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Tuesday, June 03, 2014

DIGITISATION: Kevin Smith, podcast auteur?!

Jay and Silent Bob in Clerks; they've inspired a shoe range!
I'm not sure what traction the name has with today's teens, but for (some of!) my generation, Kevin Smith, a remarkably foul-mouthed film-maker who put together a classic/cult debut film for peanuts (Clerks, $28k!) whilst working full-time in a dead-end job, has made a remarkable claim about his status:
Filmmaking is the only art form where you say, "I wanna express myself. Give me $10m and Ben Affleck." ... But all along what I could do was talk. If podcasts were movies, I'd be up there with Spielberg, dude.
Read a Biskind interview here.
If it was now, I would have seen Slacker and written a blog about it or recorded a podcast. That would have been enough. The entire message of my career is that if you want to do it, you should try. I am a chimp and I built a career out of making films. And I don't even consider myself a film-maker! Oh yeah, and PS: neither do the critics.
For a film-maker who created the iconic/cult characters Jay and Silent Bob, and who has two decades of film-making behind him, that's quite a statement.
In a real sign of the times, he's currently in the UK touring a combination of a 60-min animation and a podcast recording!

Peter Biskind's book Down and Dirty Pictures, which tracks the rise and fall of the Indies from the 80s to the mid-noughties (including glimpses of WT), frequently features Smith, whose up and down relationship with Miramax and its fierce co-head Harvey Weinstein tells you a lot about how the industry works (or malfunctions!) ... and is a sequel to arguably the best book ever written about cinema, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls.

The current (June/July 2014) tour is an indication that film may be undergoing a similar shift to the music industry, in which CDs are increasingly a secondary revenue stream compared to tours and merchandise. As is becoming a widespread music concert practice, there is a VIP option for keen fans:

The mini-tour even has an official sponsor! Screenshot from seesmod.com.

I've blogged on similar events on the MusiVidz blog (on the music industry/videos), but can also make a link to the book industry where, once again, there is a decline in sales of physical texts and publishers are looking to author tours as one means of replacing the lost revenue:
the rise of Amazon and the Kindle is transforming the nation's publishing institutions, which are being forced to seek new sources of revenue. As bookshops close, authors are embarking on rock star-style tours; the newly formed mega-publisher Penguin Random House sold 10,000 tickets for a reading tour by Caitlin Moran. The publisher is also turning one of its most famous characters, Peter Rabbit, into a cartoon and is seeking tie-ins with toymakers and chocolatiers.
Some publishers are looking at diversifying into new forms of content, for example by combining books, films and games into a new narrative genre. A new iPad thriller called The Craftsman, launched last year, turns the reader into the main character in a gothic, cinematic chiller.
(from this article on eBooks set to overtake print books by 2018)
  
You can read the full article below, or click here.



Kevin Smith: 'If podcasts were movies I'd be up there with Spielberg'

The Clerks director, who is touring a stage-show version of his podcast, says he's a born storyteller rather than a film-maker
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith's stage show features a live podcast, a Q&A and an animated movie. Photograph: Felix Clay
Of the indie directors who emerged from the US in the early 1990s, Richard Linklater became the visionary auteur, Quentin Tarantino the superstar entertainer and Robert Rodriguez the pasticheur. None quite has the common touch of the New Jersey-born Kevin Smith, who made his debut in 1994 with the potty-mouthed, dirt-cheap comedy Clerks. He also starred in that film as the lugubrious Silent Bob alongside his jumping-bean sidekick Jay, played by Smith's pal Jason Mewes. The duo became a recurring feature in many of the director's pictures.
Smith generated an enviable rapport with his audience through public appearances to promote the movies. Now 43, he recently finished a horror film, Tusk. But his energies are mostly devoted to co-hosting podcasts on his own site, SModcast.com. Many of these shows he takes on the road. His new tour will see him recording podcasts in front of UK audiences, as well as screening the hour-long animated film Jay and Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie (directed by Steve Stark).
What can audiences expect from the tour?
Depending on the night, you're gonna get the animated movie or me and [Jason] Mewes doing Q&As and our podcast, which is called Jay and Silent Bob Get Old. Then there's me and my buddy Ralph Garman, who does a daily radio show in LA, doing our entertainment podcast Hollywood Babble-On, which is basically just two guys who've worked in showbiz long enough to have informed opinions, sitting around taking the piss out of the entertainment industry. He's a drunk, I'm a stoner, it's a salty and sweet dynamic.
Where do Jay and Silent Bob fit into this?
Well, that came up when we brought the Jay and Silent Bob podcast to London a few years ago. What we didn't realise was some people just see the names Jay and Silent Bob and say, "Hey I know those guys from the movies!" Then they get there and it's not them. For a start, the fat guy never shuts up. London was the first time we got heckled. Fifteen minutes in, someone shouts out: "The fuck is this?" Clearly some people were not familiar with the podcast. I guess they expected us to re-enact scenes from the movies. And Mewes was not prepared for that. Back in the day if someone said something like that to Jason, he'd grab a pool cue and hit them. So because of that time in London, I do a bit at the top of the show where I explain what it is.
The Jay and Silent Bob animated movie is directed by Steve Stark The Jay and Silent Bob animated movie is directed by Steve Stark. Which is?
Jay and Silent Bob Get Old is an intervention podcast. We meet once a week to make sure that Jason Mewes stays on the straight and narrow. He used to have a problem with heroin and oxycontin, and the whole idea is we talk to each other and make sure the guy is staying sober.
What does Jason bring to you?
He makes me who I am. Y'all never met the real Kevin Smith. You met Kevin Smith plus Jason Mewes, and a few others. Real Kevin Smith is not nearly as interesting. Jason grew up so differently from me. … He's got this nickel head with this million dollar heart. Hanging out with him changed me. He made me freer. When I'm onstage with him, there's no reason to hold anything back.
I'm struck by that lack of inhibition. Last time I saw you live, you were talking about how your penis was bleeding the first time you had sex with your wife. Are there any limits?
Shared experience is always kinda powerful. I don't talk like that with close friends but I can do it in front of 2,000 people because it's all about numbers. If I share that with my family, that's only a few people and chances are they haven't had the same experience so – boom! – I'm in the dark. But 2,000 people? Odds are in my favour.
Right from Clerks, talk was always your strong suit. Does podcasting feel like home?
Totally. That and social media – Twitter, especially – allows me to shine my best. It took me 20 years to learn how to move a camera around. I'm not a born film-maker; I'm a born storyteller. The idea of having to show people a story with pictures took me a long time to learn. It was like punching through water. If I can just get out of the water and tell you the story, we can get it done way more entertainingly. Filmmaking is the only art form where you say, "I wanna express myself. Give me $10m and Ben Affleck." As the years went on I got better at telling stories visually. Tusk, the new one, looks astounding. You'd never know I made it. But all along what I could do was talk. If podcasts were movies, I'd be up there with Spielberg, dude.
You noted in 2006 that movies like The Wedding Crashers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin were similar to what you'd been doing all along – only these ones were making hundreds of millions of dollars. Was your move into podcasting a way to adapt and survive?
Yeah, the podcasts allowed me to walk away from movies for a while. I've learned to wean myself off the heroin of moviemaking money. With podcasting I probably have to work four times as hard to maintain the same standard of living but it's a lot easier and you don't have to rely on a whole army to pull it together.
Is film-making simply too much trouble?
I had a really good time doing Tusk. I said I was gonna stop, but maybe the key is only to choose the ones I really want to do. My mantra was always "Only make the movie that only you could make." Anyone could make Cop Out, Jersey Girl, Zack and Miri Make a Porno. But nobody else could have made Clerks, Chasing Amy or Tusk.
If you were starting out now, would you go into podcasting rather than directing?
If a younger version of me came of age now, I'd definitely have gone in that direction. The film that made me want to make movies was Richard Linklater's Slacker. If it was now, I would have seen Slacker and written a blog about it or recorded a podcast. That would have been enough. The entire message of my career is that if you want to do it, you should try. I am a chimp and I built a career out of making films. And I don't even consider myself a film-maker! Oh yeah, and PS: neither do the critics.
• Jay and Silent Bob's Hollywood Babble-On is at Birmingham O2 Academy (29 June), London Eventim Apollo (1 July), Bristol Colston Hall (2 July) and Manchester O2 Apollo (3 July)

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