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Friday, August 03, 2012

Why Kevin Smith is My Hero

Yesterday was the birthday of my hero, Kevin Smith.  I was thinking about posting something on Facebook, but would have been long and rambling and more appropriate for the blog.  But I'd already posted a blog entry yesterday, and I like to limit myself to one entry per day.  So that's why I'm a day late.

As I've blogged a bit in the past, I'm a fan of Kevin Smith's.  I love his work.  How I came to be a fan is a rather common story, if the DVD bonus features are to be believed.  There I was, in my freshman year of college.  It was just a quiet Saturday night in the dorms, and I was hanging out in the TV lounge.  And I tell ya, that was a perfect place to experience new movies.  It wouldn't be too long before someone would come into the lounge with some videos and go, "Hey, mind if I watch this movie?"  And one night like that, a guy came into the lounge with a little movie called Mallrats.

And I loved that film.  There it was, a group of characters, talking and making jokes about Star Wars and comic books and stuff I liked!  I'd never seen myself represented on screen before.  It was a pretty funny film, too.  According to those aforementioned DVD bonus features, that's kind of way Smith has stopped jokingly apologizing for the film.  It found its audience in home media.  And through that, it became the perfect gateway film.  People would like it, and search out more films by him.

That's exactly how it was with me.  At around that time, I was just discovering the Internet and searching out more about movies.  So I started learning more about Mallrats and the guy who made it.  I found out he made a movie called Clerks, which I remember Siskel & Ebert raved about in my final days of high school.  He just had another movie come out called Chasing Amy, which sounded pretty good from what I was reading.  It was a few more months before I saw those two films.  The local video store had a 2-for-1 special for college kids, and one night, it was me in the TV lounge with some videos, asking if I could watch them.  It was a double feature of Clerks and Chasing Amy, and from that point on, I was hooked for life.

But there's a fine line between being a fan of someone's work, and declaring them your hero.  What makes Kevin Smith my hero?  Well, for that, I have to recount the story of how Clerks came to be.

Smith has told the story many times.  There he was, in the early-90s, working minimum wage shit jobs, and trying to figure out what to do next with his life.  As he always was a movie geek, he went out to see a movie one night...a little independent film from Richard Linklater called Slacker.  At the end of the film, Smith said, "If that's a movie, then I can make a movie."

With most people, that's where it ends.  They have that thought, and then they go back to their lives.  But not Smith.  Something in Smith's brain changed that to, "If that's a movie, then I will make a movie."  He went off to the Vancouver Film School, but determined that they weren't teaching him anything that he couldn't learn from Laserdisc running commentaries.  He dropped out, and did it early enough in the semester that he actually got a refund on his tuition.  He took that refund, along with an insurance settlement, sold his comic books and Laserdiscs, and juggled credit card debt, to raise the $27,000 budget for Clerks.

He recruited his pals who graduated from the Vancouver Film School to be his crew.  He got a lot of his buddies to star in it.  He set it in the convenience store where he worked.  He'd work all day and film the movie all night.  When that was done, he managed to find a distributor for it, it got in the famous Sundance Film Festival, was picked up by Miramax, and Smith became one of the indie darlings of the 1990s.

That's why Smith is my hero.  People are too damn content to sit back, watch something, and go, "Pfft.  I could do that."  Smith is one of the few who actually got off his ass and did it.

And that's something that kind of carried over into my life.  When I was in college, the happiest was when I was doing my college radio show.  After college, working a variety of minimum wage shit jobs, listening to the radio on those long drives to and from work, and thinking, "That's being on the radio?  Pfft.  I could do that.  I know I can do that.  I did that."  So after finishing conquering the self-doubt, I went and did it.  And I'm still doing that to this very day.

That's the lesson I hope you take from this.  Be like the guy who made Clerks.  Don't be content to just sit back and say, "I could do better."  Actually get off your ass and do better.

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