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Kevin Smith shares his advice for young filmmakers

From pushing producers to finding your voice: the Clerks director reveals his five best tips for breaking into the movie industry

Filmmaker, actor, comic book writer, or podcaster – however you know Kevin Smith, you’ll know that after two decades in the industry he’s probably learnt a thing or two about the movies. Since the release of his breakthrough black comedy, Clerks, the director has skyrocketed into a cult hero, with many of his creations perfectly capturing the zeitgeist of the early 90s. His follow-ups – Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and Dogma – follow the same thread; pushing real, personal-to-him locations, semi-professional actors, and an almost non-existent budget. Fortunately, despite the soaring costs of cinema today, Smith still believes that first-time filmmaking is easier and cheaper than ever. We caught up with the director to find out his key pieces of advice for aspiring moviemakers.

FIND YOUR OWN VOICE

“In this world, make what you want to see cause at the end of the day there’s a bunch of people whose journey is not that dissimilar from yours. The more you do it the more it becomes the norm, and then the industry is no longer like a shitty boys club. You can’t sit in the darkness of a movie theatre and bitch that you don’t see yourself or your world represented up there if you’re not going to take the steps to be there and be that person. Nothing comes from complaints, things come from action. Take a little snapshot of your world, man. That connects with a bunch of people. Like Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy, these were my world, this is where I live, these are the people I know.”

BE CREATIVE WITH YOUR PITCHING

“Producers are never going to come to you and ask you to join them, it doesn’t work like that. It’s a big house and everyone will try to walk through the front door. Look at all the windows, look at the cellar doors, look at all the backdoors. There are other ways to get in. But don’t try the front door; it’s full of the same fucking people.”

“You can’t sit in the darkness of a movie theatre and bitch that you don’t see yourself or your world represented up there if you’re not going to take the steps to be there and be that person” – Kevin Smith

DON’T THINK ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE

“You’re like a snowflake or a fingerprint because nobody thinks like you do. You are a unique little content generator! And alongside everything that you are, you’re also a storyteller. Nobody else is going to tell your story, nobody ever shows up to your house and knocks at your door and wants to tell your story to others. If you want to tell it, you should want to tell it and all you have to do is step forward and tell it. Don’t sit there and think ‘what do people want to see?’ There are so many people worrying and wondering about what others want, and you can’t even predict that sort of shit.” 

ABSORB AS MUCH ART AS POSSIBLE

“I never learnt anything about who I was in school and I never learnt anything about who I was in church – the closest thing that helped me figure out who I was, was engaging in the arts and the movies I watched. It was by reading books and listening to music too, so you give somebody like that a mirror and the chance to see themselves or you create that mirror yourself and you can work for a long time. You don’t need to be artistic to create art, you don’t need the talent to self-express. Self-expression is something you can do. You have this voice and your voice is your alternative to life, your voice is present to which you see everything and then you send it back out to the world.”

BE PUSHY

“Don’t take no for an answer and don’t let somebody say you’re not talented. Don’t let people get you down. You know who’s going to be your biggest opponent? That’s you. The inner monologue will kick in and you’ll think who are you? Don’t do that. And don’t think ‘fuckin’ hell, I’m going to fail’. Don’t listen to that shit. I’m telling you, if you fail at something it means you’re just going to get it right next time.”

Kevin Smith’s latest movie, Yoga Hosers, is currently showing at Edinburgh Film Festival