Kevin Smith’s ‘Red State’ Hits Sundance & Redefines The Indie Film Process

by on January 24, 2011

in Entertainment

Red State movie poster

Kevin Smith‘s Red State opened at the Sundance Film Festival, where it caused a flurry of ticket sales and in the process of how Kevin Smith approached this teaser/opening, may very well be in the middle of redefining the indie film process… for those with the bucks!

Disclaimer:  I only know of Kevin Smith via word-of-mouth.  I’ve never seen any of his work and my only exposure to Mr. Smith was via his Twitter stream, where he’s never at a loss for foul language-laced words or touching on his intended escapades with his wife!  I’ve also seen him at Comic-Con and Wonder-Con.  He never made an impression on me and I found myself unfollowing him on Twitter due to his overuse of profanity & extended tirades. But now, as I read up on the man, it all makes sense as he seems to be on the verge of heralding a new way to distribute indie films…   at least for him… the old fashioned way, one theater at a time, much like Gone with the Wind did, back in its day.

It would seem that Kevin Smith’s approach to movie marketing has paid off in oodles.  A few weeks back Kevin Smith announced that he would not be doing any junkets with any press because they’re going to write what they want anyway, so rather than waste his time, he was going to distribute information about his new movie, Red State, at a specific website. (Quotes from his Twitter statement later at the end of this piece)

Apparently his anti-press mode worked.  Tickets for his new, unpublicized movie, were going like hot-cakes at the Sundance Film Festival last weekend as tickets for the event were showing up in multiple forms of scalping and the movie was put in-play at the 1200-seat Eccles Theater, which according to sources, was jam-packed.

Thoughts On Red State

This new horror film is a complete 180 for Mr. Smith’s style, and apparently, is a well thought out project.  I see that Red State has been called a religious action thriller about three high school boys confronted with a “holy force with a fatal agenda.“  It doesn’t surprise me that the three boys are answering an online ad for an orgy with an older woman.  Mr. Smith loves talking smack like that.  If you’ve ever followed his tweets, you know what I mean.

The movie has been noted to not follow the standard fare of horror plots, but rather, the script has been called intelligent and his style, realistic. [sundance.slated]

This film offers a non-stop barrage of violence and religious terror that will pin you to your seat.

The film is not just a horror movie but a statement (maybe too obvious at moments) about religion and government that shouldn’t be missed.

He does fall back into his old habits of letting characters talk for way too long and explain way too much all in one scene….

[slashfilm: kevin-smiths-red-state-quick-reactions]

Finding A Distributor

As if having his own success for the film wasn’t enough, he announced plans to auction off his film for distribution, at Sundance.  He ended up “buying” it himself.  It was of course, a bit of a spit on the process of movie marketing and distribution as he won the rights to auction it off for $20.  Yet some made some noise about this publicized deal, but all I see is Mr. Smith making a statement the best way he can.  And in response to some, he had this to say on his Twitter stream:

It seems some people are pissed about the auction.  I VERY specifically said “…I plan to pick my distributor in the room – auction style…” Then, EVERYONE ELSE said I was selling the movie. But I never said that. Very specific wording. Then, I watched as lots of bloggers turned it into “He says he plans to sell the film in the room.”  So, if you’re mad that I didn’t live up to a story that I actually really didn’t tell… well, that’s kinda my whole point about the press.

Hence his issues with bloggers, who he at least tends to refer to as the press, giving the blogging world some credit.  Small, but some.


Indie 2.0

He did address the fact that it took him $4 million  to make the movie and thought that it did not make any sense to drop another $20 million to market it.  In fact, he’s calling his process “indie film 2.0,” where

In indie film 2.0, we don’t let them sell our movie, we sell our movie ourselves.

In the same theme, he praised Harvey Weinstein as his inspiration and mentor and said the indie film has grown up.  With Smith “buying” his own film, this puts the film under the SModcast Pictures label and it will be released on October 19th, 2011.  About that standard marketing process that he’s circumventing, he “lambasted movie studios for a system he said is unfair and outdated and too focused on advertising.

[hollywoodreporter: sundance-red-states-kevin-smith-74829]

Red State USA Tour

In regards to that marketing of his, he plans to take the film on a tour of the country, one stop at a time and he expects that despite his charging somewhere upwards of 10x that of a regular movie ticket, he still expects to make up close to 1/2 his $4 million production investment.  The movie tour will be called “Red Sate USA Tour.”

Here is the full list of dates and locations:

  • March 5th – Radio City Music Hall
  • March 6th – Wilbur Theater in Boston
  • March 8th – Harris Theater in Chicago
  • March 9th – State Theater in Minneapolis
  • March 10th – Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor
  • March 11th – Indianapolis, IN
  • March 12th – Midland Theater, Kansas City
  • March 14th – Springfield, OH
  • March 22nd – Paramount Theater, Denver
  • March 26th – McCalister theater, New Orleans
  • March 28th – Paramount Theater, Austin
  • March 29th – Cobb Energy Center, Atlanta
  • April 4th – McCaw Hall in Seattle

coopersdell ]

It’s a fascinating list, hitting some major cities while skipping others… or maybe making a statement by skipping the home to movies, the Los Angeles, CA region where Hollywood resides.

About Red State

Red State stars Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun and Kyle Gallner as the horny teenagers, while other cast includes Melissa Leo, John Goodman, Michael Angarano & Kevin Pollak (who has three lines in it.).

Kevin Smith wrote, directed and edited the film, and according to everything I’ve read, he edited while filming so when filming was done, editing was done too.  That is seriously efficient!

And though this is a horror film, it’s been said that the movie does not go where you think it’s going to go and the ending is a series of surprising events.

While many seemed to be in awe or praise of the effort, a UGO review says

Smith directed the media beautifully at the Sundance Film Festival, but he failed to do so on the set of the movie Red State.”

It touched on how Smith made it near impossible for the press to get into the screening.  But with this UGO reviewer, it seems, may have already had his mind made up about any of Smith’s projects as this particular review seems in contrast to any other review or perspective out there. [ugo: red state review]

Though I do believe the UGO reviewer made an accurate (accidentally?) statement about Smith directing the media… from denying them any access to dissing the Hollywood process, he’s made it near impossible to NOT talk about his project.  I for one was going to abide by his request, as you can see, this is my first bit on the project.  But now, seeing what he was up to and how he’s played this process out rather smartly, I have respect for the insight and approach, all despite how I feel about his outward demeanor of one whose conversational style involves more profanity and lack of concern for his audience’s tolerance.

Joss Whedon & Kevin Smith?

Can we actually clump both Joss Whedon and Kevin Smith in the same sentence. In the case of circumventing the standard “Hollywood” distribution process, the answer is yes.

OK, both Joss Whedon and Kevin Smith might be at different ends of the spectrum in their verbal delivery, but Joss Whedon made it abundantly clear that one can succeed outside the normal channels of distribution with his internet smash hit, Dr. Horrible.  Smith took this similar premise and takes it a step further by showing his own personal interaction with the film by going on tour with it.  He’s not just pumping it up and walking away to let the project fend for itself, as is the normal course of events in this business of entertainment.  He’s personally walking it through its paces.  I have to applaud this new (re-invented) and daring approach to his support for his own project.  My admiration for this daring approach completely outweighs my personal issues with his methodology of communication.

Red State Movie Teaser:

Links for more Red State Informatiom

THR Review:  hollywoodreporter: Red State Movie Review

The Playlist Review:  indiewire – theplaylist: Red State Movie Review

Slash Film has been covering the crap out of this movie, so I’m just directing you to their tag of Red State and you can see it all:  slashfilm/red-state

Kevin Smith’s Twitter Announcement

Here’s the Twitter release Kevin Smith made about not doing press junkets:

I’m not press-junketing at all, anywhere. In fact, I’m not doing any press outside of maybe a business piece or 2 to help sell the flick if needed, & radio (LOTS of radio). That’s what is about: I’m providing all the information needed to write a story, if that’s what you’re looking to do.

It’s INSANELY detailed, and by the time we’re done, I’ll have pre-answered all questions about RedState – thus negating the need to speak with me about it.

From nearly 20 yrs experience, I know this much: folks are gonna write WHATEVER they want, whether I sit down with them or not. So I’ll just furnish all the information I’d normally serve up one at a time to a small, jaded audience that doesn’t really give a shit unless there’s someone famous in the room, to a much larger, APPRECIATIVE audience that would actually enjoy & benefit from hearing the same information.

And thus far, it’s been working out great. Folks that wanna write about RedState pull from the podcasts, folks that don’t wanna but have to (so as not to seem behind the curve or a day late & dollar short in this information-is-currency culture) are doing what they lazily always do: pulling from the OTHER blogs that actually did their homework.

It’s kind of like an audio press kit. We’re even transcribing them now, for the SUPER lazy writers who’ve already bitched about having to wade through 12 hours of audio so they can write knowledgeably about a subject. Nobody needs to talk to me anymore anyway, as anyone who’s curious can always know what I’m thinking 24/7 right here on Twitter. Besides – the REALLY interesting story in RedState isn’t me; it’s MichaelParks. Or JohnGoodman. Or MelissaLeo. Or the ENTIRE cast. Or s’about how @ThatDavidKlein CRUSHED it.

The man has a point… I’ve personally seen exactly what he’s talking about.

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