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Renegade raises a ruckus at Vail Film Festival

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyKevin Smith, perhaps known best for his cult classic "Clerks," and his Jay and Silent Bob characters will receive The Vail Film Festival's Renegade Award Saturday night
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VAIL, Colorado “-Actor, writer and director Kevin Smith will receive The Renegade Award Saturday night during a ceremony at the Vail Film Festival in Vail, Colorado, and he said it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I was so depressed after ‘Zack and Miri Make a Porno’ kind of fizzled at the box office. I was so disappointed,” Smith said during a phone interview from his home in Los Angeles. “When I got the invite and they said they would like to give me The Renegade Award I said, ‘You guys came along at the right time. Absolutely, I would love to be there.'”

Film festival founder Scott Cross said the award honors those with a rebellious spirit.



“The Renegade Award honors filmmakers and actors who are risk takers, that cut their own path and make it possible for others to follow their lead.”

It’s safe to say that Smith certainly fits that criteria. From his first film “Clerks,” an expletive-laden slacker saga shot in black and white that has become Smith’s signature film, to his latest love story/sex comedy, “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” he’s certainly no stranger to controversy or taking risks.



Oddly enough, though, Smith doesn’t consider himself a renegade at all.

“A renegade would make something that has no audience whatsoever, and I guess my critics would say I’ve done that from time to time … A true renegade is like ‘f— the audience’ and then makes flicks that nobody likes to watch but themselves. So I’m not a renegade, I’m a conformist. What I do is go out there and try to entertain and that’s conforming to the norm, sadly,” Smith said.

And although Smith refutes the claim that he’s a controversial artist, he did say that staying true to his vision as a filmmaker does, surprisingly, offend some people.



“You kind of make the ideal movie for yourself and then you hope other people enjoy it as well … and sometimes it causes a ruckus,” Smith said.

Of course, for every person who dismisses Smith’s work as adolescent or offensive, there are plenty of fans who are entertained by it.

“I like his movies,” said Vail resident Ryan Ross. “‘Clerks’ was the first one I saw. I started watching it when I was 16 and loved it, the black and white, and ‘Mallrats’ is one of my favorites. I’ve seen most of them except for ‘Clerks II.'”

Another Vail resident, Charlie Ebelen, agreed.

“I probably like ‘Mallrats’ the best. There’s fairly unpredictable stuff in his movies and the characters are kind of crass and you have to pay attention to the dialogue to catch all the jokes,” Edelen said.

‘It never feels like work’

Most people will recognize at least one film from Smith’s catalogue: “Clerks,” “Mallrats,” “Chasing Amy,” “Dogma,” “Jersey Girl,” “Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back,” “Clerks II” (Smith’s personal favorite) and “Zack and Miri Make A Porno.” They all have a heavy comedy element, but most of them also tackle odd themes. “Dogma” focuses on fallen angels trying to get back into heaven (and also ruffled the Catholic church’s feathers and even brought death threats). “Clerks” revolves around a convenience store employee who gets pelted with cigarettes by customers and worries about how much oral sex his girlfriend has given other men. “Zack and Miri Make A Porno,” well, the title pretty much says it all. Many of Smith’s movies feature a lot of the same actors ” Ben Affleck, Jason Mewes, Matt Damon and Joey Lauren Adams ” playing different roles. Probably the most recognizable and unforgettable recurring characters are Jay and Silent Bob (played by Smith). He writes and directs all of his films and often has a role in them too, which seems like a lot of pressure to put on himself, but it isn’t Smith said.

“It never feels like work,” Smith said. “When it comes to what I write, me more than anybody else on the planet, I know how it should play.”

Astonishingly, Smith said he doubts his own talent at times, despite what he’s accomplished, the filmmakers he’s inspired and the fans he’s attracted.

“I’m like ‘God, what if I’m one of those fail upwards mother f—— and I just don’t know it?’ Like I think I’m an artist but really I’m not. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of directors felt the way I did, I just don’t think a lot of them talk about it,” Smith said.

But Smith is still thankful for his success and the fact that he’s been able to “extend his childhood into adulthood” and do what he loves for a living.

“People can say a lot of things about the movies I’ve made in very negative ways but the one thing you can never say is that not one of them looks like they were made with a lack of passion,” Smith said.

‘Please yourself first’

After the release of “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” Smith decided to take a break making his own films, at least for the time being.

“I feel like I want to try something else just for the sake of it,” Smith said.

For that reason, Smith is now doing something he once said he would never do ” direct somebody else’s script. He’s working on a buddy cop movie written by the Cullen Brothers starring Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis, called “A Couple Of Dicks.”

A huge comic book fan ” somthing that’s obvious if you’ve seen any of his early movies ” Smith is also working on a Batman series for DC Comics. Fans can also expect another book by Smith, a compilation of transcripts from his podcasts.

And what advice does Smith have for aspiring filmmakers?

“I always tell them to make ‘Clerks’ because it totally worked for me,” Smith said jokingly, then added, “That’s such a personal journey … just make your s— for you and chances are there’s an audience for it. It’s about finding that audience, but you can’t please them unless you please yourself first. I’m a firm believer in that.”

E-mail comments about this story to cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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