I could probably write a ten page single-spaced essay about the economics of the “independent” film industry (the quotes are meant as condescending since many of those self-declared films are produced and distributed by arms of big studios) and mention how mostly irrelevant film festivals are now. I do say mostly. Acquisitions still take place, but these festivals are mostly used for publicity and garnering attention.
Speaking of publicity there’s been a lot of noise coming from Sundance, which takes place this week, in regards to a film entitled Red State. A horror film about three teens who are kidnapped by religious fundamentalists and the film plays out as a standard horror film, except with the religious extremism undertones. The director of the film stated it would premiere at Sundance, which it did last night, and after the screening an auction would take place for theatrical distribution rights. However, after the film the director stated that he would be selling the film to himself for $20 then go on a month-long, 13 city on the tour. Charging $60 to $100 for tickets and using only his twitter account for publicity. Obviously, this tour (with bookings) was decided on a long time ago and the director of this film clearly had no intentions of selling the distribution rights at Sundance, thereby wasting everyone in attendance’s time since they could be seeing other films for their respective companies. The film received mostly mixed reviews from those in attendance. So that’s the news. Red State will be seen in select theaters, screened and hosted by the filmmaker. We’ll see what happens.
Oh…did I happen to mention the film director in question is Kevin Smith. The man’s name alone stirs online discussion that hardly ever stays “polite.” Reactions to this news is also less than objective. Nikki Finke’s column described it as “Watching Kevin Smith Implode.” And I’m part of the problem as well. I can’t stand Kevin Smith, as an individual. And most of his films are flatly terrible, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Clerks II are soul-crushingly crass, immature and sad. He was a crucial part of the 1990’s indie movement with Clerks, but since then he’s a rant-aholic blowhard, chastising airlines for asking him to leave because of his weight and film critics for not liking his films. He also has a rabid fanbase. Segments of the online community genuinely love him, as well as some well-respected filmmakers such as Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino.
Red State is Smith’s movie. He should see it released how he wants. It’s a tough distribution world out there, far more losers than winners. Smith wants to use sideshow publicity to draw attention for himself, rail against the system alienate film studios in the process, best of luck.