Kevin Smith Doesn’t Need Your Money Upfront for ‘Clerks III’

By  · Published on June 29th, 2013

Now that we’re past the point of established Hollywood talents going to fans for funding projects, is it only a matter of time before Kevin Smith reaches out to his cult following via Kickstarter? Not quite yet, and maybe he never will. Talking to Kim Masters on the KRCW radio program The Business, Smith admitted, “I love the idea and I want to do it so desperately, but I think I’ve missed the window based on the fact that I do have access to materials, I do have access to money.”

Let’s not forget that Smith was almost a pioneer of feature film crowdfunding three years ago when he looked into the idea of fan-based financing for Red State, a creative departure for the director and one that even his friends at The Weinstein Co. weren’t interested in. Of course, the idea of him crowdfunding was blown out of proportion and the possibility was met with great disapproval on the web, not unlike what occurred more recently with Zach Braff’s campaign. One website in particular called Smith a “beggar,” which hit the filmmaker deep. He commented on that to Masters:

The moment I saw that I froze. That high school part of me, the last vestiges of high school that said, “Oh, I care what other people think about me,” seized me… And, I can’t even remember the name of the website or the person that wrote it, but I do remember that it was the last moment of my life where I let some outsider shape my point of view – like, I was on to a good idea, but I chickened out.

So, apparently we can thank one blogger in particular (pretty sure the post in question was this one from WorstPreviews) for turning him into the thicker-skinned man we know him as today, but that wasn’t necessarily enough to keep him away from the idea of crowdfunding. A couple months ago, he admitted on Reddit that he nearly went to Kickstarter last year to pay for Clerks III, writing the following on why he’s glad he didn’t:

But now I’m feeling like that’s not fair to real indie filmmakers who need the help. Unlike back when I made CLERKS in ’91, I’ve GOT access to money now – so I should use that money and not suck any loot out of the crowd-funding marketplace that might otherwise go to some first-timer who can really use it. So if I can get away with it, I’m gonna try to pay for CLERKS III myself. As much as I love the crowd-funding model (and almost did it myself in early 2009 with, that’s an advancement in indie film that belongs to the next generation of artists. I started on my own dime, and if I’m allowed, I should finish on my own dime.

He’s echoed the sentiment a lot since then, including on The Business: “So, if I jump out there, and I unleash this big fat Clerks III little wiener that I’ve got, and that soaks up $5–7m in indie financing from the Kickstarter/Indigogo campaign, that’s a bunch of potential money that all these amateur Medici’s are not gonna throw toward somebody who really needs it.”

Never mind that Kickstarter has shown that the controversial big name campaigns are actually helping to bring money to smaller projects, Smith’s intended courtesy here is pretty admirable, especially given his immodest claim he could have raised the $7m without much effort, simply because people love the Clerks brand. Basically, he wouldn’t have to beg. Earlier this month, he told CBS News that he’d like to put his house (formerly Ben Affleck’s house) up as collateral for the production. To Masters he noted that he can also depend on the kindness of others. “If I don’t use my own money,” he said, “I can always hit up some of my famous friends.”

The thing is, if he’s confident that $7m worth of moviegoers want to see Clerks III, he and his friends should be confident that their own money won’t be going to waste. They’ll be investing in something they see as a sure thing, putting up front the money that he’ll get back from ticket sales. That’s how the movie business is supposed to work in the first place. We’ll have to wait and see if that confidence is merited when the sequel eventually hits theaters.

The full episode of The Business featuring Smith will air on the radio station this Monday afternoon. But you can listen to the interview in full below now.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.