Since Kevin Smith has finished the first draft of his horror film Red State, he’s been talking about the film all over the view askew message boards. Like him, or hate him, one thing you must admire is how accessible Smith makes himself to his core group of fans, and how very honest he is about both his projects and his life.
We’ve spent some time and compiled all the information into an organized, readable, information filled transcript. We eordered the questions so that they now read like an interview, flowing from topic to topic. Smith talks about his writing process, how the film is more bleak than Requiem for a Dream (one of my favorite flicks), political themes, sharks, anticipating studio reluctance (might Bob and Harvey pass?), what he plans to do if that happens, and much more.
Question: From the time you sat down to write it, how long did it actually take you to finish?
Smith: I started writing on Saturday. Finished [Wednesday]. However, to be fair, I’ve had months to let it simmer and stew in my imagination before I started the actual script, so I wasn’t flying blind. I also spent about a week doing a twenty page outline that I then worked off of. But from the first “INT AIRPORT – DAY” to “THE END” was five days.
Question: Have you done that before, when it comes to writing? the “flying-blind” thing?
Smith: More often than not, I fly blindly into it. I rarely… rarely do an outline. But with “Red State”, I wanted to flesh it out a bit more in notes-form, rather than just let it all happen via dialogue. When I’m writing omething like “Chasing Amy” or “Clerks II”, the structure and story evolve from the conversation to conversation flow. Since there’s not a ton of conversation in this, I felt that going in with some semblance of a game-plan was in order.
Question: How did you handle action description? Is there a lot of “and they fight” or is it more descriptive?
Smith: Much, much more descriptive. Painstakingly so.
Question: Did you learn anything about your own fears in writing this?
Smith: What a great question. The answer: a little bit, yes.
Question: Are you going to be adding elements of comedy, or is it going to be just serious and as you said, “fucked up.”?
Smith: There’s a few chuckles; about 2%. The other 98% is pretty fucking bleak and disturbing.
Question: Anything to compare it to on a bleakness scale?
Smith: “Requiem for a Dream” is a pretty bleak (but insanely well-made) flick. This is more bleak than that.
Question: Terrorists, republicans, marshal law!!!! I know that you can’t tip your hat too soon, but…… Am I off-base here?
Question: So you’re more or less confirming that “Red State” is not political?
Smith: I didn’t say that.
Question: Does this movie reference international politics or is it strictly microcosmic?
Smith: It’s micro, definitely. But it’s also a metaphor for macro.
Question: Does this movie explore solutions to the problems it explores or is that up to the audience? is it a message movie?
Smith: More of a mirror movie.
Question: Will there be any “good guys” in it?
Smith: Well, that’s kind of the problem: there are no “good guys.” It’s a story full of moral (and, more to the point, immoral) relativism.
Question: Will there be sharks ? :D
Smith: No sharks, sadly.
Question: I’m just wondering if some of the violence in the film is sexual?
Question: Since this flick will be different from anything you’ve done before, are you more excited making it, compared to the comedies you made/will make?
Smith: A bit. Because it’s outside of our wheelhouse, there’s a touch more excitement, due to the fact that we’re heading into unchartered (for us) waters on this one.
Question: I just hope its less the “let’s sink hooks into someone’s face and rip chunks off” type of horror and more the real fright “horror of the mind” type of movie.
Smith: Then you’re in luck.
Question: I’m not a huge fan of the horror genre, but from everything you’ve said, this will be a very different type of horror film.
Smith: Lord help me, it is. I have a hard time classifying it as a “horror flick” because, while it shares some of the genre conventions, it’s just not what most would consider a horror flick. Horrific, yes, but not a horror flick in terms of the general definition. Let’s put it this way: if “Rosemary’s Baby” can be classified as a horror flick, then “Red State” can be as well.
Question: Any thoughts on how you’re going to proceed on the action scenes? Maybe have an assistant to shoot the boring stuff (20 takes for 3 seconds) ?
Smith: Nah. Post-”Reaper”, I’m okay with shooting the less-dialogue-oriented stuff. Actually kind of looking forward to telling a story visually. Again – not to say there’s no dialogue; there is. Just way less than I’m used to dealing with/shooting.
Question: Were any of the parts, as bit as they may be, written with any V.A regulars in mind?
Smith: Not this time.
Question: With the glut of movies out now in the vein of “Hostel” and “Saw,” what was the initial reaction when you gave the pitch for “Red State”?
Smith: I didn’t pitch it. And there’s a chance that, when I turn it in, Harvey and Bob might be like “Um, we’ll pass…” – which would mean we’d be forced to seek financing elsewhere.
Question: Big congrats on finishing the script and cant wait for you to let us know how scott, harvey and bob like it.
Smith: Scott dug it, but said it’s not gonna be easy to pull off. Bryan read the first 87 pages, before I went back and revised some stuff and finished it, but he dug the Hell out of it. Malcolm’s read it, too, and he loves it. After he was done reading it, he sent me an IM that read simply “I dare you.”
Question: So Scott thinks it will be difficult to pull off because of the low budget, or because of the subject matter being so different from what you’ve normally done?
Smith: Little of both. We’re kind of anticipating… reluctance, shall we say, from the money people.
Question: If it meant finding easier financing would you change your story to more closely jibe with traditional storytelling?
Smith: Even if I was okay with doing so, the story’s constructed in such a way that you can’t really offer different decisions to the characters than what they’re currently provided without changing the story utterly. So, no.
Question: So, even though everything you do has been profitable, you still run into problems with the suits? It seems as if it should be a no brainer to me: Kevin Smith = profit!
Smith: Normally, sure. But this flick wouldn’t necessarily occur to some as “audience-friendly” on the page. It’s one thing to hand them a script full of funny stuff with proven characters that a niche audience has enjoyed previously; it’s another thing to hand them this. Which is not to say that I fully expect them to show me the door. I just wouldn’t be shocked if Harvey and Bob were like “We can’t go for the ride with you on this one, Kevin.” In that instance, Scott and I would just explore other financing avenues that’ve historically shown interest in what we do (Lionsgate, indie investors, etc).
Question: When do you plan on turning it in to Harvey and Bob?
Smith: Not sure. I’ll probably do some more tweaking on it before I hand it over. Mos is going over it a second time to see if there are any logic loopholes in the story, or changes I could make. That’s how we roll, normally.
Question: I think you should pursue it no matter what. You wrote it to stretch as a film maker, and you should see it through if you truly believe in it.
Smith: That’s the plan.