After the Alberta premiere of Red State, filmmaker Kevin Smith spoke to a sold-out house at the Garneau Theatre for two and a half hours.
He spoke of his love for Edmonton, how difficult it is to buy Oilers gear in his size, the movie business and his plans to move into the world of television.
But what he didn't say was even more interesting.
And that is, despite Tuesday night being the Alberta premiere of the film, not once did Smith acknowledge the fact that the bulk of the money to make the US$4-million-plus picture came from investors who hail from this province. He never thanked or acknowledged Nhaelan McMillan, the Edmonton-based executive producer of the film. Ditto for his Calgary investors — Harvey Cohen, Sarath Samarasekera and Victor Choy.
I sat in the audience of Park City, Utah's Rice-Eccles Theater when Red State had its world premier at the Sundance Film Festival. (Avenue had exclusive access to Smith and his Alberta investors for our June cover story.)
I was there in Utah, when Smith made sure to slap the backs of the people who had invested in the film. "I was assisted by a zillion Gretzkys on my crew," he said then. "When you're passionate about something, everyone feels it and jumps in if they dig the project." So, sitting in the audience at the Garneau on Tuesday, I found Smith's omission rather odd.
Smith's tone had changed noticeably from that world premiere in February to Tuesday's Edmonton show. When he spoke of the budget of the film, he said "I" and "me" a lot, even though the money he was spending wasn't, well, his. And he did talk about the financing of movies — including his next planned effort, Hit Somebody. So it's not like the opportunity to acknowledge his investors didn't come up.
"You've got to love yourself," Smith said at one point, talking about wanting to keep control over his work. "Who's going to love you in your place?"
Yes, I understand that the throngs of fans, who came to see Smith — fans who know dialogue from Clerks, Chasing Amy and Dogma off by heart and have download all of Smith's podcasts — don't necessarily care about who is paying for the film, they just want to see Smith make more movies.
Again, I have to use the caveat that I've become very close to the story. I've been living and breathing Red State since before it opened. So my views weren't shared by those in the audience.
It's an intriguing story; Smith, who's been typecast as a director of comedies aimed at the college crowd, hatches a script about a homosexual-hating fundamentalist sect that takes on an armed anti-terrorist unit. It's an unsettling, violent film.
As well, Smith decided against selling it to a studio. Instead he promoted it through a 15-city tour of the U.S., which he said raised US$1 million, or about a quarter of the film's budget. Now, he's on a Canadian tour with the film.
Red State will go to video on demand in September, and be released on DVD on Oct. 18. That's a far cry from the plan he announced back in February, which was that the initial tour would finance a wider theatrical release of the film in October.
The reaction to his film by the Edmonton audience was much different than the Sundance crowd. Where the Utah audience watched the film in silence, absorbing what was a massive artistic shift from Smith, the Edmonton fans cheered and hollered every time one of the churchgoers got blown away. The more violent the death, the stronger the reaction. But these were Smith fans; in Utah, the audience was filled with industry types.
For Hit Somebody, Smith spoke of needing to raise a budget five times that of Red State, which is a challenge now that he's moved away from the traditional movie system. The hockey film will be split into two parts and Smith promises it will be his last film; he's going to focus on podcasts, tours and TV after that.
In an attempt to create buzz for the film, Smith plans to do something unheard of in Hollywood circles. He wants to publish the entire script online before the film gets made. Understand that, in Hollywood, scripts are often watermarked so studios can trace leaks. As a security against leaks, writers will change a character's name in each script that's handed out, or change one passage of text in each, so each script leak can be traced.
Smith spoke of the loyalty he has to the people who have worked with him through the years. He spoke of his loyalty to fans. He talked about "loving the one you're with." So maybe that's why, to me, it seemed so odd that, in Edmonton, he never acknowledged his executive producer and fundraising kingpin, whose office is just across the High Level Bridge from the Garneau.
UPDATE: After reading this story, Kevin Smith reacted to it via his favourite medium, Twitter.
"I'm GUTTED I forgot to shout-out the boy!" he wrote. "But I did talk about the movie being half-Canadian funded in Montreal. Without Nhaelan, we never could've gotten it made. Bummed he wasn't there last night, but I was told he had a show in town that same night. Still: Wish I'd shouted out Nhaelan/Harvey. Will tonight (the Calgary show) for sure."