I haven’t covered Kevin Smith’s great Red State experiment as much as I probably should have, for the simple reason that I’m really lazy, and Kevin Smith can’t so much as order a taco in less than 700 words. He’s mostly likable, but my God, the man is exhausting. In any case, the short version is that none of the studios wanted to make Red State, so Smith got it financed himself. Then he invited studio reps down to Sundance to bid on distribution, where he promptly gave them one of these and said he was distributing it himself. That way, he wouldn’t be subject to anyone’s notoriously-shady accounting practices or have their wasteful marketing expenses deducted from his bottom line. If it seems obvious, the reason no one else had done it was that getting your self-distributed film into theaters where people can actually see it is next to impossible. But when you have a jillion Twitter followers, a popular podcast, and can afford to front your own money to rent out theaters, and then charge people $40-plus for a screening and live Q & A, self-distribution suddenly seems plausible. …Sibilance.
Now it seems that the experiment has paid off, because, despite the fact that almost no one but the jortsingest, most hockey sweatery Smith fanatics have seen it, Red State is already turning a profit.
The film, which cost $5 million to make, saved $1 million from California state tax incentives, making the total investment $4 million. It then grossed about $1 million on the first leg of the tour, took in $1.5 million from a handful of foreign sales and is about to close a $3 million domestic distribution deal to release the film every way but theatrical. Do the math and Smith’s little experiment is now officially in the black, and it’s still six months away from theatrical distribution with another tour in the works. [SlashFilm's recap of info from Smith]
Say what you will about the combination of hubris and narcissism it may have taken to get it done, it’s still an achievement. Smith celebrated in typical Smith fashion, writing an exhausting (but entertaining) 3,000-word blog post about screening the film for Quentin Tarantino, which I shall attempt to summarize below.
“I’ve already watched Red State,” he chuckled. “I watched it Friday night. By myself.”
At which point everything in me went away but the filmmaker and I asked that all-important question…
“Did you dig it?”
“I loved it! That’s why I’m…”
I didn’t let him finish. I just hugged him as hard as I could. [...]
You see, Quentin’s was the only review that was ever gonna matter. Red State was inspired by the man’s work, his casting choices, his daring Pulp Fiction-tonal shifts. I’ve told the audiences at every stop on the Red State USA Tour “I didn’t want to make a Kevin Smith movie this time. This time, I wanted to make a movie that was Quentin Tarantino by way of the Coen Brothers.” And to have Quentin not only watch the flick, but also dig it enough to watch it again in the span of 24 hours?
That’s graduation day, folks. Ain’t no reason for me to continue in this business past Hit Somebody because I scored the respect of a Grand Master.
So when I said “I’m so glad you dig it,” and Quentin quickly shot back “I don’t just dig this movie, I love this movie, okay?”
That’s all I could ever really hope for from Red State, isn’t it? [RedStatements]
“I don’t just dig this movie, I love this movie, okay? When Bonnie makes movies, she makes sh*t. I make the gourmet expensive sh*t, because when I watch it, I wanna like it. But you know what’s on my mind right now? It ain’t the movies in my screening room. It’s the sweaty fat guy with his arms around me. As if I wasn’t pitting out this shark-skin blazer on my own. Can you call the Coke Wizard? See if he can conjure us up a gym towel.”