This week, I had the pleasure of watching the inimitable Ron Bennington interview filmmaker Kevin Smith. While I have listened to Smith’s Smodcast and read his Twitter about his retiring from directing and self distributing his upcoming movie Red State. While I was aware of what he was doing due to his verbosity about it, but to hear him talk about it in person showed his earnestness and was inspiring to hear.
Kevin Smith is a very divisive writer/director. He admits that people either love his movies or hate them, with no middle ground. His movies don’t gross more than $30 million, no matter how hard he tries to go beyond that ceiling, he can’t seem to. He plays to his core audience and tells the stories he wants to, which is why he is retiring from directing, but before he does, he is creating a new distribution system for his final two movies. By touring Red State personally across the country six months before it gains wide release in movie theaters, Smith is able to get the movie out to his core audience and take the time to interact with them in an intimate atmosphere.
Watching as Smith talked to Ron Bennington about it for the recording of the interview show Unmasked was inspirational. The information wasn’t new, it had been covered all over the internet media, but actually having him there made a connection that couldn’t be found in the written word and didn’t happen hearing him talk about it on his Smodcast. Regardless of opinions of his movies, there was a man who believed in creating the film he wanted to and bringing it to the audiences through grass roots marketing that is the antithesis of the current Hollywood marketing machine that attempts to spend as much money as it can to advertise to as wide a swath of potential viewers instead of focusing on people who would actually want to see and enjoy the film.
As someone who is developing a startup in his spare time, the lessons Smith imparts can be used to inspire with social media. Create what you love and do what makes you happy. Find your audience and target it to them. If other people are interested in what you are doing, they will come, but having a strong core audience will be what drives you. That audience will be the most vocal, whether they love your work or hate your work, they will be there every step of the way, telling you what they think. You shouldn’t have to waste time and energy looking for the widest possible audience. If that large an audience embraces you, it’s a blessing, but not every app is going to be Angry Birds.
After listening to Kevin Smith talk, the ideas were definitely flowing for my own products. He was passionate about his art and his ability to get his stories out, regardless of audience size or medium. He also came across as genuinely appreciative of his audience, taking a moment for the few folks who asked for a picture or a quick autograph in the lobby. I had the fortune to take the elevator down with him and thank him for being able to watch an entertaining interview, and he seemed as happy to talk in front of us as we were to watch him talk for over an hour.