Director Kevin Smith finds Sundance buyer for new film — himself

By David Germain

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Jan. 23 2011 11:00 p.m. MST

PARK CITY — Kevin Smith has premiered his latest movie at the Sundance Film Festival and sold it to the highest bidder — himself, for $20.

Smith had indicated he would auction off distribution rights to his fundamentalist horror film "Red State" after its Sundance premiere Sunday night, and he brought up the movie's producer, Jonathan Gordon, to handle the sale.

Gordon told the audience the bidding was open, Smith offered $20, and his producer proclaimed the film sold.

The auction was a stunt to emphasize Smith's real plans — to release "Red State" himself, without the tens of millions of dollars in marketing money that Hollywood pours into its releases. The film will go out under his Smodcast banner, named for a Web site he launched in 2007 offering podcasts to fans.

Smith said he will take "Red State" out city to city beginning March 5 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. He rattled off a list of theaters around the country where the film will play for one night into early April, saying he hopes to continue his "Red State" road show in more cities after that.

"Red State" will debut in general theaters Oct. 19, Smith said. The whole release will be done without spending any money to advertise the film, so that ticket sales will go toward recouping the $4 million it cost to make "Red State" rather than a studio marketing budget that could amount to five times that much, he said.

Smith's career took off after his micro-budgeted debut film "Clerks," shot for just $27,575, sold at Sundance in 1994. His later films include "Chasing Amy," ''Dogma" and ''Clerks II."

In an expletive-laden monologue about the artistry of independent film vs. the business of selling movies, Smith told the audience he did not want to play the Hollywood game anymore.

"Selling my film is akin to having a baby and then handing it over to somebody else to raise," Smith said. "I know how to raise my kid. It's been 17 years I've been doing this. I've been out there in the world. I've been listening. I think I know how to ... do this."

Smith said he intends to make one more film after "Red State" then give up movie-making, though his Smodcast banner would remain in business to release others' movies.

"Red State" centers on three teenage pals (Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner and Nicholas Braun) lured into the woods in search of sex but who fall into the clutches of a Christian cult led by a charismatic preacher (Michael Parks) carrying out savage violence against homosexuals and others he views as sodomites.

The cast includes John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Kevin Pollak and Stephen Root.

Park's character was inspired by anti-gay activist Fred Phelps Sr., whose Westboro Baptist Church stages protests with signs such as "You're Going to Hell."

Westboro members protested outside the theater Sunday evening where "Red State" premiered. Smith did a counter-protest, the chubby filmmaker holding a sign that read "God Hates Fat."

Though Smith weathered weak reviews for such past movies as "Mallrats" and "Jersey Girl," he unleashed an online rant against critics that panned his most recent release, last year's Bruce Willis-Tracy Morgan crime comedy "Cop Out." The movie flopped, and Smith griped on his Twitter account about reviewers, saying that from now on, he would charge critics to see his movies.

Among the signs he held during his counter-protest before "Red State" was one that read "God hates press screenings."

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