Posted on Tuesday, December 30th, 2014 by Germain Lussier
Sit back, grab a drink, and settle in. Kevin Smith is about to speak.
Last week, we chatted with Smith on the occasion of the blu-ray release of Tusk. (The disc is available now.) The controversial film had its share of fans and detractors; I fell somewhere in the middle. I admired Tusk’s ambition and the new direction for Smith, but at the same time acknowledged and was unforgiving of the film’s flaws. In our interview, we asked Smith about some of those issues, spoke about what he feels he learned as a filmmaker from the experience, and a few of the more polarizing choices in the movie. Two or three questions took a planned 15 minute interview to 25 minutes, but if you’re a fan of Kevin Smith, the director has rarely been so insightful about his craft.
However, because Smith talked for so long, we’ve decided to break this interview into a few parts. We already posted about his upcoming movies and projects. Now, Smith talks about how the making of Tusk not only reinvigorated him, but could be seen as an act of inspiration for fellow filmmakers. And from there, he went off on some fascinating tangents about camera movement, aspect ratios and a ton more. Below, read Part 1 of our Kevin Smith interview on Tusk.
Kevin Smith: Hey Germain, long time no see, how are you, sir?
/Film: I’m good, thank you. I’ve been a fan for years; one of the things you always joke about is being a great writer but not a great filmmaker. With Tusk it feels like you grew as a filmmaker. From a filmmaking perspective, what was the most important lesson you think you learned?
Expediency rules the day. A lot of people will say like no, but this is the most valuable lesson of Tusk to me: If you dream it, do it, and do it fast. ‘Cause if you don’t, it’s gonna slip away. You know, I get some ideas over the course of my career where I was like “Ooh, we should do this.” Don’t follow through, it never happens and then you wind up seeing somebody do something similar and be like “Why didn’t I do that when I had the chance?” Now there was never a chance anybody ever was gonna make a similar movie to Tusk. It wasn’t like competing asteroid movies or something like that. But at the same time when we did the podcast and you could hear me work myself up into the idea, like there was this kind of “Do you finish or do you not finish” moment? And there were a bunch of people like listening to the podcast who post on Twitter and Facebook like “Is that how you get started? Like you guys sat around and talked about other movies, made some jokes and then suddenly you said you had your own script. Like is that allowed? You said the whole third act would be like the third act in Iron Man. Is that okay to steal things like that?”
And so you realize some people think there’s a rulebook or a certain procedure that has to be followed in order to do these things. So for me, I was like, well “What if I could just show them how easy it can be?” And naturally some people were like “It’s easy for you ’cause you’ve made movies before.” But as we all know, a couple years ago I was like “Fuck you, so long and thanks for all the fish.” So people weren’t really all that interested in working with me, making movies, particularly this fucking movie. So for me, it was about “Do it, make sure it happens.” And so six months from the day we recorded the podcast, we were on a set and I was saying “Action.”
And the reason that movie looks so good is because it was an incredibly collaborative experience. When you’re going as fast as you’re going, you don’t really get to sit there and plan things out meticulously, because what you try and do is get the movie made period, dude. Like I know we tend to talk about movies when they’re made. But getting a movie made these days, that’s the biggest uphill struggle, man I’ve seen. In 20 years, the big difference is the coffers have gotten tighter. And not for me, ’cause I haven’t tried to do this in a few years.
And when I went out to do Tusk, since the budget was low, it was kind of easy. It was $ 2.7 million. So I was gonna finance it myself, but Demarest came in and said, “We’ll do it”. But there are some cats out there can’t make their miracle happen, man. Like we all saw an article last week talking about the disappearance of the mid range budget film. And there are filmmakers a lot better than me who make far more interesting films than me: John Waters, David Lynch, who aren’t making films right now ’cause they can’t pull loot together. You know, and some of them because like their budgets are higher and they don’t know if they can work lower, whatever. But that’s scary to me. I remember I did a thing at Lincoln Center, we had a screening of Valley Girl and then I spoke to Deborah Foreman was there, Freddie Elmes and the director, please help me, I’m a little stoned, but it’s escaping me.
[Looks it up] Martha Coolidge.
Thank you. You know, she’s a wonderful woman. She directed Real Genius, one of my favorite films of my teenage years. Such a great movie. So she was talking about how it’s impossible for her to practice her art. She’s like “People don’t hire me.” And like why? You’re a great director and you’ve delivered your whole career. And she’s like “People just age out of this business, Kevin.” And so that was a scary thought to me. Like at one point I walked away from this business by choice. But to have that taken away from you, when the thing you love most in this life and the thing that you’ve been doing for a living is suddenly closed to you at least as a profession, as a way to earn a living and stuff? I’m sure she could always make a short film for nothing if she wanted to, just like any of us could. But to hear that that happens. There are people who are far better filmmakers than me who one day either price out of the game or people are just not that interested anymore. And that was kind of terrifying.