Examining Kevin Smith’s DIY Marketing For ‘Red State’

Director defends his promotion decision, and discusses walking away from directing for good.

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud

Examining Kevin Smith's DIY Marketing For 'Red State'

In the coming months you may notice a surprising lack of standard-marketing push for Kevin Smith‘s upcoming new movie Red State, a bleak little film centering on a fictitious murderous religious group. Believe it or not, the lack of promotion is by design, and even more interesting: the film could very well be Smith’s second to last directorial experience ever. 

Red State, which stars Oscar winner Melissa Leo, is a serious stylistic departure for Smith, who first made a name for himself as half the strip-mall slacker duo Jay and Silent Bob in Clerks, moving on to helm other films including Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma and most recently Cop Out (which was far and away his most expensive – and worst – film, if we’re being honest). Rather than committing to millions of dollars in studio-driven promotional campaigns and press junket overloads for Red State, however, Smith is taking a very DIY approach to marketing the film. To build funds for the independent promotion, he’s embarking on a 15-date, nationwide ‘Kevin Smith’s Red State Tour’ with the film (which will see a regular theatrical release in October).


The price for a ticket to the show? About $60. In exchange, Smith will personally introduce the film, then conduct a Q&A for patrons. And while even many of Smith’s diehard fans have balked at the high ticket prices for the tour, Smith has defended the asking rate, citing the event as one of his similarly priced personal appearances, only paired with a bonus film screening.


"(My) fanbase is already paying 60, 65 bucks to see me stand there by myself, sweating, fatty, (saying), ‘I got thrown off a plane once,’” Smith said in an interview with MTV News.


The film’s modest $4 million budget shouldn’t be difficult to recoup, but the idea of financing the film’s anticipated fall release based on the proceeds from the Red State Tour is a truly risky one, and a polarizing force among fans of the jorts devotee. But due to the networking power of Smith’s fans, who devotedly follow him on Twitter and his SModcasts, the portly director found confidence to do it on his own.


"We’re not going to spend a dime on marketing," Smith explained at Sundance, where he notoriously sold distribution rights to himself for $20 after promising to auction it off to the highest studio bidder. "All it takes is a little ingenuity, a little creativity."


Once the Red State experiment is through, however, Smith is planning to take a sharp left turn in his career. He’s working on a hockey movie at the moment, which will likely be the end of filmmaking for him. “I’m just kinda finished,” he told the New York Post. “I came into this [business] all piss and vinegar, with stories to tell, and now I can tell stories elsewhere. Even Gretzky retired. He knew when it was time to hang it up.


“I was never made to be a filmmaker,” he adds. “It was a very uncomfortable fit for me as a director. I always thought I wore directing like I wear a suit. You’d be like, ‘Well, he’s dressed, but something’s wrong.’ It’s not my natural condition.”


Smith won’t be falling off the grid anytime soon, however, as plans are in motion to expand his multiple podcasts into a full-fledged Internet radio station, set to launch May 9.


“I like to spin plates,” he says. “All these podcasts and live shows, it’s all leaning towards going daily. I can talk. I’m not saying it’s all interesting, but I can fill air. And we’ve got a ground base of about 300,000 people downloading the shows every week.”


Learn more about the release of Red State and Smith’s future plans in our January interview with the filmmaker.