If it doesn’t hit you when you’re watching his characters swing back and forth on fast dialogue, it may hit you when you check out his Q & A’s. But, eventually, it should hit you like a hockey player being slammed against the glass; Kevin Smith is not an ordinary filmmaker. He’s sometimes argued to be the independent movie genre’s savior with his 1994 release of Clerks, a film that, to this day, is looked at with a particular reverence. His characters are off-the-cuff, observing, age-captured philosophers who throw pervasive, sexual dialogue into their every day conversations the way you’d salt french fries. Also a long time lover of comics, he’s responsible for comic runs on Batman, Green Arrow, and Daredevil, among others. If you haven’t caught on, Kevin Smith is easily one of the heroes of modern day film making and comic book writing.
To put it simply, Kevin Smith is a filmmaker who does and dissects. He fearlessly approaches each project with a love and understanding of its elements and themes. He makes his films without kidding (or, as he’d state, “bullsh*tting”) the audience. He’s well-versed, knowledgeable, and takes from each movie-making experience an element to utilize (or abandon) in his next project. That’s smart film making. Too many directors and writers these days simply refurbish their styles and ideas, seeking merely to incorporate them into new stories and watch them play out in new environments, without learning anything from their past successes or failures. Smith injects his style into every new project with a sense that a rehash kills any and all development of the characters, pushes you against the ropes, and ultimately leaves you back at square one. That’s why his movies are able to be so fresh and recognizable at the same time. He doesn’t recycle without utilizing something he learned from the last release. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The fact that Smith is aware that this is necessary just compliments his intellect in the industry. People love Clerks, but that’s not all they want from him.
Back to fearless filmmaking, Smith is unafraid to inject himself into this work. A vocal Christian, Smith is responsible for two religious movies that have gained quite some notoriety since their releases (Dogma, Red State). His movie, Dogma, humorously and honestly dissects some of the more humorous parts of the Christian faith, throwing a satirical take on the whole thing without ridding itself of the reverence Smith believes the faith deserves. As a Christian myself, I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see a Christian film that is able to jab at and respect itself at the same time. His latest film, Red State, exaggerates something not unseen by the American public: religious over-exuberence and perversion. His subject? The Westboro Baptist Church.
Merely checking out his Q&A Burn in Hell, you’ll find out not only about Smith’s recent work on movies like Cop Out and Red State, but you’ll hear about Smith’s own interactions with Westboro and how they inspired his screenplay (along with Smith’s own openly gay brother). It takes a lot of guts not only to produce a film based on something as intimate as personal faith, but to look at it objectively and refrain from being preachy. Smith accomplishes both feats with both features, though I will say his alternate ending for Red State (which he talks about in Burn in Hell) would have made the movie twice as good and certainly would have made it an instant cult classic on par with Clerks.
But most of all, Kevin Smith is an audience’s filmmaker. He’s polite and gentlemanly to those around him (namely, something a practicing Christian should be) and rather seeks an audiences’ praise over critical reception. I’ve experienced this, myself, as Smith takes an interest in his fans; something too many directors fail to do. He’s as open and honest as it gets, and he writes for audiences, without compromising his own vision for the film. He loves what he does, he loves life, but most importantly, he loves you.
Maybe Kevin Smith will never win an Oscar, but I’m sure he’ll settle for the hearts of millions of dedicated fans.
You can buy some of his work here:
“It’s taken me 15 years to step behind a camera and make something everyone agrees looks like a movie.” – Kevin Smith
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