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Filmism.net Dispatch September 25, 2011

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You haven't been able to throw a rock over the last six months and not hit a story online about Kevin Smith's Red State. The fan-friendly director blogged and tweeted prolifically during the production about Hollywood marketing and his film's place in its pantheon, determined to prove you could make a success without multimillion dollar ad budgets.

His stunt after the 2011 Sundance screening, of awarding the distribution rights to himself (disappointing many who thought it was going to be a legitimate shot at distributing) is now notorious, generating a divisive response of hatred and support.

The whole thing has inadvertently taught us several things about Hollywood. First, for all his grandstanding it turns out Smith was right about the economics of movie marketing. Red State was in the black prior to any foreign deals.

Second, as I observed at the time, the internet has a way of amplifying hate (read more here). Voices have to shout louder and shriller to be heard and seen as the 'definitive' record of events. That culminates in stories like Nikki Finke of Deadline.com this week referring to Smith as a 'publicity whore' in a story totally unrelated to his publicity efforts. It stank of bile and proves the third lesson. For whatever reason (maybe because of the combative nature of the film business) people in Hollywood are horrible to each other!

So is Red State worth all this debate and comment? Absolutely, it's great by any measure, especially by Smith's own standards, which leads us to the third lesson. Forget everything you hear about how you're only as hot as your last project and how your career rises and sinks with your box office. Smith's been going for almost 20 years and Red State is only his first film since Clerks to not fail dismally at the box office on initial release.

If you submit a finished film on time for a release date and you have anything resembling a personal brand studios can trade on (slacker stoner for Smith, geek boy for Edgar Wright, perfectionist cult worshipper like Tarantino), you'll keep getting work.

At the other end of the scale from a boyish, violent horror movie was a sumptuous, gilded parable about modern celebrity, Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. It's her best film so far.

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