163. KEVIN SMITH: It costs nothing to encourage an artist
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Kevin Smith is a filmmaker, writer, podcast mogul and professional babbler. I’ve been a fan of Smith pretty much his whole career. I missed the boat when Clerks came out, but went crazy for the comic book-reference-heavy Mallrats, and loved Chasing Amy, which featured Ben Affleck and Jason Lee playing a comic book artist and inker. It was like “OMG, a comic geek is making Hollywood films! One of us has made it to the big time!”
I was also in peak comic book-collecting form when Smith exploded onto the comics scene, writing the Marvel Knights Daredevil series. At the time, no big shot Hollywood filmmaker had stooped so low as to want to work in comics, and for fanboys like me, Smith deciding to write comics felt like Michael Jordan deciding to play in the local pick-up game. (Smith later admitted he had no idea what the hell he was doing and needed artist Joe Quesada to slowly train him how to write comics. Fake it till you make it, baby).
Smith was 24 when Clerks was released, which he funded himself for $27,000, using many of his friends as actors and filming it at the convenience store he worked at. The film was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, won the Filmmaker’s Trophy and was bought by Miramax. It launched Smith’s career and influenced the indie film boom of the 1990s. Although Smith focuses more on podcasting these days, he’s still in the arena, making movies. His latest film Tusk, about a podcaster who gets kidnapped by a crazy dude who then proceeds to grotesquely transform his captive into a walrus, was released last month.
The main thing I enjoy about Smith’s podcasts and gabfests is his encouragement to aspiring artists and creatives. He insists that if a fat, lazy nerd like him can make it, then anyone can. Smith draws his fair share of haters and critics, but his attitude is ‘Hey, if you don’t like what I do, then by all means, go make something better yourself.’ Smith has taken the recent poor performance of Tusk in stride and hopes people don’t take it as an excuse not to try weird shit:
“Don’t be afraid to do weird stuff, so long as you do it cheaply and cover everyone’s bets. Be bold. Be stupid, if you have to: so long as you don’t hurt anybody, what’s it matter how dopey your dream is? If I hadn’t made TUSK? If I’d let it die as a podcast? I wouldn’t have three other movies I’m now making within the span of a year. Some folks will try to shame you for trying something outside the norm; the only shame is in not trying to accomplish your dreams.”
The quote used in the comic is taken from Smith’s memoir/self-help book Tough Shit: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good. It’s from a chapter where Smith writes about his 2011 movie Red State, a 100% independent film he released and distributed. Sick of dealing with movie studios where the marketing budget for the film would have cost more than the actual film to make, Smith produced and screened the movie himself, touring America with the film and screening it to sold-out theatres across the country. At the end of the chapter, Smith thanks the small group of people who helped make the film possible, who he calls ‘Why Not?’ people:
“There are plenty of “Why?” people in the world. Whenever you hit them with an idea, they start in with their bullshit.
“Why try that?”
“Why do you think you’re better than everyone else?”
To counteract this, simply surround yourself with folks who ask only “Why not?” As in …
“Wanna make a movie?”
“Sure. Why not?”
Remember: It costs nothing to encourage an artist, and the potential benefits are staggering. A pat on the back to an artist now could one day result in your favorite film, or the cartoon you love to get stoned watching, or the song that saves your life. Discourage an artist, you get absolutely nothing in return, ever. I’ve spent the better part of my career getting up after movies and encouraging potential artists in the audience to give it a shot, pointing to myself as proof that anybody can make their dreams come true. I don’t do this altruistically: I’m selfishly insuring that I have cool shit to watch one day by encouraging anybody to follow passions like film or storytelling.”
– Follow Kevin Smith on Twitter.
– If you’re a comic book lover, then I highly recommend Smith’s Fatman on Batman podcast. Smith’s interviewed many comic book legends such as Grant Morrison, Jim Lee, Greg Capullo, Joe Quesada, Jeph Loeb, Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil. Although they’re Batman-centric, the in-depth interviews cover the creator’s whole careers and how they got into the business. Plus I’m pretty sure Smith is stoned during most of the interviews, so they’re hilarious (Warning: major potty language).
– This comic is a a follow-up to last weeks Full Body Education strip. I wanted to show that besides the education system, parents of course play a major role in realising a child’s potential.
– Last but not least, earlier this week I announced that I was giving away some of my original art to help promote my upcoming book. Here’s how you can win it.