Sundance 2011: Red State Q&A with Kevin Smith and Michael Parks

Fresh off the presses, our Sundance correspondent Kabelson has just sent over a transcript of the Q&A session for Kevin Smith’s controversial film Red State (review here). Dig it!

Smith: Hi everybody. How’s everyone doing this morning? (cheers and applause) I’ll tell ya what, last night was a crazy night. Woke up this morning (1/24), I was like “Honey what did we do?”. She let me read a bunch of shit, I was like “Oh fuck no!” It was fun, last night we announced something we’ve been planning for a while. We are distributing Red State ourselves under SModcast Pictures. Like the movie style in the old days, like Gone With the Wind, take it from city to city to city. That’s the first part of it, for me, I am sure a lot of people took what I did the wrong way, and I guess I can’t be shocked by that. It’s not personal, I am not saying don’t sell your movie. By all means whatever you want to do is fine. I have been doing this for 17 years though, and I think I can make this decision myself. I am not saying that this is the way everyone has to do it.

This is the only way I can do it with this movie. While we were making it, I was just like “I can’t see selling it”. It’s an investment, I like it, and the budget is small enough where $4M is not that difficult to get back. If we start piling marketing costs on top of it, it will be impossible to get it back. $20M on top of that $4M to market it, we’re gonna have to make $50M before that movie sees profit. I’m a Catholic; I gotta make $20M (laughter). What we’re gonna do is take the movie out on the road. We start at Radio City Music Hall on March 5th, 2011. It starts there; then we go out across the country for about 15 days that we have planned for the first tour. Then we’ll probably wait 2 months and go back out on the road again.

Red StateWe’re gonna keep doing that until we get our $4M budget back to our investors so that by the time we come out on screens on October 19th, we will be fully in profit, and basically every penny we make from that point is just profit. We’re not gonna spend any money on marketing, no TV spots, no outdoor or print media, we’re just gonna do it ourselves via Twitter and the SModcast network that I’ve got. I don’t know, after 17 years I came up here and it’s just weird, you’d think after 17 years I’d have a distributor (laughter). But I do have a distributor, it’s my own, and a lot of people are like “what an idiot, he’s a fuckin’ asshole” or “he’ll never do it”. They always say that when you do anything. But for me it’s like, why not try this?

I’ve released nine movies in the traditional way and I’ve studied it for 17 years now, and I know what happens. It’s the same result over and over. Why not just try this leverage and the fact that I haven’t done this yet? The long and short of it is that I am taking it out by myself, I am not judging anyone else, but for me to be truly independent, like I’d like to be,. like I was 17 years ago, this is the only way that makes sense to me. I love the movie and I am gonna take it out and sell it myself. I have been shunned for this. People are saying “he’s just gonna take it out and sell to his audience”.

Steven Spielberg sells to his audience, Bruce Willis sells to his audience. We all sell to our audiences, I don’t understand why everyone want to market analyze my audience all the time. People have been doing that for years. Whenever we get ready to market a movie, we talk about spending money on this, that, or the other thing. We advertise on this channel and we’re like “why are you spending this?” Even in the case of Clerks 2, I am like “don’t spend any money, it has a ‘2’ in the title, and people that liked Clerks will go see Clerks 2”.

I know I have an audience and I can make this money back and probably a little bit more if I don’t throw on all those fuckin’ add-on costs that come later. Those add-on costs are simply about reaching an audience. I already reach an audience, and I like my audience and they like me. OK, enough of that; let’s talk about the fuckin’ movie.

I want to introduce you to a man; without him this movie wouldn’t exist. In 1995 I was sitting in the Laemmle Theatre in L.A. watching the preview of From Dusk Till Dawn. In the first 10 minutes Michael Parks takes the screen and owns the screen. Even though he gets killed in the first 10 minutes (spoiler, spoiler), he made a fuckin’ impact on me that night. That night in 1995 I said, “I gotta make a movie with that man”. I would to just sit on a set and watch that guy for like 3 weeks or 4 weeks. That would be fantastic. It took me 15 years to accomplish it, but we’re here tonight. I don’t care what happens, whether we’re successful or not taking this movie out by ourselves, whether it makes a lot of money or no money. The best thing that came out of Red State was that I got to work with the true master; I would like to introduce, ladies and gentlemen, Michael Parks.

(Cheers and applause)

Parks: Oh boy, what can I say; he’s a hard act to follow. I am behind him 100%, and I loved working with him. I love your country here, but I’m cold.

Smith: Anyone got questions?

Q: I loved your character, but how much of that was script and how much was fluffed?

Parks: Kevin really encouraged me. We had a lot of conversations and everything fell together in the script, and it was fun to do. But I’m…ummm…not a good speaker, and I never will be. I don’t know if there are any more questions, and I certainly hope not (laughter).

Q: Are you from a religious background?

Parks: My great-grandmother used to drag me to church. But I love the old Baptist hymns. They are so pretty and melodic. This is not an anti-Christian film. I still watch what I say around them, but they forgive me (laughter). We’re recording a religious album actually; we recorded 5 for the movie and have 3 more to do. Which I think is beautiful.

Q: How did you feel about being chosen for the part?

Parks: I never really knew Kevin before. I don’t watch movies; I don’t even watch my own. So we went to breakfast, and it was good. He (Smith) can testify to that. It was wonderful.

Q: Were you comfortable with this character since he seemed such a prejudiced person?

Parks: Well I’m not prejudiced. You play everything from Hitler to Jesus. So yes, I was OK with it.

Q: I have a question for Mr. Smith. I loved the ending, the conflict and all, but was that how it was originally?

Smith: Well first of all, Mr. Smith is my father, and he’s dead. Thanks for bringing it up (laughter). Like I said, I guess the true genesis was me seeing Parks in From Dusk Till Dawn. When you see someone give a performance that is just so off the beaten path and make the choices that no other actor you have seen is making, they stick in your head. He stuck in my head for a long, long time. I have never really made grown-up pictures.

Red State – Festival Trailer
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About 12 years after seeing Parks in From Dusk Till Dawn, my friend Malcolm Ingram made a movie called Small Town Gay Bar, which played up here at the festival. It was about a small town in Mississippi where it’s hard to be yourself in a community where nobody fuckin’ wants you. They have this bar that is their social outlet. They live in their houses and they go to this bar to unwind. It is their outlet and they create a family and shit. In the documentary Malcolm sat down with Phelps, and he used about 10 minutes of this doc, and after I watched the doc, I said to him, “I can’t believe you sat down with that guy. What was it like?” He was like “It was fuckin’ scary cuz he looks like your grandfather but he talks like Hitler.” I asked if he had more footage. He had like an hour and ten minutes of interview time with him. He gave me the DVD and I watched it. It was hands down the most terrifying thing I ever saw. It was just like Malcolm said, so calm, so serene, almost sounds logical; but the shit that comes out of his mouth was hate and vile. It’s almost like a performance; you’re like no human being could be this evil. He’s like fuckin’ Darth Vader and Voldemort had a butt baby (laughter).

I work in the movie business and it’s a very gay world that I live in. My brother’s gay, Malcolm’s gay, I got a lot of gay in my world. Hell, I am one cock in my mouth shy of being gay myself (lots of laughter). So for me, when I watched that interview, I’m like this is the worst. Whether Phelps means it or not, whether they are scam artists or whether they are true believers, I just felt someone oughta take a shot at this. Someone oughta make a movie about this guy. He’s terrifying, and at the same time we can cut the fuckin’ legs out from a fuckin’ hate talker like this. So I thought about it and I told Malcolm, “You should write it”. He’s like “NO WAY!” So I was like “OK, I’ll write it.” So I started writing it and wrote it over the course of 3 days. I would write a bunch of pages and send them to Malcolm. Malcolm would be like “I dare ya to keep going.” I was like “Alright!” This whole movie was written on a dare, and I am sure a lot of critics feel that (laughter). So I wrote and sent more to him and he’s like “This is awesome! Where are Jay and Silent Bob?” I said, “They ain’t comin’ in this one.” Then at the end, the last sequence that you see in the movie, in the original draft of the script, Cooper is facing down John Goodman’s ATF character, so I asked Malcolm where to go from here. I said, “I don’t know, maybe the rapture.” Malcolm’s like “I fuckin’ dare ya.” (Laughter) So I said “fuck you” and wrote the rest.

So when Parks gets up in Goodman’s face and is yelling at him “shoot me, shoot me!” and then his chest exploded. Everyone’s chests start exploding. Horns blow and it gets overwhelming and Goodman finally opens his eyes and one of the last of the Cooper clan is on the sword of a giant angel. I wrote this BEFORE I started smokin’ weed (laughter). The angel pulls the sword out, looks at Goodman’s character, and just flies away. He looks up in the sky and the four horsemen are riding. So Malcolm is like “I dare ya to make that movie”. Then 2 years later when I re-drafted it, I was like I don’t think we actually have to go that far, let’s have our cake and eat it too. Let’s make it seem like the apocalypse but let’s play it out in the logical world. The whole movie started playing out very realistically. There was nothing too far-fetched.

So it came from those two sources, it came from seeing Michael in From Dusk Till Dawn and from Malcolm’s footage from the Phelps interview. So without these two guys I wouldn’t be standing here. I love this movie, and I loved working with everyone in it. I am gonna love taking it to the people even more. Any filmmaker will tell ya there is no fuckin’ better felling than showing your movie to a packed house and fuckin’ talking about it afterward. Hearing people liking it and not liking it, all that shit. We don’t do this shit in a vacuum; it’s all manufactured for you. We want people to say things about it, good or bad, it’s fuckin’ art. The idea of staying involved, keeping the idea of the movie going, by being there with it when it’s showing, I don’t know, I love that. It’s the kind of thing that if we’re successful at it, other people could do it, too.

The studio distribution model will always exist, it’s big business, but there has to be something for those of us that want to tell stories, but stories that aren’t worth spending $20M in marketing on. Look at this movie, why would spend $20M to market it? It is going to appeal to who it’s going to appeal to. So I decided to not spend it, stick with it, and quietly make our money back. Instead of saying let’s fetishize the opening weekend cuz that’s where it’s going to happen. I don’t need 3 days to make this movie work, I need a long time. So were gonna take it out and show it all over the country, then take it theatrical release.

Q: Are you gonna show it in the Bible Belt?

Smith: Yeah. Some of our dates on the tour that you can look at on CoopersDell.com, where the tour information is, I think there are 1 or 2 in the South right now. But we will do another tour after this tour is over, if it’s successful, a couple months later. I’m not afraid; I don’t think anyone sees themselves represented in this film, except fuckin’ Phelps. Even him, it’s like “That’s not us; that’s a horror movie.” When we do the theater show, Parks is gonna come along and sing; it’s gonna be a good time.

Thank you so much for comin’ out. Thank you for having me again at the festival at Sundance. See you guys at the movies. Good-bye!

To stay up-to-date on all things Red State, follow Kevin Smith on Twitter.


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