Bryan King did something that, by my estimation, is unprecedented in the world of movie fandom. He paid $1,000 for tickets to see Kevin Smith show off his latest effort Red State at Sundance for the first time. The opportunity came when the director decided to auction off two of his personal tickets to Sunday night’s world premiere. When all was said and done, King was in for a cool grand, earning him tickets and a ride on Smith’s tour bus post-screening. In a classy move, Smith donated the money to support the Sundance Institute Labs, which provides a learning environment for future filmmakers. When we heard about all of this, we were immediately interested. Why would someone pay $1,000 for two seats to a movie, even a world premiere? And does that change the experience? Does it give one even higher expectations for the movie? I was genuinely curious as to how the entire ordeal worked out for someone who invested so much into seeing a single film. No matter what the outcome, this would be an interesting side of a story that everyone seems to be talking about. So I reached out to Bryan King and asked if he’d be game for a little post-screening Q&A. Much to my delight, he was ready and willing to tell his story. The following is a brief, but interesting interview with the man who paid $1,000 to watch Kevin Smith’s Red State…
What compelled you to pay $1000 to buy Kevin Smith’s tickets?
It was really a combination of things. I’m a big fan of his films, but I’m a bigger fan of him as a person. Even when he says things that I don’t agree with, I like his personality and the fact that he says them. I love how candid he is and I wish there was more of that in Hollywood. So as a fan, when the opportunity arose to attend the premiere of his new film, I decided I wasn’t going to miss out on it. If you look at the tweets, you can see I got a bit overzealous and in all the confusion I bid against myself. I didn’t care though. The money went to a good cause and I was interested in Red State given Smith’s change of genre and all the headlines it was creating, good or bad, but the thing that really got me was being there for the premiere. I’ve seen a few movies at midnight, but that’s not a true premiere, and this is probably the only time I’ll ever have such an opportunity. All the other things, like the bus ride and the after party, were thrown in after my first bid. Those things were amazing additions and validated the money spent for me, but it really came down I just wanted an experience unlike anything I’d ever had, and I thought Kevin Smith and the Red State would provide it.
What did you think of the movie?
It’s good. It borders on very good, and the third act is really strong, but as a complete film, it never lives up to the standard set by its best moments. The movie definitely held my attention throughout, which is something I can’t say for a lot of films. There is some great stuff in the third act, stuff that I never would have expected from Smith. That’s not to say Smith is incapable of great stuff; he is and he’s shown it with his comedy before, but he’s never done anything like this. The only time that the movie struggles is an extended sermon from Michael Parks toward the middle of the movie. The sermon itself is needed, but it’s just way too long. It seemed to be trying to create some tension or horror but instead it just ground everything to a halt and it takes a few minutes after the sermon to get back into things. Once John Goodman shows up, the movie takes a shift for the better and stays at this higher level. He gives a really good performance and is pivotal in moving the movie along. I thought almost all of the performances were strong (Melissa Leo is always going to do great work) but Kerry Bishe deserves special credit. Like Goodman, her performance helps drive the third act and she gets the most interesting arc of any of the characters. Parks, who is given the responsibility of carrying the entire movie, gives a great performance as well, though it is anything but subtle.
The same can be said about the entire movie, but that’s not a bad thing. A subtler approach would have led to an entirely different movie, not one that I particularly want to see either. Smith made the right call going for bigger rather than subtle in this case. The biggest compliment I can pay the movie is that it is uncompromising and I respect that more than any other aspect of it. The same way Smith’s comedy is never censored, the violence in the film is exactly as brutal as it needs to be. The biggest issue that I have is not with the film itself but rather with how it’s being presented. I never saw a trailer (I wanted to be a fresh as possible), but all I’ve heard is that it’s a horror film. Smith himself said that minutes before the screening. It’s not though, and I think Smith is doing himself a disservice by calling it one. It’s a drama that deals with potentially horrific scenarios but there are no scares. There’s creepiness and the world of the church succeeds in being uncomfortable to watch, but anyone who goes in expecting a horror film is going to be very disappointed. The drama genre plays more to Smith’s strengths anyway. He’s a dialogue man through and through and he shows it. There are many extended dialogue scenes, and even when they linger a bit too long, I didn’t mind because Smith’s dialogue remains strong. All in all, it’s a small movie (feels bigger than its $4 million budgets though), but a good one that I enjoyed watching.
Was the experience worth the price you paid for the tickets?
Absolutely. Every penny. That’s not me saying that Red State is a $1000 movie. No movie is, but I didn’t just pay for the movie. I paid for the whole thing and the night exceeded my expectations. To be in the theater and hear his speeches both before and after the screening, to be part of the world premiere of a hot topic movie, and to be there on a huge night for a director that I’m a fan of are things I’ll never forget. And afterwards, to end up on the Smodbus next to Eliza Dushku, talking to Kevin and Jen and Mewes about the movie and life was out of this world. I was part of this monumental night in these people’s lives and that was really special. Even more special was how they welcomed me in. They treated me like I was part of their crew; they were all so nice and genuine. I literally got to talk to Smith about his movie not 10 minutes after the premiere and then got a giant bear hug out of him after. For a fan, I don’t think it really gets much cooler than that. He was a great guy and I’ll never forget how well I was treated. He and his people made a point of accommodating me all night and they made sure my experience was exactly what they had promised me. As if the night hadn’t been amazing enough, I then went to the after party. I’ve never interviewed a celebrity nor am I ever likely to, so I get pretty starstruck. To just stand there and have Forrest Whitaker and Anton Yelchin brush past you? What movie fan wouldn’t love that? The experience was really amazing and unforgettable. Don’t tell Kevin Smith, but I would have paid even more.
What do you think: is there any film experience you’d pay $1,000 to have? Any filmmaker you’d pay that much money to meet?
Photo courtesy of Steve Zaske