The power of asking, “Why not?”

When you think of Independent Filmmaking, some big names come up. This may include Kevin Smith whose 1994 Indie, Clerks, was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in late 2019. 

The National Film Preservation Board, “works to ensure the survival, conservation and increased public availability of America’s film heritage” and after nominees, the Board selects the films to be added to the film registry, “because of their cultural, historic and aesthetic importance to the nation’s film heritage.” 

Other independent films that were added in 2019 were Boys Don’t Cry (1999), Real Women Have Curves (2002) and She’s Gotta Have It (1986). 

Smith spoke about his appreciation and sense of awe that his first film has been added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry on Twitter and on his podcast, “Fatman and Beyond.” 

“I am overwhelmed! Thank you for acknowledging our little Jersey paean to working hard at not working at all. You took the only magic trick I’ve ever pulled off and legitimized it, placing Clerks into legendary company! SO glad I’ve always paid my taxes! (Thanks to all who voted!)”

Smith has made a career talking. From his live Q&A tours to podcasts, the filmmaker has made a living by telling stories of his everyday life. A few times, he has been asked how he was able to work in the film industry. His response was thoughtful and true. In a world, and particularly in a profession, in which many ask, “Why you? Why make this and why have you made this?” he replied that instead, “I surrounded myself with people who said, ‘Why not you?’ You can watch his answer in this YouTube video: 

So with a budget of less than $30,000, he made an independent film. He started using the internet, message boards and eventually one of the earliest regular podcasters to start sharing his thoughts, ideas and stories. And why not him? I enjoy his self-deprecating, humble, enthusiastic fan boy personality and so do many others. 

Smith has been an inspiration, much to his surprise but not to me. For example, in one of his podcasts, you can hear the wheels turning in his head telling him to make a film that would become the horror film, Tusk. It started out with his friend and frequent collaborator, Scott Mosier, discussing a fake advertisement about a man wanting someone to put on a walrus costume during their podcast, “Smodcast” Episode 259, The Walrus and The Carpenter. Over the next few months, Smith explained that he started writing a horror script based on the ad. One year later, filming began on his 80-page script. Tusk was released in September 2014, shocking audiences and critics. The amazing thing is that you can hear the process of how a filmmaker comes up with an idea, his highs and lows, and the challenges faced in order to make the idea into a film for a wide audience. 

Kevin Smith is an independent filmmaker whose films might be odd but he is a filmmaker who is inspiring others to find a way to tell their stories. That is what filmmakers, particularly independent filmmakers do. I say thank you to the man who asks “Why not?” for himself and for others. 

Written by Tara Jabbari,