Kevin Smith vs. The Critics

After receiving a mauling from critics for his previous film, Cop Out, Kevin Smith is determined to get his own back during the release of his new film, Red State. I haven’t seen Cop Out but considering it was a buddy cop comedy starring Bruce Willis and Tracey Morgan I’m not about to go disputing its 19% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

After buying the rights to US distribution for the film from himself for $20, snubbing distributors who had turned up to the auction, Smith planned to tour the film personally around the US. It now looks like he’ll be giving the US public access to his film via Video On Demand and then a regular DVD release through Lions Gate Films. One thing he won’t be doing is letting the press see it for free.

Kevin Smith is a firm believer that only his fans should see his films for free, not critics who will judge it objectively (or as near as possible) before then promoting it for free in all the media outlets that cover film releases. This all became perfectly clear on Monday when he turned his sights on the UK film critics.

Outside of the US, Smith took a less hands-on approach and sold distribution rights. In the UK this was to eOne, a distributor yet to realise the brilliance of Mild Concern. On Monday night, hours before a scheduled press screening of Red State, Kevin Smith caught wind on Twitter of UK critics about to attend and promptly called eOne to cancel. The screening was “postponed” so that he could kick various critics from the guest list in place of fans willing to enjoy anything he puts out, regardless of quality.

As I mentioned we aren’t on eOne’s mailing list and weren’t invited to the screening but we do pity any company who paid for the rights for a film but aren’t being allowed to promote it. Fans can only help a film so much, there is a point where blind praise becomes harmful and a 3-star rating in the Telegraph will get more bums on seats than a sycophantic review on a film nut’s blog. (cough)

If you make a bad film you open yourself up to bad reviews and for a film there is no greater publicity than a glowing review in all forms of press. Kevin Smith can do what he likes with his films and fair play to him for bypassing the usual distribution system, but eOne should not have to deal with his meddling when their job is to create a buzz about his new film. They say all publicity is good publicity but I don’t even know what the film is about.

Critics are important, it’s why they’re put on posters rather than a tweet sent to the director. Don’t get mad at the critics Kevin Smith, and eOne… send us an email.

ETA: For details of things we got wrong, see the angry comment below…

8 thoughts on “Kevin Smith vs. The Critics

  1. Not only are you laughably mistaken throughout your blog, it appears you’ve failed to identify yourself in this entry. (I’ve never read this “mild concern” so maybe it’s just one person, what-ev.) All in all, barely anyone has seen this movie for free, especially the fans. While he toured RED STATE across the US we were shelling out 50-60 Dollars a pop to see it, so your statement about fans seeing it for free is, well…Bollocks. One thing is very clear though, you don’t know anything about Kevin Smith, or his fan base, he has a tight-knit army of loyal fans who follow him on many media fronts and support his work & endeavors fervently. He DOES NOT NEED the main stream media’s help in anything he does, he’s built a completely insulated community that is self-sufficient & autonomous. Your arrogant claim that “Critics are important” is the very reason he’s created this environment. He doesn’t need you, (especially a tiny blog that’s not on eOne’s radar.). Yes, he plays to his fans, as he should… Critics have NO baring on his work, world, life or future. For all intent and purpose, he’s untouchable right now, no amount of press could sway his fan base or slow his momentum …. not a guy who’s so open and transparent about his intentions that he broadcasts from his living room for 4 hours every morning, talking candidly about EVERYTHING. We trust him because we know him….. you’re just a parasite out trolling for mouse clicks and someone else approval. How “school yard bully” of you.

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  2. Bo Duke, your comment would have more punch if Kevin Smith had made a decent film in the last 12 years.

    He’s hardly untouchable.

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  3. In our defence… yikes!

    1. When referring to fans seeing the film for free I was only referring to the potential upcoming press screening.

    2. Know, I don’t know a huge amount about the Kevin Smith fan-base but think that films should be for everyone not just an “insulated community”.

    3. I’ve been part of a tight knit fan-base in the past and know the passion with which you write but think it is misguided to hold any artist above objective criticism. For every Joss Whedon there is a Dollhouse.

    4. This post was not an attack on Kevin Smith. It was intended more as a defence of critics and a company simply trying to turn a profit on a film they are distributing. The only director we attack is James Cameron.

    5. I only wish we had a tight-knit army of fans.

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  4. TIM: Geez, I did come off angry didn’t I, sorry bout that, got carried away.(especially at the end there with that ‘Parasite’ comment…eeeshh). Was listening to Mr. Smith talk about the incident on his show (Check out Plus One Per Diem from July 5th), at the time I wrote it. On that show he’s explaining how he’s not trying to prevent eOne from turning a profit at all, he’s trying to prove that he doesn’t need to conform to someone else’s idea of how a movie should be made & distributed. For the last year this guy has been on the air nearly every day with something new about this movie and the process he’s going through, illustrating that he doesn’t need ANYONE else’s approval to do things his way. Just his fans… of which there are more than enough willing to pay for his art & thus he soldiers on. Oddly enough, the media doesn’t seem interested in getting their news about him from the countless hours of recorded podcasts, interviews & Q&A’s he’s done on the movie. I don’t think there’s anything misguided about excluding the so called “objective” critics… as Mel opines above, he hasn’t made good movie in 12 years… and that’s been the “objective” stance for almost as long. Could you blame him after that much time for saying “Ok, now it’s just for the fans who’ve enjoyed my work over this past decade… the rest of you have other films out there to enjoy/judge/walk out of.” And I agree with him, I don’t give a crap about what anyone “objective” thinks, he’s proven himself to be as an artist I enjoy, done. My passion does get the best of me sometimes…more so in impersonal ‘web’ settings such as this, he’s my Gretzky in a way. Take a close look at what he’s built over the last 3 years… I think you’d be VERY impressed.

    Mel: I respect your opinion, but unfortunately for anyone who enjoys disliking his films, (and as I said above) he’s got a large enough fan base that he can afford to continue on & mainstream criticism has nearly zero ability to effect his hardcore fan’s opinion. He talks to us everyday, his presence is constant…. meanwhile a critic’s is fleeting… a tag line on a poster (so says Tim). Take a close look at his model… his podcast & internet radio listenership alone is large enough to keep this ship afloat and you’ll NEVER sway that crowd. You think you could somehow get Howard Stern’s loyal daily listers to change their mind about HIM? Nope. That kind of daily exposure, broadcaster/listener relationship is damned hard to disrupt. (And don’t fire back with some absurd accusation that I’m comparing Smith to Stern, I’m not. )

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  5. I’m not a rabid fan of Kevin Smith but I have listened to and watched most of his work over the years. The underlying point that Mr Smith has made is that this is his eight Motion Picture. No matter how much or how little has been spent on marketing his movies make the same at the box office which if my memory serves is approximately 20 Million U.S. Dollars each since Dogma. The point he has been stressing this last year is that it has been shown that no matter how much money is spent there is a finite audience for him. He made Red State for 5 Million U.S. dollars, compare that too the 20k U.S. Dollars spent on clerks. Mr Smith stated a few times that it took several years for clerks to make a profit because of how much money was spent in marketing (as well as what it took to purchase the movie and other costs of course). As time has gone on he has said that the average starting price to market his moves was about 20 Million USD. So to market a movie that grosses on average 20 million USD hasn’t made sense. Yes I think he is being rather over dramatic over his relationship with critics but he validates it for himself with the following point. No matter how much or how little his movie is screened by critics it hasn’t changed the number of people seeing the movies. They have been attacked by most, so why go through it? Why give away his product to people who do nothing to help him?

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  6. Obviously I don’t know enough about the world of Kevin Smith to carry on the debate too far! Though I do concede that looking at his box office against aggregated critics scores it seems that Cop Out was his worst reviewed and yet highest grossing film. What do critics know?

    All I know is that I like to read reviews from a variety of sources and know what context their opinion is being given in. Kevin Smith can distribute his film however he likes, with or without the critics. but by selling the rights to eOne should leave them to decide how to promote it. This post was written from an outsider looking in, neither an invited critic, nor a Kevin Smith fan (though I have enjoyed his films.)

    Others have written about this event, some with more style and some with more offence to Kevin Smith (at least in the title).

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  7. For what it’s worth, I started off as a Kevin Smith fan many years ago. Clerks, Mallrats, Dogma – hell, even Chasing Amy – I really liked.

    But he lost me. I don’t enjoy disliking his films, and I have no intention of “swaying” his fans – couldn’t care less really. I just think he should focus less on solely pleasing his fans, and more on making a good film. He is a filmmaker after all.

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  8. I’ve not seen Cop Out, nor do I plan too. Not because I like or dislike Smith, Willis, or Morgan, but I just got tired of buddy cop movies. I would like to see Red State but have little interest in his hockey movie. I say this because my likes or dislikes have rarely been swayed by a movie critic. 9 out of 10 times my opinion will end up being the opposite of most so I am more than likely an exception over the rule. So in my own way I support his cross bearing against the critics but I would do the same if it was any number of Film makers if they so aligned with my tastes.

    The point about him selling the rights to a distributor is on point right up where he is trying to put out a new model on distribution. If there is not a layer of consistency in the U.S.A. as well as outside of it then the data is even more skewed, as well as the point from what I have read he was able to sway eOne over is by saving them money by not spending it in a manner that will not bring them more money than they are going to spend on it. Thank you for at least responding to our posts and at least offering a level of discussion.

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