Hear Kevin Smith’s Three Tips For Aspiring Filmmakers (NSFW)

If you’re seeking advice about making your first film, Kevin Smith is a good place to start. The comedic director of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Chasing Amy fame was a Hollywood outsider when he made his debut with the critically acclaimed Clerks in 1994. The black and white feature went on to gross $3.1 million — not bad for a Vancouver Film School dropout who shot the movie in the convenience store where he once worked, on a total budget of $27,575.

In the clip above, Smith dispenses a dose of rambling advice to Canadian filmmaker and video producer Gavin Michael Booth. We’ve summed it up in three main points. Our summary lacks the expletives that makes Smith’s talk rather colorful.

1 – “You have to have a reasonable amount of unreasonability” – Smith suggests that filmmakers must possess an appropriate degree of self-belief and drive, regardless of the obstacles before them. If young filmmakers were reasonable about their chances of success, the only people making movies would be Los Angeles natives already entrenched in the film industry.

2 – “You have to know… what hills you’re willing to die on.” The reasonable amount of unreasonability also refers to knowing which battles are worth fighting for. A directorial vision is important, but at the end of the day it is subordinate to budget constraints.

3 – “You have to learn how to kill your babies.” Smith is an ardent believer in movies needing to be only as long as they must, and no longer. Including scenes because you like them unless they’re unequivocally essential is self-indulgent and does a disservice to the audience.

If you’re after further tips, we’ve also written about Quentin Tarantino jointly giving filmmaking advice with Sam Raimi, and legendary Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky’s counsel to beginner filmmakers. Plus we have 10 Tips From the Great Billy Wilder on How to Write a Good Screenplay.

Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman

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  1. NYCPaul says . . . | December 25, 2013 / 2:18 pm

    Not surprisingly, he doesn’t get around to explaining how to make a non-embarrassing, or even coherent, movie.

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