Two decades after Kevin Smith shook up the world of independent film with his scrappy first feature, “Clerks,” the New Jersey filmmaker will have his story told using the next wave of indie innovation.
In 1995, Smith debuted “Clerks,” a black and white comedy that he made on credit cards and favors, at the Sundance Film Festival. The movie, which told the story of two bored Jersey cashiers, was an influential hit, introduced the world to Jay and Silent Bob, and kicked off a career that would produce many more films and inspire even more aspiring writers and directors.
Christopher Downie, a 28-year-old filmmaker and fan in England, has gone way beyond the call of normal fandom; along with partner Brett Murray, 21, he’s made Smith the subject of five short films, including one called “Get Greedo,” which Smith saw and liked so much that he asked to host it on his podcast network’s YouTube page. Now, Downie is planning on kicking it up to a full-length feature called “Shooting Clerks,” which will detail the struggles that Smith went through to make his own first film possible.
“We felt this was the logical conclusion, to shoot a feature length biographical film,” Downie, who first saw Smith’s “Dogma” after buying it used at Blockbuster when he was 13, told TheWrap. “The story of how Kevin became a filmmaker is one that I’ve been fascinated by for years and I always saw it as a movie. I was just fed up waiting for someone to make it.”
The film, which will be co-produced by Felix Kay (who has worked with James Franco‘s Rabbit Bandini Productions), is seeking money on IndieGoGo for its production, an option that Smith obviously did not have during his long effort to make “Clerks” possible. The making-of biopic will shoot interiors in the UK and exteriors in New Jersey and Vancouver. The campaign is hoping to net £27,575, or about $46,000, in part thanks to advice from Smith himself, who has communicated with Downie, via Facebook, with encouragement and anecdotes.
“He suggested we keep the budget low, as low as possible, since people are more willing to invest if the goal is more realistic,” Downie said. “Because of this we lowered our initial budget of £100,000 to £50,000 and then again to £27,575, which was the budget of ‘Clerks’ (albeit in dollars). If we weren’t dealing with period clothing and American cars we could afford to go even lower.”
Downie has sent Smith a script, and in turn, Smith has officially endorsed the project, recording a video on its behalf to assure potential crowdfunding benefactors of his support. Smith has also agreed to provide narration for the film, as well as play a small role as Harry Weizmann, the Hollywood CEO who buys the film.
Still, given Smith’s busy schedule, Downie presumes he hasn’t read the script yet, so there has been no editing or input from the subject himself. Meanwhile, Smith plans on shooting “Clerks III” in May.
Mark Frost, who has played Smith in Downie’s other projects, will reprise his role as the filmmaker, while Chris Bain, who has played Smith’s friend and on-screen partner Jason Mewes, will also return for the full-length feature.
The plan, should the campaign bring the needed funds, is to shoot later this year and premiere the film sometime in 2015.
Downie says he has several other, non-Smith projects in the works, as well.