We all have mentors. People we look up to for advice and answers. People we try to emmulate. Some are friends and family. Some are people we grew up watching on television or in movies. For me, there are a handful of people I respect and look up to but there is really only one that I feel I can truly associate with: Kevin Smith.
When I first watched Chasing Amy in the late 90s, it changed my perspective on a lot of things. It was a movie that I connected with because it had many elements I could relate to. I felt that it was a movie I could have written if I had been a little older and a little more polished. The one thing that stood out for me was when I read articles on the movie and on Kevin was that he got paid to make a movie with his friends. No one was demanding he cast one person or add an obligatory action scene. It was his project and his alone. The reason for this was simple: he was proving that for a small fraction of what it cost to make a shitty blockbuster, he could make a real movie with real emotion and the movie would generate ten times what it cost to make. For the last seventeen years he has been proving that quality always outperforms quantity. For an aspiring screenwriter like myself, that was an important message in an industry that is very unkind to beginners.
But it wasn’t just his writing and directing, it was his personality. A hilariously funny guy who is a self-admitted comic book geek, hardcore hockey (and New Jersey Devils) fan and an all around normal guy. His films allowed him to write comic books for Marvel and DC, do live tours (if you haven’t seen An Evening with Kevin Smith go and buy the DVDs now) and most recently host a weekly podcast (smodcast.com) with his friend and producer Scott Mosier. Being a normal guy in an abnormal industry has given him the life that many (including me) have dreamed about. During one of his recent SModcasts, he discussed his upcoming film Red State which he has decided will be his last directing effort. The reason he is “retiring” from directing was simple: he’s 40 years old and it is a lot of work making a movie and as he gets older he wants to work less, not more. It is the exact same thinking as any normal, everyday guy who works construction or fixes cars proving that after almost two decades in Hollywood, he is still that slightly overweight, comic book collecting, street hockey playing, regular guy from New Jersey. To say that I respect him is the understatement of the year. I envy him. He is also not oblivious to what he has accomplished and in that same SModcast he discussed how he was part of that “transitional” Hollywood where small movies could get made but if he were coming up through the ranks in present time, there was no way Clerks, Chasing Amy or Dogma would ever get made. He also made note of the fact that Hollywood will only be churning out remakes and sequels for the next few years as the economic state of the industry is in turmoil and he was lucky for the timing of his projects. While that is true, no one can deny his pure talent of writing characters we care about.
So now as he spends his time doing press for Red State, recording his SModcasts and doing his live tours, Hollywood will continue to release remakes of Footloose and Total Recall and sequels to Predator, Lethal Weapon and even Zoolander. Thankfully, I have DVD copies of my favorite Askewniverse films and a functioning PC that has a bookmark set to SModcast.com. You’re the man Kevin!