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Writer/Director Kevin Smith on Filmmaking: You Must Have a 'Reasonable Amount of Unreasonability'

01.5.13 @ 5:51PM Tags : , , ,

Independent film would probably not have become what it is today without people like Kevin Smith. Whether they actually made things worse for the rest of us because of their success is up for debate, but there is no doubt Smith is one of those few filmmakers in Hollywood who makes exactly the kinds of movies he wants to make (not too dissimilar from Andrei Tarkovsky). In this interview below from Gavin Michael Booth’s How Many Days Project, Kevin Smith talks about what it takes to be a filmmaker, the current state of distribution, and what brought him to make Clerks.

Keep in mind this is Kevin Smith, so there is plenty of NSFW language:

Learning to compromise and work with other people is an important part of filmmaking. Unless you are the one throwing down tons of money to make a project and paying everyone well, there is a good chance people may be working for less than they’re worth, or even for free. That is just a fact of independent filmmaking. Not all of us can be like Tarkovsky, so you’re going to be making compromises on the production and about what’s actually possible with the money, time, and equipment you have. Once a movie is done, there will probably be more compromises, from post-production to distribution. I know personally I’ve had many projects where I’ve had to cut things on the day of shooting or shoot something completely different because an actor isn’t available. Many of these things are daily occurrences, and learning to work through them is important.

Kevin goes on about filmmaking and digital distribution, what it takes to be a filmmaker, and why he made Clerks (keep in mind this interview was made before he did Red State):

Being a filmmaker is certainly not easy, and really, if you’ve ever heard someone say it is, they’re lying. Independent film has a tough road ahead, especially as we figure out how to monetize what we’re doing. If no one is making money from independent films (or at least not going into massive debt while making them), all we’ll be left with is monster Hollywood movies to entertain us.

What do you think about Kevin Smith’s ideas on filmmaking and what it takes to make movies? Has his career inspired you to make movies?


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • Good stuff, but outdated on the self-distribution front, Smith himself dove deeply into waters he says he knows nothing about shortly after these were filmed.

  • Loving these posts lately Joe. Very useful stuff. Keep it up!

  • I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin at SxSW last year with a group of friends/collaborators and it was a real treat. There are a few overlapping answers with these videos. The biggest take away that I had was him talking about never using “aspiring” filmmaker to describe yourself. If you want to be a filmmaker and that is what you’re aiming to be, then tell yourself you are one and get on with it already. Very Yoda “do or do not, there is no try.”

    • I think you should, actually, have to make a film before you call yourself a filmmaker, though.

      • That’s obviously a good point. But the way I took it is that calling yourself and aspiring filmmaker can sometimes cause a mental block that could get in the way of making films, because you can just keep telling yourself you’re aspiring and that you aren’t ready. I saw it as him just saying make the plunge and go for it, don’t just wait around day dreaming of making films.

        Now whether someone IS ready when they start making their films, thats a whole other story…

  • VINCEGORTHO on 01.5.13 @ 9:58PM

    Lets say you shoot your movie using crowd funding or credit cards.
    What are some of the first steps or first places you want to send it? Straight to Sundace?
    Is there a syntax of festivals you want to submit to in order to so the right people to see it?

  • “Whether they actually made things worse for the rest of us because of their success is up for debate”

    What horse crap, you cant sling that out that because someone finds success in the industry it was bad for filmmakers. Thats the same line of thinking as those friends who when you’re out or watching TV get pissed off when they see a new product and say, “HEY THOSE GUYS TOTALLY STOLE MY IDEAD.” I’m getting off my pedestal, but you can’t blame someone for your own inaction or inability, for whatever that reason may be.

  • @Austin

    You’re kind of taking Joes line out of context dude. He is pointing out to skip the debate stuff and jump to how he makes the movies he wants to make and then his advice and so on and so forth.

  • on 01.6.13 @ 10:56AM

    Kevin’s advice is solid and is along the lines of what we tell people who come to us. This is really important advice and insight, especially for beginning filmmakers who do have a crusade to “change the world”.

    • THadon calico on 01.6.13 @ 11:43AM

      lol…are you guys trolling to bring click to your website…cos ive been noticing your posts are either: “thats what i’ve been telling folks” OR “joe & koo, thats some misleading info”

      • ThunderBolt on 01.6.13 @ 5:18PM

        NFS provides quality information from many sites. I have actually learned a thing or two from Joe and Koo. regardless of where the information comes from, NFS provides a daily stop of topics that add value on a personal and professional basis. If you think you can do it better, I would love to see this.

        Great post Joe and clarity of context brings it home again.

        • Joe Marine on 01.6.13 @ 5:33PM

          Appreciate the support. :)

        • thadon calico on 01.7.13 @ 1:17PM

          no shit smart English your second language?…I am really surprised there exists other sites apart from NFS, infact they r the only site on the internet that caters filmmaking…I didnt bash NFS, I check it everyday

          the words in quotes were what i had noticed the comment-er, below which i posted, usually writes, so re-read my comment, I would love to see that