My husband and I aren’t big on Valentine’s Day, but we try to do something because February in the Northeast can get to you after a while. The problem is that there’s usually a big snowstorm or minus 30-degree weather spoiling our plans, this year was no exception for the storm. Our VD plan was to see Kevin Smith present Jay and Silent Bob Reboot Roadshow at The Egg in Albany. The evening with Kevin Smith came at the tail end of a couple of days of winter storms and power outages. We were lucky the roads cleared in time for us to go. What does this have to do with writing? Good question, and I hope the following is a decent answer.
First, life is too short only to read and write; you have to get out and live. That may add time to my being where I want to be as a writer, but I need to blow off steam with the hubs. He’s good people.
Second, here was a chance to see a successful artist doing what they do best.
Kevin Smith is on tour with his new movie. By the time we saw him, he’d already watched the film in various theaters and cities some fifty times and still wasn’t done. During the screening, he stands in the back, so as not to draw focus, and watches the crowd. He said it’s like the Rocky Horror Picture Show when the audience shouts their favorite lines and cheers for the characters they know and love. He shared this with us before the movie started, his version of a thank you, and I love you too.
After the movie, Kevin Smith hosted a Q & A. Now, Kevin plays Silent Bob and only ever says a line or two, but in real life, that dude can talk. The long lines of fans waiting to ask their questions were never all going to be heard, but if you listened, there was so much to learn. As each person stepped to the mic and said their name, Kevin had the audience clap for them. Then proceeded to give real answers and treated each question as if it was the one he’d been waiting for.
Part of what he discussed was the business of being an indie filmmaker. He talked about money, honestly and openly, and it was refreshing. Kevin explained how he obtained the $8 million to make the movie and how he felt compelled to ensure even the smallest investors got their return. That doing the tour was less expensive than having a release on the big screen — about $15 – 20 million less. We paid more than seeing it in the theater, but we enjoyed experiencing it in a huge room filled with friends and see the creator speak. Someone asked how much he’d made so far, and the audience cheered to think they were a part of the success.
He explained that through a weird little loophole, he ended up owning the rights to Jay and Silent Bob, which has allowed him and Jason Mewes (who plays Jay) to continue creating content with those names. Including the podcast, Jay and Silent Bob Get Old. I can’t imagine what would have happened if they hadn’t kept those rights.
He discussed the craft of writing, directing, and editing, which is so much like all kinds of creating. Kevin said he’d written two other movies that fell through, then cut them up, and to make this one. Writers and artists do this all the time. It reminded me of an essay I’m working on, which combines two others to make a third with a new perspective.
The reminder to keep yourself open until a project is wholly complete was inspiring. Matt Damon reprised his role of Loki from Dogma (a must watch), which didn’t happen until after filming was over because Matt had been unreachable. But Matt wanted to be a part, so Kevin made it happen. Years ago, Kevin Smith and Ben Affleck had a famous falling out, but through twists of life, Ben was able to revive his role as Holden McNeil from the movie Chasing Amy. Kevin was honest about fighting the universe, telling him to call Ben, but when he did reach out, it was movie magic. “Stay open” was the message loud and clear.
One astute member of the audience asked great questions and sent Kevin down a fantastic rant on editing. I learned that filmmakers, much like writers and photographers, come in different flavors (go figure). When it comes to editing, some filmmakers shoot the same scene from every angle multiple times, then send it all to an editor to sort it out. Kevin has an idea of how he wants it to look, films the scenes he knows he wants, and not much extra. Kind of the planner vs. pantser debate.
Kevin also said he lets everyone watch the dailies. He keeps himself open to their feedback and allows the actorsand crew to self-correct when they see something that could be tweaked. He likes several sets of eyes look at what’s going on in case they see something he’s missed. Like having a writing group or an editor or a workshop go through your work. You get a lot of feedback that way, which I find helpful. I was reading Hope Clark’s newsletter, and she discussed her different levels of external readers, starting with reading her entire books to her husband out loud. Each voice adds a different level of fresh perspective and insight.
Listening to Kevin Smith got me all jazzed about being part of a creator/artist community. His enthusiasm and joy for what he does are infectious. Before he said it, I never thought of his movies being indie. And I knew he played a significant role, but I had no idea to what extent. He works every level from raising funds, to writing, to securing talent, to the promotion. I’m in awe of what he has achieved and how happy he was to spend the evening with us. Thank you, Kevin Smith and Happy VD, to you too.