"Don't Hate the Studio; Become the Studio,"  Director Exhorts Other Filmmakers

In a well-timed surprise announcement following the premiere screening of his well-hyped new horror film Red State, Kevin Smith told audience members that he’s distributing it himself. Despite his previously stated plans to hold an auction for distribution rights to the film in the Eccles theater following the screening, Smith instead unveiled something called the “Red State U.S.A. tour,” which aims to use merchandise sales and, presumably, proceeds from a ballyhooed pre-release road-show tour to 13 cities – at locations like New York’s Radio City Music Hall and Austin’s Paramount Theatre – to fund a 1000-print release of the film currently slated for October 19.
Smith’s reputation in the business was established early on, when a screening of Clerks at the Independent Feature Film Festival in New York City generated enough industry buzz to get it into Sundance, leading to a distribution deal with Miramax and landmark status in the history of indie-film success stories. He’s had his ups and downs as a filmmaker – including a recently tempestuous relationship with critics and film bloggers – but he remains one of the most recognizable names and faces in the indie-film industry. Even yesterday’s screening of Red State became a media circus, partly because members of the picket-happy Westboro Baptist Church showed up to protest the screening and Smith gamely responded with a mirthful counter-protest.

Smith says he wants the release of Red State to lay a path for other filmmakers to follow, and of course it’s not unheard of for filmmakers to “four-wall” their own films – essentially paying to rent theaters to show them. Henry Jaglom used to do it, as do some regional filmmakers. But even if his plan is successful, it’s not at all clear that it’s scalable to other projects. It’s the kind of scheme that works best if, well, your name is Kevin Smith.

More information on the plan is available at the official Red State website. Here’s the full text of the statement released yesterday by Kevin Smith and his producing partner, Jon Grodon, who have dubbed themselves “The Harvey Boys” in honor of erstwhile Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein.

The Red Statement

The Harvey Boys have witnessed first hand the vagaries of “studio math” – the byzantine numbers game that sees an uneducated media and public celebrating “huge” openings at the box office while ignoring the obscene marketing costs attached to reach those figures. We believe it’s a pyrrhic victory to simply “buy” an opening weekend by pouring millions of dollars into TV spots, billboards and print ads. As storytellers, why not instead use our creative abilities that resulted in a film in the first place to also creatively SELL that film directly to our public?

We believe the state of film marketing has become ridiculously expensive and exclusionary to the average filmmaker longing simply to tell their story. When the costs of marketing and releasing a movie are four times that film’s budget, it’s apparent the traditional distribution mechanism is woefully out of touch with not only the current global economy, but also the age of social media.

Therefore, The Harvey Boys will not spend a dime on old world media buys (such as TV/Print/Outdoor) as we self-distribute our film, Red State, in an admittedly unconventional, yet extremely cost effective, word of mouth/viral campaign.

Knowledge is power, and we believe in empowering the filmmaker – so the Harvey Boys vow to make the financials of Red State open and transparent from which anybody hoping to follow suit can learn. We will do what no studio has dared: open up our books for the world to see so anyone interested in pursuing a similar independent release strategy has a better understanding of the BUSINESS of Red State.

And if we’re successful – or even merely effective – at producing a film distribution apparatus that can stand apart from the cost-prohibitive studio model currently viewed as the only way to get a movie into a theater? It is our intent to use the groundwork we lay with Red State to aid other filmmakers in releasing THEIR films, via our newly launched SModcast Pictures.

Don’t hate the studio; BECOME the studio. Anybody can make a movie; what we aim to prove is anyone can release a movie as well

The Harvey Boys
Jon Gordon & Kevin Smith