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