Imagine this, you are working in a small convenience store and you have dreams to make it to the big time in Hollywood. But the only means you have of getting there are some 16mm film, a camera, and your buddies. Seems impossible, right? Not for Kevin Smith. Over the course of three weeks, Kevin Smith made an extraordinary film about the supposed unextraordinary. Kevin Smith made a film simply about his life and the customers and encounters he and his friends faced seemingly every day. The film was named ‘Clerks’ and in a short amount of time, it became an indie phenomenon. A film that seemingly was about nothing became a worldwide sensation and pulled Kevin Smith to stardom and, at the time of publication, two sequels to his opus. You may be wondering how a film about nothing became so successful and, as the title of this article claims, changed the world of indie filmmaking. Well, it is actually quite simple. You see, ‘Clerks’ may be about nothing but it is also about everything. It is simply put, a movie about nothing and everything.
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On the surface, it is a film about a convenience store clerk and his video store clerk neighbor and the interactions they have with customers and some of the people in their lives. Now, this seems elementary, but it certainly is not the end of ‘Clerks.’ No, ‘Clerks’ goes much deeper than this, you just have to look under the surface of the storefront so to speak, and read between the lines. ‘Clerks’ deals with issues that anyone can relate to, and life struggles that we all have experienced. It is a story about love, opportunity, maturity, and many other encompassing coming-of-age themes. ‘Clerks’ is not simply about convenience store workers but the struggle of the common man as they attempt to navigate a world dominated by hatred. As you can see ‘Clerks’ goes much deeper than its synopsis may care to reveal. This is the appeal of ‘Clerks’ as a whole and one of the reasons why it became the sensation and moneymaker that it is. May I also mention that it has some great one-liners and witty remarks, some that would even make classic Hollywood jealous? All this and more come together to craft a film that is more mature than most films out on the market today, even with the insane amount of sex jokes laden throughout. But ‘Clerks’ was much more than a simple singular hit. In fact, it was and is much more than that.
How ‘Clerks’ changed indie filmmaking
But how did this one particular indie success change the world of indie filmmaking forever? Well, it all comes down to the nature of ‘Clerks’ itself. ‘Clerks’ was a project that simply chose to illustrate the lives of working men in America, that is it. This is something that can be done by anyone who has access to a camera and some actors. What ‘Clerks’ did was demonstrate to the filmmaking world that anything can be important and that anything can hold weight in terms of what society holds dear. With ‘Clerks’ Kevin Smith gave life to the so-called tortured artist who does not believe that their art can hold the meanings and appeal that larger projects can hold. ‘Clerks’ demonstrates that anyone can be a filmmaker and that anyone can be turned into a great film. Now, this is not to say that everything is or will be a great film but you get what I am saying here. ‘Clerks’ is a movie about a convenience store, plain and simple. But in that convenience store is so much important business that reveals so much about the world around us and the people in it.
To put it in more simple terms, ‘Clerks’ and Kevin Smith showed the filmmaking world that anyone can be an artist and that anything can be an artist’s canvas. Whether it be a convenience store or a motel or a restaurant. ‘Clerks’ managed to inspire a whole generation of independent artists and delivered to many people a deep drive to create. Kevin Smith paved the way for indie filmmakers and their projects and demonstrated that it was possible for someone to pick up a camera and create something revolutionary. Without a doubt ‘Clerks’ defined a generation of indie filmmaking and motivated a whole new group of indie artists. Without ‘Clerks’ there would not be a ‘Juno’ or a ‘The Blair Witch Project.’ All of the independent films and filmmakers today and in the future have ‘Clerks’ to thank for helping them. Independent cinema would be in a very different place today if it was not for Kevin Smith and ‘Clerks.’ Who knew that so much could come from a few friends working at a convenience store?
‘Clerks’ not only inspired a whole generation of talented filmmakers across the globe but also opened the doors for other indie films by showing that films like it could be successful and pull in a profit. Kevin Smith altered the course of filmmaking history with his movie that only took 21 days to shoot and 28,000 dollars to make. Without Kevin Smith, there are not many of the popular films we see today. With ‘Clerks’ Kevin Smith demonstrated the power that can be wielded by independent artists everywhere, even with a modest budget and limited locations. While the world of independent filmmaking certainly does not start with Kevin Smith, he certainly carried it to where it is today, and it all started with an idea, a few friends who worked in a convenience store, and a camera.
By Nathaniel Lee
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