At this point, filmmaker and geek icon Kevin Smith is almost a caricature of himself. That's not us being mean -- that's Kevin Smith's own version of reality, where he is as much the "cartoon version" of Kevin Smith as Stan Lee was of Stan Lee. He has also taken a lot of friends with him to fame, and so on the fact of it, it might seem unlikely that a documentary made by one of Smith's friends and frequent collaborators would be a grounded, journalistic affair. But that's what Malcolm Ingram went for with Clerk, the new documentary that follows Smith's life and career from his budding interest in film through the development of the upcoming Clerks 3.
Ingram told us that along the way, he and Smith did have some disagreements about the way the film was to be made, but Smith ultimately let him make his movie. Smith said that even before this process, Ingram was a key part of helping him stay humble even while being "Kevin Smith's biggest fan," a descriptor that comes up in the movie.
"From January of '94 when we went to Sundance, till September of '94 when we went to the Toronto Film Festival, the whole world was like, 'You are the voice of your generation. You're an outsider artist. You're brilliant. You're a genius,'" Smith told ComicBook. "You hear that for a year. You're like, 'Nah, Nah, Nah,' but inside you're like, 'Maybe I am those things!' So I go to the Toronto Film Festival and I meet Malcolm Ingram. He was there with Paul Zimmerman. Both of them worked at Film Threat, which was a magazine I deeply loved. It film Twitter before film Twitter, essentially."
"Zimmerman had gone to see Clerks at the Houston World Fest," Smith continued. "So he'd seen the movie. He returned in Toronto with Malcolm, who wrote under the name, 'Mad Malcolm Ingram' at Film Threat. And so we're sitting at a crepe joint after the movie played, and it played huge. The movie had been on the festival circuit for a year, so when it came to Toronto, it had all the buzz and it didn't disappoint. So, we're sitting out there eating at the creperie, and we order our food. Paul says to Malcolm, 'What do you think of the movie, Malcolm?' And Malcolm goes, 'It's all right.' Right then and there, I was like, 'I need this kind of honesty in my life.'...And so, he's always been a grounding influence in my life."
That doesn't mean Smith doesn't appreciate how and why his story makes for a good documentary. After all, it's one of the most appealing stories in all of fiction: triumph against the odds.
"Even I pull myself out of the story, the idea of a Cinderella story, that this kid from nowhere makes a thing and suddenly has a career, and then goes on an adventure," Smith explained. "I could back that story. I'm into it regardless of whether it's me or not, so I can digest Kevin Smith media and not be caught up in it. You've got to remember, the best thing that could ever happen to me in my career, happened a long time ago, which is somebody bought Clerks. That gave me a career. The next best thing that happened in my career was when me and Jay put our feet in cement at the Chinese Theater, because between those two points, lies an entire career. And neither of them were manifest. Neither of them were guaranteed. It's not like, 'Oh, I always knew one or both was going to happen.' It's been such an amazing adventure."
Clerk is available to buy or rent on Digital platforms tomorrow.