For the record, I shouldn’t be teaching anybody anything. No right-thinking university would hire me to be the instructor for any subject, unless it was…
a) How to Down a Box of Pre-Sweetened Cereal in a Sitting
b) How to Avoid Any Physical Exertion Beyond Strolling to the Shitter Hourly Because You’ve Eaten Far Too Much Pre-Sweetened Cereal (a class that’d have a post-studies course called Sedentary Alternatives to the Hourly Bowl March Including, But Not Limited to, Empty Pre-Sweetened Cereal Boxes You Can Keep By Your Bedside; students would only pass once they handed in their thesis, entitled Toy Surprises: Good Wiping Material or Too Harsh for the Hole?).
That being said, UCLA has brought me on as a visiting professor this semester.
Naturally (or bizarrely, as some of my critics would point out), it’s in the School of Cinema and Television – a field I know a thing or two about (as I’ve watched many movies and TV shows). So, for the last month, I’ve been spearheading a class called “Sucks Less, with Kevin Smith”, in which we produce a weekly TV show entitled, ironically, “Sucks Less, with Kevin Smith”. It starts airing this Thursday on MtvU (the college-campus only arm of the Viacom-owned Music Television empire), as well as on MtvU.com and, in an uncharacteristic-for-me nod to what’s being called “new media”, also on the Amp’d Mobile Phone. This means we’re producing Episodes, Webisodes, and Mobisodes – which, while sounding ambitious as fuck, simply means we’re producing one show that airs on three different platforms. Eat your heart out, Dick Wolf.
How did this all happen, you ask? As far as I can remember, it all came down as follows.
About six to eight months ago, I was talking to someone at Mtv about working on the Movie Awards show. They’d asked if I was interested in writing or producing, and I responded that, while very flattered, I was not the right guy for the job: I’m an old man, completely out of touch with the current Mtv generation. If you had a gun pointed at my head, I couldn’t name a single VJ beyond Kennedy – who, I’m told, hasn’t been a VJ in about a decade.
“My tastes, for better or for worse, fall far outside the mainstream,” I argued. “And if I could write/create for the mainstream, I’d be a one of those successful filmmakers. So, really – you guys want someone else.”
“Yeah, but we like your sensibility.”
“But my sensibility isn’t in line with the masses.”
“What makes you say that?” I was asked.
“I’ll bet you’re tying to get Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as hosts.”
“We are,” they replied.
“Okay. I’d rather see David Cross be the host. You’re voting for the most popular kids in class, I’m voting for the class genius. And there’s nothing wrong with your instincts; I just don’t share ‘em.”
“Fine. But there’s gotta be something you can do in the Mtv family. We’re edgy, too. Have you ever seen ‘Wonder Showzen’?”
(I hadn’t, at that point but since that conversation, “Wonder Showzen” has become one of my all-time favorite programs. That exec wasn’t kidding, either: “Wonder Showzen” defined the term “edgy”.)
“What about MtvU?” they continued.
“It’s the campus-only version of Mtv. They actually play music videos, along with some short-form programming. And the college audience is your audience, isn’t it?”
They had a point: I like college. Never really attended one all that much… or finished any, for that matter. But still, I like college. I used to like to visit my ex-girlfriend at Carnegie Mellon when she attended, years back. I dug walking around the campus, seeing people preparing for the next stage of development – the one I had such a hard time committing to myself. I liked hitting the library and watching laser discs in the media center while my ex was in class (the CMU library is where I first saw “Citizen Kane”). And most of all, I liked the cafeteria: the place where you could eat sixteen bowls of Apple Jacks, two donuts, a bagel, and six glasses of orange juice for, like, four bucks. There’s just something about a college campus, y’know? Particularly when you don’t have to be there and aren’t sweating writing a paper or making a class on time. It’s why I do so many Q&A’s every year: I just dig being on a college campus. College? I like it. And college kids? I like ‘em even more.
So I was introduced me to Ross Martin and Brian DeCubellis, the guys over at MtvU, and I hit ‘em with an idea for short-form program I could host out of Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash called “For Those Who Can’t Get Laid” – a tip show that’d provide a list of upcoming movies/music/comics/events college kids might not know about. They went for it, and then came up with an even better idea: rather than simply produce it in-house at View Askew, we set it up over at UCLA and make an accredited course out of it, with the students actually fulfilling all the various production roles. They get experience, make connections and earn college credits, we get cheap labor; everybody wins.
Once Department Chair Barbara Boyle and UCLA were on board, two more players entered the field: Amp’d Mobile and Rory Kelly. Amp’d offered to underwrite the entire course, in exchange for the rights to air “Sucks Less” on their mobile phone (side by side with other original programming, like their “L’il Bush” cartoon). “Sleep With Me” director Rory Kelly, a long-time UCLA Film instructor, graciously signed on to be the teacher-of-record (while I have a pair of Doctorates from two different universities, they’re the Honorary kind that apparently don’t qualify me to be a “real” teacher), so with complete funding and a legitimate teacher in place, we were off and running.
So me, Rory, MtvU Brian, a pair of UCLA animators (whose spiffy title sequence cartoon kicks off every show), and fifteen grad students with various production concentrations (directing, producing, screenwriting, cinematography) have hunkered down to come up with six episodes of what stopped being called “For Those Who Can’t Get Laid” (UCLA wasn’t comfortable with that title) and quickly became “Sucks Less” – a weekly, eight minute, student-produced extravaganza that starts airing this Thursday, October 26th, on MtvU, MtvU.com (where most of you will wind up watching it, no doubt), and the Amp’d Mobile phone.
If you dig the show, I can take very little credit: it was, from first to last, the students’ production (consequently, if you hate the show, I get to dodge that bullet as well).
As for being a teacher… well, that’s something I’ll be able to address more thoroughly once we’re done with the course (second week of December). But thus far? I’m digging it (though not nearly as much as I’m digging the cafeteria).
Here, you can take a peep at one of the “bumpers” that’ll be running on MtvU this week, once “Sucks Less” has gone into regular rotation.
And here, check out the “Sucks Less Success Story” – a bumper that Ben (one of the students) shot with Bodi and Dagmar (two of his classmates).
And don’t forget to check out the actual episode this Thursday, on MtvU.com.
I mean, Jesus – it’s only eight minutes.