Kevin Smith pulls a Radiohead

Well, not quite. But Kevin Smith’s bold new distribution project – which seems to have been gestating for a long time – looks set to re-define his relationship with his fanbase, and even burn some bridges within the distribution industry.

Deadline reports that last night’s Sundance screening of Red State – Smith’s first non-comedy, a religious-themed horror – was followed by an ‘auction’ for the film’s distribution rights. Several buyers were in attendance, apparently with genuine interest in taking on the film, but the auction turned out to be a sham. Smith announced plans to tour the film in a roadshow format, retaining the rights and hoping to recoup most of the film’s $4m budget himself.

Apart from Smith’s apparent misunderstanding of the numbercrunching involved in the distribution business (I can’t comment, arithmetic hurt brain), this seems like… a good idea. Although there are now numerous distributors who won’t be there to help him out when he wants to make a film that costs more than four mil, and a lot more negative press for the man himself (he’s surely used to it by now), this has raised a lot of interest in the film. Most people are predicting that Red State will recoup its budget in its first window release, a miracle in today’s industry. Besides, Smith knows his most loyal fans are willing to pay extra for something with his name on it.

I mention Radiohead because their last project, In Rainbows, seemed like a middle finger to the record labels courting them – offered up for the price of ‘whatever’ to fans. It’s also something that only big names can afford to do. When Radiohead and Kevin Smith want to cut out the middleman, we sit up and listen. But small bands and filmmakers who want to explore new avenues of distribution don’t have the luxury, because nobody really gives a damn. It’s why distribution won’t be changing for a while, as much as we – and Smith – would like to see some changes.

P.S. Kevin Smith is fat and Jersey Girl sucked.

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