Back in 2001, then first-time feature film director David Gordon Green made a comment about fellow filmmaker Kevin Smith:
“He kind of created a Special Olympics for film. They just kind of lowered the standard. I’m sure their parents are proud; it’s just nothing I care to buy a ticket for.”
I have to admit, the quote made me laugh. Now don’t misunderstand me, I love the fact that Kevin Smith opened the door for young filmmakers to pick up a camera and tell a story they felt represented them with virtually no money with which to do it. And clearly Smith has proven that his films have an audience. A pretty rabid one at that! I, myself, have never been a fan. The films don’t speak to me. And what’s more, I don’t think Smith has much of an understanding of the language of film. And he’s been quoted as saying that he doesn’t need to study film or watch the old “masters” to know how to make a movie. Well, let’s just say I think perhaps Smith’s films may have benefited in some artistic way from a basic sensibility of filmmaking that goes beyond point and shoot. If anything, I’ve always felt Smith’s scripts were undermined by his own direction (or lack thereof).
But either way, his films say something to a group of people and I wouldn’t dare attempt to deny its value to those who get something out of it. But while I love that he has found a form of expression in cinema, he has also created a monster of sorts in that there is a whole slew of young filmmakers who have absolutely no skills in (or sensibility for) visual storytelling whatsoever. They appear, at times, like people who may have something to say, but don’t know how to use their tongues yet, haven’t bothered to learn sign language, and so thus attempt to communicate through a series of grunts and groans that only occasionally resemble language.
Then, of course, there are those artists who appear to have a built-in sense of cinema; not something learned in a classroom nor via the viewing of other films, but something innate. And though Kevin Smith himself has referenced some of these filmmakers –like Jim Jarmusch– as excuses why he need not bother to actually study the craft in which he makes his living, he, himself, has not yet displayed any such natural disposition toward visual storytelling. Perhaps this is why I found David Gordon Green’s comment to be rather amusing and not without merit. At least for me.
Perhaps Smith will grow into being a filmmaker with a basic grasp of the medium. I look forward to that happening. In the meantime, he shows a bit more talent as a writer than as a director (though I must confess only a vague, passing amusement with certain passages in his scripts. I cannot claim fandom). But I would never deny Smith his right to make films. Or his fans their right to adore them. And while David Gordon Green has not proven himself to be a “master” director himself (particularly with his current foray into stoner-comedies which, ironically, compete for attention with Kevin Smith’s films), you have to admit, the Special Olympics for Film? That’s funny…