Many years ago, Kevin Smith’s primary fame shifted from directing movies to speaking in front of audiences. His public Q&As and Smodcast empire gives him many forums through which to share his humorous take on life and pop culture. “Spoilers” is his movie review show on Hulu.
He invites his studio audience to a movie and then interviews them. It also features animated highlights of his podcasts, celebrity guests and a recommendation from the Criterion Collection. We got to attend the “Spoilers” taping for The Amazing Spider-Man which became available on Hulu today. Afterwards, we got a private chat with Smith about his latest TV endeavor, and a scoop about season two of his AMC show “Comic Book Men.”
CraveOnline: I know you had some beefs with online critics and the Rotten Tomatoes system. Is “Spoilers” a response to that, to give regular folks a say?
Kevin Smith: I mean, the year of Red State, I kept talking about film critics this, film critics that. Why bitch? Just change it. If there’s something you don’t like about something, give an alternative. You can’t sit there and go, “This sucks.” Well, what do you want to do? They’re like, “I don't know, but that sucks.” It’s not enough. So for me after enough time of being like, “This sucks.” I [asked myself], “What sucks? What are you bitching about? What don’t you like? Is it the fact that they’re going after your movie that you don’t like or they go after somebody else’s movie? Is it the job in general? What don’t you like?”
Because I used to like “Siskel & Ebert” when I was a kid. I’d sit in front of the TV and watch “At the Movies” and “Sneak Previews” because there was no internet. That was the only place that you could see people geeking out about movies. So I started thinking what is it, what is it and I narrowed it down to “You just wanted something different. You’re just tired of the same thing. You just want to have that same feeling about movies you had when you were a kid. You want to celebrate ‘em and sh*t.”
So instead of doing a show where there’s this person and this person going this or this or making a decision or weighing in with stars, I said, “What if it’s not two people? It’s just me as a kind of host and I just talk to a bunch of people the same way you do in a focus group.” You know how many focus groups I’ve attended in my career as a filmmaker? Lots. On Jersey Girl, 15 alone. So at that point, I know how to talk to people. So it’s like what if you took that and took all the crap you hate out of it, like scores and f***in’ quadrants and sh*t like that and just chit chatted about it.
Then at the end, you don’t sum it up with, “This is how many stars, this is how many thumbs.” It’s just a bunch of people, we saw it, we chit chatted about it, we move on. And the chit chat we have is, “Oh, this is what I like! Oh, I thought this part sucked! Oh, this is what I liked.” It’s not the whole is damned or raised because of a part. It’s the way you talk about movies with your friends. So for me it was a way to embrace movies again.
I used to love movies. Then I started making them and then when you make them you don’t love them as much as you did when you didn’t make them because you see how the sausage is made. Now I’m getting back to the place where I just love movies again and it’s great. Also, what a great way to spend a Friday night. We get to go to the movies, we hang out, we get to make a show about it. Not only do I get to hang out with my friends, I get to put my friends to work and show a cartoon.
CraveOnline: And you get to point people to some more obscure movies in the Criterion Collection.
Kevin Smith: Even the Criterion Lounge thing which was something that Hulu was like, “Hey, we stream the whole library. What if you included Criterion in the show?” I was like ah, I don't know. Then we tried it and it worked because I picked Stranger Than Paradise. Stranger Than Paradise means the world to me so I was able to go and be like, “All right, man. Here’s Stranger Than Paradise and blah blah blah.” Because it’s such an integral part of my matrix, I’m all about it.
So that passion kind of comes through when you’re talking about it so all of a sudden that segment takes off. You’re being able to point people to movies that made you who you are. Even that’s fun. I’m trying to live my life the last years like I was dying. Like why wait? That’s what happens. Motherf***ers always wait until they’re dying and then try to change sh*t. Well, we are dying, right? Every day.
But let’s just pretend that it’s more immediate, like mine’s impending rather than whenever. Work that way. That way you wake up every morning, I can’t tell you how little TV or movies I watch anymore because I’m so busy trying to make stuff. Like I’m in that creative zone. I think that has a lot to do with me going, “Well, just act like you’re going to die.”
CraveOnline: I like when I have to watch movies and shows for work. Like I had to watch five episodes of “Spoilers” to prep for this.
Kevin Smith: It’ll go by like that. Did you watch ‘em?
CraveOnline: Yes, and I like how you end the show with “A bad day at the multiplex is better than a good day work.” I agree. I think being a movie lover means loving the bad ones too. If you only like good movies, that’s not anything special. Everyone likes good stuff. That’s just being an audience. If you love the medium, every entry should add to your experience.
Kevin Smith: You know who’s admirable in that way? Quentin [Tarentino]. A lot of people have said, “Quentin only likes crap.” Quentin likes everything. Quentin reminds me of a parent inasmuch as even a dogsh*t child, the parent will be able to cite one or two good qualities.
That’s a dude who’s always been wonderful at even watching lame as straight to TV movies will be able to pick out golden moments and performances and focus on them and elevate them. I like that guy. Watching a movie with that guy is fun because he loooves movies. Even when the movie’s maybe not working so well, he’s still very enthusiastic. Shouldn’t it be that way? It’s meant to be an escape.
CraveOnline: If the goal is to see everything, which is impossible, watching bad stuff is important too.
Kevin Smith: It is impossible, isn’t it? I hadn’t thought about that.
CraveOnline: There’s 80 years of film history before I was born. If someone’s born now there’s about 112.
Kevin Smith: And the increase of output between that period and this period, I guess it is impossible to keep up.
CraveOnline: There aren’t that many hours in a life, plus you want to watch stuff you like again.
Kevin Smith: That’s true. I find the older one gets, the more you repeat, but I wonder what our children will be like because so many of them grew up in front of DVDs with replay. When our kid was little, we’d put on Baby Einstein, when it was over we just started it again.
I wonder if kids when they get older will repeat their movies, like I re-watch the same sh*t over and over and over again. There was about 50 things that I would watch over and over again, various TV shows, movies and stuff like that. I wonder if she’ll have something like that or will she be more like, “I’ll just watch everything.” We had Arleen Sorkin on our Fatman on Batman podcast. She said this great thing about her parents. She said, “When I was a kid my parents let us watch anything. Anything. But only once.” I was like what was that about? She goes, “Because it encouraged us to try everything, not just get focused on one thing.”
CraveOnline: We’ll see how this works in practice, but my plan is to let my kids watch their favorite things as many times as they want, but not twice in a row. Every other one has to be something different.
Kevin Smith: I agree. That’s what I said to her. “You know, my generation, we re-watched. We memorized dialogue.” I can’t tell you how many times I watched Raising Arizona. I thought that was a novel approach but you could get away with it then. That was probably 30, 40 years ago. You can’t get away with you can watch everything only once [anymore]. Some sh*t you’ve got to watch a few times to let it sink in, man.
CraveOnline: What can we expect from “Comic Book Men” Season 2?
Kevin Smith: They’re starting next week. More episodes, shorter time. 16 episodes, 30 minutes apiece as opposed to the hour. I wanted the half hour last year but AMC was like, “Let’s go for an hour.” The hour’s fun but it felt like you get a lot more done in 30 minutes in and out. It’d be like a deadly weapon, like a ninja. So they start shooting next week. They were going to come out to San Diego, but instead I’m just going to run a clip of them so they can keep working and shooting. I know the sets are a little different. They’ve added a mid-store counter/register so they can stay away from the windows as much.
CraveOnline: The little things you learn on the first season.
Kevin Smith: It’s crazy, man, little things like that. So much so that they were like, “Do you mind if we put in another counter?” And I was like, “No, I guess not. I guess that’d be kind of handy.” So that’s kind of sweet. Now there’s competition. There’s another comic book store show on TV, that’s on National Geographic. I’m a little flattered by that, and a little perturbed. With six episodes we kind of established the boys and now we can kind of go running with it. There’s one storyline they’re going to do this year that I’ve got this master list of all the comic books I sold to make Clerks and we’re going to try to get them back.
CraveOnline: You have 2.1 million Twitter followers. What’s a good way to get your attention on Twitter?
Kevin Smith: All you have to do is tweet, man. I literally, after every show, moment I wake up, it’s easier than trying to watch every movie that was ever made but I try to read every tweet that gets sent my way because somebody took the time to write it. It’s like you go to bed and you miss eight hours of tweeting, so I tend to go back and read because you find cool stuff and gold.
There was some tweet I would’ve missed the other day if I hadn’t gone back and reread the previous 10 hour tweets over the night. Jim Lee was talking about publishing the Cacophony comic book series we did digitally. I had asked him on Twitter and then I never heard a response, I forgot about it and then all of a sudden I found this response from Jim and I was like, “Holy sh*t!” So I find it’s essential for what I do because I’m so entrenched with the audience that I read that sh*t. That’s my matrix. I just look at it like at the screen, that’s my world.
CraveOnline: I got you once with four tweets in a row after Sundance.
Kevin Smith: Totally, but I read. What I do now more than anything else is I favorite everything, like the sh*t I read that I’m like, “Oh, I like that. I like that.” Admittedly I favorite a lot of stuff but people write a lot of nice sh*t, really lovely sh*t. Then I’ll respond to the ones that I haven’t.
[Editor's Note: Check back in the Film Channel for more of Fred's interview with Kevin Smith about his upcoming film projects!]