By Damon Martin – Editor/Lead Writer
Follow on Twitter @DamonMartin
Director and writer Kevin Smith has been talking about his pending retirement from filmmaking for the last couple of years as he hands the torch to the next generation of young independent minded movie makers while he crafts an empire of podcasts and other projects to keep him busy.
Originally, Smith had planned on his hockey opus “Hit Somebody” to serve as his final work on film, but when the project got so big that it appeared it would need two films just to service the material it was instead optioned into a television miniseries that is still in development.
So instead of sitting back and waiting for that project to get off the ground, Smith went back to his roots and began work on a script for Clerks III, the third and final film in the series that launched his career back in 1994. The independent movie famously shot for under $28,000 grossed more than $3 million in theaters, and became the tent pole in Smith’s film directing career.
He followed that up in 2006 with the sequel Clerks II as his lead characters of Dante and Randall traveled from the convenience store in the first film to new jobs working at a fast food restaurant in the second movie. As Smith describes it, the original Clerks was almost a biography of his 20’s with the sequel focusing on the character’s lives as they reached their 30’s.
This third and final Clerks film would see the final chapter with the characters now facing life in their 40’s as Smith looked to close the book on the series with one grand finale. The problem with Clerks III is the slow time it takes to get funding in Hollywood moving to allow production to begin.
As Smith described it in his blog recently, The Weinstein Company has first dibs on buying and producing Clerks III so right now he’s in a holding pattern while they take time to review all of the material before deciding on whether or not they will bite.
“Since The Weinstein Company was behind Clerks II, they got first shot at any potential sequel. My producer Shannon McIntosh and I spent months preparing the submission package for Bob Weinstein: the 120 page script, 3 separate budgets for shooting in 3 different states, a cast list, a cash-flow schedule, and sundry other items with which Bob Weinstein would decide whether or not he wanted to be involved in Clerks III. The deal gives him a month to decide.”
In the meantime, Smith has never been one to slow down on ideas and his latest happened organically while doing an episode of his wonderfully hilarious podcast called SModCast that he does with good friend and former producing partner Scott Mosier.
The episode mostly focused on an ad that Smith had brought to his attention about a man in England who was looking for a roommate to live with him for free under one condition—they had to wear a walrus suit for two hours a day. The person who placed the ad had lived alone on an island in Canada and during that time he only had one companion to keep him company—a walrus named Gregory.
The ad writer was so in love with the friendship that he built with the walrus named Gregory that he longed for that same kind of companionship now and so he was offering free room and board to one lodger that would be willing to dress and act like a walrus for a couple of hours a day to satisfy his animal kinship hunger.
Smith and Mosier had a field day with the posting, but by the end of the show the New Jersey native was thinking of ideas about how this unlikely and strange story could easily be turned into a horror film, made with a very small budget.
So after a Twitter campaign of his followers convinced him it was a great idea, Smith began writing his second horror movie (the first was the criminally underrated Red State) that he eventually titled “Tusk” (after the title of the Fleetwood Mac song).
While still waiting on The Weinstein Company to decide on Clerks III, Smith started shopping the idea of Tusk around to his friends and family and eventually brought it to horror maven Jason Blum, who was responsible for producing some of the biggest scary movies of the last 10 years with films like Paranormal Activity and Insidious.
Smith emailed him the script and it didn’t take long for Blum to make a decision.
“He called the script insane and said I was a sick, sick man. He described it as “…Ionesco gone gore,” Smith stated. “He also said “I’m in.”
So Smith traveled to Blum’s production studios and quickly a deal was struck so that he could immediately begin work on bringing Tusk to the big screen. Smith already approached and signed on Michael Parks to take the lead role as the old man looking for a friendly walrus, and actually sent a second part out to Quentin Tarantino to play the part of the cop who will investigate the entire horrific situation.
With so much excitement surrounding Tusk, Smith announced this week that he would begin immediate work on that film in September, which will push back the filming of Clerks III until sometime in 2014.
“Mid September, we start shooting Tusk… IN LOS ANGELES!!!” Smith wrote. “I get to sleep in my own bed every night and leave my kid in her school! There will be no disruptions to our real life: we don’t even have to ask anybody to watch our dogs. I’ll be shooting in Canada soon enough when we get into the Hit Somebody mini-series next year, but for now? The interiors of Manitoba can be found here in California!
“We’ll involve the Sundance folks as soon as there’s any footage to show, with an aim toward being programmed at Sundance 2014. So that would mean six months after the first conversation about a walrus flick, Tusk would exist as a movie that can be watched starting in January. There are no guarantees Sundance will like the flick enough to select it of course, but there are lots of other film festivals now; one of them’s bound to be into this macabre journey into the mouth of madness and the whiskers of weird.”
As far as Clerks III goes, Smith is by no means abandoning that project, it’s just going to get pushed a little further back that he first hoped. The plan is to kick off production on that (with or without the Weinstein’s) sometime in the first part of 2014.
Smith still says that Clerks III will be the end of his movie making career, but he can’t deny the magic that happened when a story on his podcast turned into this new inspiration for film.
“I’m still wrapping up my film career. I intend to close it with Clerks III – which we’re now aiming to shoot March of 2014 (more on that when I get the info),” Smith said. “But what I love about all this is that a movie came from a podcast. Might be one of the first situations I ever heard of where that happened, too. I’m delighted by the fact that my new world (of podcasts) is now shaping my old world (of film). New media nourishes old media and together, they produce some weird-ass art. It’s very 21st century.”
Smith will begin work on Tusk in September and then move onto Clerks III next year. He continues to say this will be the end of his movie making career, but so long as his podcasts keep running (and they are the best podcasts on the internet by the way), here’s to hoping Smith’s creative juices never stop flowing because the film world is a better place when he’s one of the people working there.