Film Fix: Clerks
Writer and Producer – Daniel Fickman
Other Side Drive Producer – Shannon Williams
Editor – Fernando Espinosa de los Monteros
This week I want to talk about a movie that’s very near and dear to my heart. If you can think about a time in your life when you discovered a band or a piece of art or movie that spoke directly to your soul then you’ll understand why this movie is so important to me. I want to talk about Clerks.
For those of you who’ve seen it you may be surprised to hear that I first saw it when I was 10 years old. And for those of you who haven’t seen it, then listen closely.
Come with me on a journey back to the early ‘90s. In 1994, a kid from Red Bank, New Jersey who worked at a local convenient store exploded on the Hollywood landscape when his first feature film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. The film follows a day in the life of QuickStop convenience store clerks Dante and Randal who spend their time annoying customers, dissecting pop culture and playing hockey on the roof. This homespun masterpiece made by a film school dropout went on to be picked by Harvey Weinstein and Miramax Pictures. The film’s instant success shattered everyone’s expectations, including those of its 23 year old writer/director Kevin Smith.
The thing that stands out to me most about Smith is his attention to dialogue. Its witty, its real and its honest. When Clerks first premiered at Sundance, one reviewer called Smith a cross between David Mamet and Howard Stern.
The way Smith made this movie is an inspiring tale. It tells the story of a young man who put everything on the line to see his artistic vision come to fruition. To acquire his very modest budget of $27,575 Smith sold a large portion of his extensive comic book collection, maxed out eight credit cards with two thousand dollar limits, dipped into a portion of funds set aside for college and drained all the insurance money he was awarded for a car he had lost in a flood.
And where did they choose to film? At the QuickStop convenience store that Kevin Smith worked at the time. He was only allowed to film when the store was closed, so each night they filmed from 10:30 pm to 5:30 am. The end result cemented Smith as a much needed fresh voice in Hollywood. From here on his film catapulted, making his next feature for Universal Pictures. He was now in the rankings with other groundbreaking indie film directors of that era such as Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. After Miramax picked up Clerks for distribution, it went on to gross three million dollars and became one of the most important movies of the ‘90s.
I think the reason I keep coming back to Kevin Smith and his films is because of his characters. He gives us truly identifiable and relateable characters with understandable struggles. For any aspiring filmmakers, Smith truly shows that anybody from any situation can do it. Side note: Clerks is also the film debut of Smith’s duo Jay and Silent Bob, a Cheech and Chong for the ‘90s, if you will.
Those rare pure moments between action and cut is where I will see you all next week!