CCI | An Early Evening With Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith needed no introduction to the attendees of his “Early Evening” panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego. He did, however, require a warning: "Just in case you don’t know, there might be an adult word or two.” With that, Smith took to the stage in the cavernous Hall H, receiving a standing ovation from the capacity crowd, something the appreciative filmmaker called “the moment of Comic-Con 2011.”

Smith, clearly moved by the warm welcome, said, “Swear to God, I almost rolled a tear” adding with a chuckle, “because I’m stoned.” From there he jumped into the fray with a recap of his convention, which included moderating the Captains panel for William Shatner, and getting “to rock” the sci-fi legend with the Star Trek IV quote, “Double dumbass on you.”

Turning to his presentation, Smith asked whether anyone in the audience had a Sony PlayStation he could use to play Blu-ray discs he brought with him, promising “access to a world of pleasures and delights backstage,” including a possible glimpse of “Patrick Stewart with a mountain of Scarface-like blow … and a chick on his arm” to anyone who could help.

From there Smith wanted to dive into the Q&A session, which he described as his “favorite part of the year … and I’m not just saying that.” “At 41, I come here and regenerate like the tenth Doctor Who,” he said. That drew a “fuck yeah” from an audience member dressed as the Doctor who had, coincidentally, stepped to the microphone to ask a question. Smith ribbed the questioner about looking like General Zod before “the Doctor” finally asked the filmmaker how he deals with heartbreak. Smith waxed lyrical about his older dogs Scully and Mulder, his love for his wife of 13 years, and how “it’s been so long since I had to deal with true heartbreak. Cop Out doesn’t count.”

He was next asked about which he loves more, podcasting or movies. Without hesitation, Smith replied, “podcasting … right now.” That led him to explain his love of podcasts, the genesis of Smodcast.com and his evolution to Internet radio entrepreneur. He listed the many podcasts and contributors that have evolved out of his one Smodcast. “I love to talk,” he confessed.

He then revealed that he believes that, after 20 years, he “only has one more movie left in him.” Fortunately for fans it’s a passion project called Hit Somebody, based on the Warren Zevon song of the same name. It’s a hockey story that will “hopefully feature everybody who’s ever worked on a Kevin Smith movie.” He referred to the project as a “thesis film, of sorts,” explaining that the fans would get to see everything that he’d learned in the past 20 years behind the camera.

The fan who asked the question pointed out that “there were 6,500 people who want to see him make more movies.” Smith thanked the fan and then pointed out with a laugh that “these 6,500 people could’ve been watching a free movie Cowboys & Aliens. How smart are they? Instead they’re listening to the fat guy talk again.”

Smith then spoke to his motivation for putting movies aside right now, saying “I always wanted to be the guy who left the party early.” He said he has a desire to “close on my terms,” and wants to “get out while people still ...wonder where he went.”

He clearly loves his move into podcasting, saying “it has turned into magic.” Smith also said that the podcast has given his longtime partner in crime Jason Mewes an outlet to tell his story, “warts and all,” and to have a therapeutic release that has “probably saved his life.”

Smith then offered up some information about his upcoming reality TV project with AMC that he’d hopes will be picked up to series. Tentatively titled The Secret Stash, the show will be “Pawn Stars in a comic-book store ... with maybe a little bit of Hoarders.” Smith pointed to his desire to “chase whimsies” as the root of all of his recent good fortune, from Smodcast and Twitter to reality TV pilots and upcoming secret projects.

Throughout the panel Smith spoke about his evolution as a storyteller, explaining his shifting focus from movies to podcasts. The immediacy of the podcast is something that has “infinite appeal,” he said.

When an audience member stepped to the microphone and declared that he couldn’t believe he was doing that, Smith asked whether he was strapped with C4. “I don’t want to go tonight,” the filmmaker joked. “I’m ready to go, just not tonight […] although Comic-con wouldn’t be a bad place to die. You might get saved by The Avengers.” He then took a swipe at Marvel and Disney, saying, “Oh, wait, they didn’t come this year.” Smith laughed to himself about “burning every bridge. So I have no choice but to podcast.”

Asked about his influences, Smith talked at length about how Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers inspire and challenge him. He then gave the audience a look at his most recent self-financed movie Red State, which will receive an Oscar-qualifying theatrical run in August at Tarantino’s New Beverly Theatre in Los Angeles.

He cited the performances of the actors and not his skill as a director as the inspiration for the run. And that the movie would be available via Video on Demand as of Labor Day weekend. Smith finished his Red State presentation with a little more self-deprecation, saying that “it’s not a comedy like Clerks or a horror movie like Jersey Girl.”

After the excitement of the five-minute Red State clip died down, Smith fielded a question about how he balances his home life with his work. He lavished praise on his “support system” and his wife Jen Schwalbach for doing “all the hard work.” He shared that it wasn’t him but his wife who was responsible for naming their daughter Harley Quinn Smith.

Next a patient attendee who had been standing in line for more than an hour took the opportunity to praise Red State, but not before admitting he was “nervous, to be honest.” Smith reassured him, revealing, “I was before I came out. I always wonder, ‘What if I suck? What if I run out of things to say?’ Okay, maybe not that last one.”

Citing a piece of advice that he got from producer Harvey Weinstein about “getting a second bite of the apple,” Smith went on to praise the strengths of his peers. “Bay can make you believe two cars can fight,” he said. “Scorsese can drop you into a believable world of gangsters, and Tarantino can do the cinema of cool. … My only directorial superpower is that I will come out after the movie and explain.”

A fan asked whether the audience would ever see a movie written by Smith but directed by someone else, using Christopher Nolan as an example. Smith stopped the question, joking that “somewhere Chris Nolan was just hit with … a grave disturbance in the Force.”  He added, however, that “If I feel the need to write a screenplay that needs to be made I will absolutely give it to someone else.”

Complimented on his hockey jersey, Smith said that “these Edmonton Oilers colors for me have been insanely lucky.” He explained that his producing partner Malcom Ingram had purchased “the seven shirts of Edmonton” after Smith “got into it with Sears Canada.” He said they “feel lucky to him,” but expressed suspicions after Ingram’s ongoing success after one of the shirts went missing.

The hockey talk dovetailed into discussion of Hit Somebody. He said that securing the rights to the song from songwriter Mitch Albom was predicated on Smith “not making fun of hockey … and shooting in Detroit.” He said that he’s more than halfway finished with the script, which he described as “the Forrest Gump of hockey … and more so about Canada.” Smith said he is so determined to use his previous co-stars in this movie that he has written Alan Rickman, and is even “writing Alan Rickman’s name .. .in place of the word ‘Narrator.’” Smith also revealed that this fall he intends to “publish the script online, with actor suggestions for the reader.”

Toward the end of the panel Smith finally realized a notice printed on the back of the placeholder bearing his name that cautioned “some of the attendees may be under 18 ... and to watch the language.” Smith laughed, saying “any kids here just learned a shit-ton.”

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