While his Sundance peers such as Steven Soderbergh and Bryan Singer have shed their arthouse skin for tentpole fare, Kevin Smith — the Woodstock Film Fest’s ninth annual Maverick Award honoree — remains faithful to more modestly budgeted forms of provocation.
“I shoot talky movies which are inexpensive,” says Smith. “There’s a lot more freedom (with a low budget), and the potential for return is greater on homevideo.”
“He created a new genre of filmmaking with his humor,” says Woodstock Film Fest co-founder Meira Blaustein. “He’s does it with a reverence and a relevance to society and humanity.”
Typically, controversy always finds Smith — a rep that began with MPAA tiffs over “Clerks” to Catholic groups’ gripes over 1999’s “Dogma.”
His latest romp, at least on the surface, should prove no different. Set outside his New Jersey “view askewniverse,” “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” — made for $24 million — centers on two friends who fall in love with each other after making an X-rated pic. Smith submitted “Porno” three times to the MPAA and went through an appeals process before earning an R rating in lieu of NC-17.
Despite sticking to his guns and churning out fare with a pricetag lower than the average cost of a studio classic title ($49 million), Smith hasn’t considered himself an indie filmmaker since he shelled out $27,000 to make “Clerks” in 1994, specifically since he’s mostly had the Weinstein brothers picking up the tab.
Smith contends that the recent move toward R-rated comedies made it possible for him to make “Porno.” However, it can be argued that the helmer paved the way for bawdy filmmakers like Judd Apatow.
Even Apatow regular and “Porno” star Seth Rogen credits Smith’s buddy banter as an inspiration for “Superbad” in “Porno’s” press notes.
“I guess I was ahead of the curve when mixing raunchy wit with sentimentality. However, I didn’t do it to blaze a trail,” Smith says. “It just made sense to write stories that sounded like the ones my friends and I would tell.”