If you haven’t been following the world of movie news, shame on you. Some of the biggest headlines have been coming from self-proclaimed media/attention whore Kevin Smith. At this past-years Sundance Film Festival, Kevin Smith debuted his new film Red State. After the screening, he announced that’d he’d be selling distribution rights auction style. One of the film’s producers, John Gordon, took the stage and the auction began. Kevin Smith jokingly began the bid at $20 to which his producer replied SOLD!
It was all a ruse. All long Kevin Smith planned on distributing the film himself. Rather than go through the excess of a ridiculous marketing budget, he was going to take the film to different cities and spread it through word of mouth. I was lucky enough to catch him in New Orleans.
I was a bit hesitant at first. The price for a ticket was $60 BUT it was a screening for a movie that A. wasn’t be released until October 19th, B. had a Q&A with Smith afterwards, and C. it was a once-in-a-lifetime deal. So I bought a ticket the Monday before the screening.
I was nervous when I got an e-mail Tuesday saying the event had changed. Oh no, $60 wasted!! But thankfully it was just a change of scenery. Due to logistical issues, the screening was going to be held at the Elmwood Palace Theaters rather than Tulane University. But, to make up for the change, Kevin Smith was going to include Stephen Root in the Q&A.
Now, for you film fans that don’t know who Stephen Root is, shame shame shame on you. He is most widely recognized as Milton in the cult-ish comedy Office Space. And no, there were no questions about his red stapler during the Q&A.
I got to the theater a good hour and a half before the movie to make sure I got a great seat. (I did since I was about the 20th guy in line.) Everyone was pre-occupied on their iPhone or iPad anxiously checking their twitter to see when Kevin Smith would tweet or to read about other audience reactions to Red State. When the time came to head to the theater we all lined up and headed to a pretty good-sized theater. It was stadium style seating with many many rows. I grabbed a spot a few rows up and stayed near the aisle. I went alone and I was not going to be sandwiched between strangers. The screening sold out and once everyone had piled in, they had Smith’s entourage enter and proceed to a roped off section in the back. Not only was Stephen Root present, but so was Melissa Leo! Yes, that Melissa Leo. The same Melissa Leo who just won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in The Fighter and who then said, “Fuck” on national television. I was star struck as she walked right past me. After they had taken their seats, the man of the hour Kevin Smith entered the room to a standing ovation.
He opened with the back-story of the movie, its inception, and thanked the people who helped make it possible. Without further ado, the movie began.
Red State is not your typical Kevin Smith movie. Filmed entirely using the RED Camera system, Smiths film came across as tense and real unlike his usual comedies that have that fictitious feel. No fancy credits, just a black screen with the words Red State in white. The film begins one of the main characters driving, with his mother, past a funeral that is being protested by the Five Points Church. The film continues with the premise of three high school teens that are looking to get lucky. They meet an older woman online and meet up with her in a trailer miles away from the Five Points Church compound known as Coopers Dell. The boys meet the woman, knock back a few beers and that’s when the movie changes. Up until that point it seems like a Kevin Smith comedy. It keeps you laughing on and off at the different jokes and situations the characters are in, but once they meet up with this woman, the mood changes and changes fast. It suddenly becomes a religious terror film. Not necessarily horror in a sense that something is going to jump out and scare you, but terror in a sense where you’re afraid for the characters. John Goodman delivers some incredible lines that break the tension up with some laughter and Melissa Leo delivers an incredible performance. But they become overshadowed by Michael Park’s character as soon as he steps onto the screen.
The introduction of Michael Park’s character is astounding. It’s a performance that’s beyond Oscar-worthy and its one that leaves you wanting more and you get more. Even though he steals every scene he’s in and nearly the movie, the entire cast delivers on a scale that is unparalleled to Smiths other films. This is easily Smiths best film he’s ever made. I would go more into the story but I do not want to spoil the excitement and fear that I felt as I watched the story unravel before my eyes. I will say this though; you cannot predict this film. So much happens so fast that you barely have time to register what just happened to process what you see before you. It’s a movie I plan on seeing again and again when it’s released into theaters in October.
After the film, there was not a moment of hesitation to give a standing ovation to the much-deserved Kevin Smith. He proceeded to the front and the Q&A began. It went on for nearly three hours. He discussed everything from how scenes were filmed to the script to some of the memorable moments that we almost didn’t see. Since the film was shot using RED, it was completely digital. So Kevin would shoot during the day and edit at night. In fact, he was able to show the entire finished movie during the wrap party. When asked to describe the film, Kevin Smith thought-provokingly said,
“I like to think of it as a Quentin Tarantino film that the Cohen Brothers made. If you were to show this film on a double bill, you would show Fargo and then this movie.”
He went on and on about some behind the scenes aspects which really impressed me. Unfortunately, I’m going leave them out because I do not want to spoil this for anyone. But I will share everything when FTS talks about this movie or the next time I am on the Podcast*. After Smith’s turn, he invited not only Stephen Root (who plays a sheriff) but he also brought down Melissa Leo (who plays a devoted member of the church). Many questions directly and indirectly asked them what influenced them to take the role and both could not stop raving about the script and how much they loved it. When Stephen Root arrived on set, they were already two weeks into shooting. Kevin was able to show him the first half hour of the film (because of it being shot digitally) and Root was blown away. The film had a budget of four million and was shot in under thirty days. Most of the topics covered in the Q&As will most likely end up on IMDB trivia section at some point so be sure to check out the full list as the release date draws closer. After some questions about scenes, they all took bows and the night ended.
I walked back to my car and the parking lot was buzzing with excitement over the film. Many people took to Facebook and Twitter sharing their excitement, I know I did. I drove home excited and could hardly sleep. I had just seen an incredible film that I can’t wait to see again. It’s something worth seeing in theaters with a large group of people and I will definitely be buying the Blu-ray the day this movie comes out.
So yeah I didn’t get to personally meet Kevin Smith, but being a big movie lover, I will look back at the night as an amazing experience that I will never forget.