…or so says Nikki Finke, who replied to my response to her blog post yesterday.
“Total strangers to the film who merely entered a contest don’t deserve credit, no matter how quick the crawl,” she writes. “It’s crass and commercial.”
I love the people who support my flicks financially. They’re my bosses, really: without them, I have no job. And as I’ve been employed for twelve years now, I thought it’d be fun to give ‘em (not even all of ‘em, just ten thousand) a shout-out. Sue me.
Again, though: nobody actually working within the guilds or the industry seems to give a shit. Just Nikki – a film journalist. In fact, if you read the responses to the MySpace blog posting of the piece I wrote yesterday, there are some cats who’re actually employed in the movie industry (p.a.’s and whatnot) who’ve written that they – the people who you’d almost forgive for taking umbrage with the whole “affair du credits” – don’t feel threatened or slighted in the least. Based on a quick IMDB search, I couldn’t find a Nikki Finke page. So since she’s never crewed/been in a flick, why is this a hill she wants to die on? And if this issue does mean that much to her, why didn’t she make a stink about Peter Jackson including a list of names from the official fan club at the end of the “Rings” DVD credits? Talk about finger on the pulse…
Nikki DID cut me a little slack, however, when she wrote “But it’s certainly Kevin Smith’s right to embrace that, just as it’s my right to denounce that.”
There’s a war going on in the Middle East, and THIS is what you choose to denounce? Priorities, Nikster.
On the subject of the “Clerks II” box office results (which Nikki is also really digging her heels in on), she writes “I based my analysis on: the very low opening box office total…”
Mind you, we doubled our five million dollar budget on our opening weekend.
“…the average $36 million it takes to market a movie nowadays…”
HA! Yes, you could see where we spent all that money for “Clerks II”: on the copious billboards, on round-the-clock network advertising, on bus stop ads…
Wait a second – that wasn’t us! That was all the other movies that opened this summer.
Never mind that “average”, lady: as a guy who saw what they spent, let me assure you: our marketing budget wasn’t even CLOSE to that “average”. We knew we were going after a niche audience and spent accordingly.
That’s why we only spent five million bucks making the flick in the first place.
That’s why we spent 45 weeks throwing up making-of video blogs over at www.clerks2.com.
That’s why I did a fifteen city tour promoting the flick to every local news outlet I could hit.
That’s why Jeff Anderson and Brian O’Halloran did the same, in fifteen other cities.
That’s why Rosario Dawson and I did couch duty, separately, on Leno, Conan, Kimmel, Ferguson, and Regis (yes, Regis).
We maximized what little we had to promote the flick with good ol’ fashioned grass roots marketing: because our marketing budget was well below average.
Nikki continues “(and no one’s ever characterized Harvey Weinstein as stingy when it comes to spending money on promotion and advertising)”
When he’s promoting an Oscar contender or sure-fire mainstream effort, no. But in the new Weinstein Co. paradigm, Harvey tends to save the big bucks for the crossover and mass appeal flicks. We always expected that, with “Clerks II”, we’d be playing to our core. Again – it’s why we only spent five million making the flick.
Nikki says “and the collapsing DVD market.”
See, now DVD is where our stuff truly shines. While that marketplace may be “collapsing”, the flicks we make, for whatever reason, continue to sell. That’s why Gabriel Snyder singled our stuff out in a Variety artilce entitled “DVD’s Spawn a New Star System” when he wrote “Kevin Smith. Directors can have big DVD followings, too. ‘Jay & Silent Bob’ sold $36 million on DVD after a moderate $30 million in theaters.”
“Strike Back” was the model for “Clerks II”, and all we did was plug lower numbers into the equation. For this reason, we kept all our spending low across the boards to guarantee profitability. As such, I got to make the movie I wanted to make, the Brothers Weinstein get to make a profit, and almost everyone (even the New York Times) is happy.
Everyone except Nikki Finke, that is. Nikki continues “Given the insanity of marketing costs…”
Which, as covered, above, we didn’t spend. “Insane” was not our watchword. As per Gary Faber, Weinstein Co. head of marketing “If we hit twenty million theatrically, we’re profitable.”
Nikki: “it doesn’t matter anymore how little a film costs to make.”
This is a ludicrous statement. More in a minute…
Nikki: “Because eking out anything less than $20 mil at the box office during its debut weekend means that movie should have gone straight to video. Showing it in a theater, with all that extra $$$ output, is just ego feed. I, for one, am sickened by everybody mouthing off that their movie will make money when the reality is it doesn’t have a chance in hell.”
For a journo who’s been reporting on film for years now, the above hogwash comes off like the clumsy and poorly investigated ramblings of a newbie newshound with little to no context about what they’re covering. Not even a college paper newbie newshound, either; a high school monthly newbie newshound.
Film may be one of the only industries where long-term revenue is marginalized (by the press) in favor of short-term earnings. Weekend grosses are hardly a bellwether of a film’s ultimate success (as far as financials are concerned, at least). A ten million opening weekend for “Clerks II” may not make for sexy headlines, but it puts us on target to hit our profitability mark of twenty million. How many films this summer (shit, in any quarter of the fiscal year) have doubled their budget in their opening weekend? How many will hit their profitability mark theatrically, to the point where home video (wherein the real filthy lucre lies) is all gravy? No matter how many times Nikki cries “failure”, the cold hard truth of the matter is that “Clerks II” will earn. Maybe not big (theatrically), but we’ll earn. Numbers never lie. How hard is it to comprehend a business model that’s outside the norm? For many, not very. For Nikki? It’s old dogs and new tricks (and, in truth, this low budget “trick” isn’t even all that new).
Let me put it another way: I was not gifted with a big dick and I grew up fat (and grew to be even fatter). Because of these shortcomings, I learned to eat pussy really well. That way, ultimately, I can provide a satisfying enough sexual experience where whatever chick was feeling charitable enough to get horizontal with me might reason “He did make me cum once, so I’ll give him another shot,” somewhere down the road. I took that logic into filmmaking, too: my stuff isn’t wildly popular in the mainstream, but if I make up for the lack of audience by spending less, ultimately, I can turn someone a profit. Harvey and Bob Weinstein have always respected this, which is why I still have a job after twelve years and no theatrical grosser over $30mil. In essence, Harvey and Bob have only financed five of the seven flicks I’ve made because… well, because I lick their pussies well enough, I guess.
Some would say I should aim higher (box office-wise, not on Harvey and Bob’s anatomies). Maybe I will one day, but for now, I’m content to make the kinds of movies I want to make – providing that they make whoever shelled out our budget some loot. So far, so good.
This is one of those instances in which a would-be muckraker can’t simply admit “Hey – I didn’t have all the facts together when I made my half-assed conjecture. My bad.” Instead, she comes back with “He didn’t take kindly to my recent post Hollywood Guilds Ain’t Gonna Be Thrilled. (Or else he was looking to pick another PR fight just as he did with GMA’s Joel Siegel.)” See, it’s okay for her to scribble nonsensical screeds full of uninformed ramblings, but if I respond? Oh, I’m doing so “angrily” or making “jejeune personal attacks” (and if Joel Siegel walked out on Nikki in the middle of a conversation, making a scene as he did so, like SHE wouldn’t come back with some kind of blog attack…).
P.S. – This is from Nikki’s bio page at her website – a pull quote from a Dow Jones’ MarketWatch profile: “Finke is a rarity at a time when many entertainment writers are either too awed, ill-informed or lazy to do serious reporting on Tinseltown.”
Yeah – nothing lazy or ill-informed about her.