The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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Sundance 2011: Kevin Smith says goodbye to his indie movie career

January 24, 2011 | 11:58 am

Kevin smith As I wrote last week, it seemed hard to believe that Kevin Smith could actually auction off his new film, "Red State," in front of an audience of moviegoers in Sundance on Sunday night. And we were right: It was a quasi-hoax. (You can read the details in this post from my colleague John Horn:  "Kevin Smith takes 'Red State' into his own hands") But after a vulgar introduction filled with obscene jokes and a tirade directed at the shady insider game of indie theatrical distribution, Smith auctioned off the movie for $20 to ... himself, saying he would self-distribute the film.

I've been bombarded with e-mails from indie distributors, not to mention appalled observers, who thought the whole spectacle was a bitter joke, mostly on the potential buyers, since at Sundance time is money, meaning that the acquisition execs wasted a lot of money watching a film that really wasn't up for sale when they could've been off somewhere else, watching something with actual sales potential. It sounds like the movie itself played well, but Smith played very badly. It's one thing to come off as a boorish boob, waving a Wayne Gretzky hockey stick on stage. But it's another thing to crassly exploit indie-film buyers and the media to shill your movie.

It left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Hollywood is a tough, brutally competitive town under the best of circumstances. But when you act like a bigger blockhead than Ricky Gervais, you've got troubles. Smith is going to be needing a lot of favors to succeed at distributing his own film, but right now, no one's in the mood to cut him any slack. Ask Harvey Weinstein -- it's tough to make a living when virtually everyone in the business is rooting for you to fail.  

-- Patrick Goldstein

Photo: Kevin Smith adresses the audience after the premiere of his new film, "Red State," Jan. 23, 2011, at the Sundance Film Festival. Credit: Danny Moloshok / Associated Press