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JAN
23
4 YEARS

SUNDANCE: 'Red State's' Kevin Smith Buys Own Film for $20

UPDATED: At the horror film's first public screening Sunday night, protests, speechifying and a short-circuited auction added to the festivities.

Kevin Smith plans to release his new horror movie Red State himself, the writer-director declared at the film's first public screening at the Eccles Theatre on Sunday night.

Smith had suggested for weeks that he would hold an auction post-screening for rights to his film, but ultimately announced that he would take the movie on the road himself throughout 2011 ahead of a planned Oct. 19 release. He paid himself a token $20 for the privilege, and he hopes that the roadshow will make some of the movie's roughly $4 million budget back.

"What we need to prove is that anyone can release a movie," Smith said from the Eccles stage as part of a long and profanity-laced speech after the movie ended, during which he championed Harvey Weinstein as an inspiration and mentor. "Indie film isn't dead, it just grew up. It is just indie film 2.0 now. In indie film 2.0, we don’t let them sell our movie, we sell our movie ourselves.”

The film will go out via Smith's SModcast Pictures with no marketing spend, though he said that he will talk to "any smart exhibitor" about potentially showing the movie.

“We are going to make our money back by going out on the road and going city by city,” said Smith. The tour will begin March 5 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City and make a stop at Midland Theatre in Kansas City one week later.

In his more than 20-minute speech, Smith lambasted movie studios for a system he said is unfair and outdated and too focused on advertising. Smith said that he had never intended to get into the business of the movie industry — noting that he’s simply a “fat, masturbating stoner” — but the state of the industry essentially forced his hand.

“It’s too much f------ horsesh--. I just want to tell f------’ stories,” he said.

The planned auction wasn’t the only element of the Red State screening that had generated buzz. Pastor Fred Phelps’ anti-homosexual Westboro Baptist Church carried out its planned protest of the film. Smith has been open about Phelps being the muse for the film’s villain, Pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks). The Topeka, Kan.-based church is known for its extreme anti-homosexual ideology; in the film Cooper heads a fundamentalist church that carries out murders of those it considers sinners — chiefly gay people.

But Red State plays less as a straightforward horror film than as an extremely intense thriller that verges on horror. The film is the story of a trio of high school students who head out in search of an offered sexual tryst they've come across online, only to end up terrorized by Cooper’s fundamentalist church. The plot takes a turn, and soon government agents are doing battle with the church denizens.

The protests started early, at about 3 p.m., three hours before Red State would have its world premiere. On one side: foot soldiers from Westboro Baptist Church, declaring that “GOD HATES F---.” On the other? A ragtag collection of moviegoers — many of them Park City-area high school students — singing Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” at full volume.

Smith and his producers, never ones to miss a cheeky publicity opportunity, had encouraged supporters to protest any protestors who showed up on Phelps’ behalf. Early on, the Phelps crew was significantly outnumbered — only three were huddled in the snow. Meanwhile, the Smith side numbered in the scores, hoisting homemade signs that blared messages such as “Everybody Poops” and “I was told James Franco would be here!” They also sang “The Star Spangled Banner.” In all, about 250 people were there.

Another round of protesting kicked into high gear just before the film’s 6:30 p.m. showing, when Smith walked through the assembled mass of people, who were situated just off the parking lot in front of the theater. As cameramen and protestors swarmed, Smith drew cheers and also cries that he was going to hell.

Protestor and WBC member Rachel Hockenbarger (who is Phelps' daughter) watched Smith walk past her and said, “I think that he is a mocker and scoffer of God. And everybody loves him for that — that is a popular thing to be today. Red State, it is a film that mocks the Westboro Baptist Church, and lies about the Westboro Baptist Church.”

The protests never turned violent, despite the rancor. Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter said officers had made no arrests and didn’t expect to make any. There were 13 police officers at the protest site.

Smith introduced the film before the screening, playfully comparing it to one of his less successful features: "This is hands down a horror movie, like Jersey Girl.”

Smith also took a moment to introduce his favorite signs made by his supporters. They read: “D--- TASTES YUMMY” and “I’M A HAPPY JEW.”

After the screening, Smith also reiterated that Red State would be his second-to-last movie, with the forthcoming hockey comedy Hit Somebody his final film.