By Fred Godlash @LA_Review
Three years ago writer/director Kevin Smith, loved by fans for classic indie films like Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, stood up in front of distributors at the Sundance Film Festival and announced he was not going to sell his latest film to any distributor but instead will buy his picture for $20 dollars so he can bypass traditional print and advertising fees normally associated with distribution. Smith launched a guerrilla marketing campaign for his film but, in the process, alienated himself from the mainstream industry. After the negative feedback Smith took a voluntary hiatus from future films to focus on other projects.
Fast forward to Hall H, Comic Con 2014, Smith announces, after giving the finger to the industry, he is returning to writing and directing with a new film called Tusk starring Michael Parks and Justin Long. It may not be a surprise to most fans that Smith has returned to his roots in filmmaking. He is a boundless storyteller, but what is amazing is why he is back. Smith claims that his inspiration for Tusk and getting back into filmmaking all started while he was doing his podcast (called the SModcast) with his long-time friend and producing partner Scott Moiser. While doing the show they were talking about an advertisement about someone who would let you live in their house as long as you would dress up as a walrus. This, of course, turned into a joke but eventually sparked an idea for a horror film.
Smith says, “It captured my imagination. I was like, ‘Holy shit. This sounds like a horror movie because you are going to get there and the guy is going to hit you over the head.’ The guy is going to pull you into that suit and you are going to become the human walrus – like the human centipede but cuddlier.” As the podcast continued Smith began to fall in love with this idea. He decided to turn to social media for confirmation. The Clerks director set up the hashtag #WalrusYes for those who liked the idea and want to see it made into a movie and #WalrusNo for those who didn’t like it. The next day there were thousands of #WalrusYes votes. Smith knew he had something very unusual that people wanted to see but no one would make: the premise being about a guy who wants to turn someone into a walrus.
He began to reminisce about Clerks. “When I was younger I used to go see independent films but I didn’t think about making them myself. But I had gotten to a place where I said I love comedy but I never see my type of comedy represented. I never see my friends up there; I don’t see myself reflected. No one is going to make a movie about you and your friends except you and that’s what made Clerks happen. Years later I am sitting there saying someone should make this walrus movie and I realized no one is going to make this walrus movie because it’s dumb. Really f**king dumb. The only person who is stupid enough to make it is you Kevin Smith. So I said maybe I should just try it and give it a shot.”
With zero funding and just fans interest, Smith started to write a draft for the script. He wanted Michael Parks to be the bad guy. Smith said, “I would go see a movie where Michael Parks makes someone dress up as a walrus. You can take my money right now.” While writing the script Smith took research from a former project to help fill in the folklore of Canada. The director wanted Canada to be a land of mystery and wonder. As he started to show people drafts of the script, the interest began to increase. Everything started to fall into place for Smith. The picture received funding from a company called Demarest Films. Slowly the cast came together with Michael Parks, Justin Long, Genesis Rodriguez, and Haley Joel Osment.
Smith happily stated, “Six months after the day we recorded the podcast I was sitting on a set going ‘Action’ with Justin Long dressed up like a walrus!” Smith says that by open sourcing with the fans on Twitter, Instagram and his podcast, he was able to make the audience a big part of making this movie, which gave him the motivation to return back to making films. The director says, “Because you guys took the time out of your day to respond, to say, ‘F**k yea I would see that movie,’ we made it.”
Tusk opens September 19th in a theater near you!
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– Our exclusive interview with Kevin Smith:
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