Kevin Smith on selling his film as an NFT: ‘I don’t care about the money’

The ‘Clerks’ director tells Input why he’s auctioning off the rights to his upcoming horror flick ‘Killroy Was Here.’

Allan Amato

Last week, filmmaker Kevin Smith revealed that he’ll be selling his next film, the completed horror anthology Killroy Was Here, as an NFT. “I don’t care about the money,” Smith tells Input in a recent phone call. “The thing what drives me is doing something fun.”

The 50-year-old Smith, who suffered a massive heart attack in 2018, cites his advancing age as another motivating factor. “I’ve got white fuckin’ flecks in my beard,” he says. “I’m starting to feel like fuckin’ Kenny Rogers in the old days, when he opened up the Roasters place. So anything to feel as vital and young as I did when I began my career.”

Smith famously launched his career in 1994, selling his first feature, the ultra-low-budget classic Clerks at the Sundance Film Festival. That movie introduced the world to stoner icons Jay and Silent Bob, who are at the center of Smith’s cinematic View Askewniverse.

Since then, Smith has released 13 more movies — both celebrated (Chasing Amy) and ridiculed (Jersey Girl) — and countless spin-off projects, ranging from a pop-up fast food restaurant to a brick-and-mortar comic book store. He sells all manner of merch, and beginning next Wednesday, April 28, he’ll be hawking NFTs, via Jay & Silent Bob’s Crypto Studio.

Next week’s drop of so-called Smokin’ Tokens includes five Platinum Tokens that entitle the holder to a cameo in Smith’s upcoming sequel Clerks 3, which has a crypto storyline. A second drop, a month later, will feature five more Platinum Tokens, plus the big prize: a token awarding the holder the rights to exhibit, distribute, and stream Killroy Was Here. The film cost under $1 million to make and stars Azita Ghanizada, Ryan O’Nan, the pro wrestler Chris Jericho, and Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn Smith.

Smith, who lives in L.A., says he got the idea to sell the rights to Killroy as an NFT during conversations with the film’s executive producer, David Shapiro. “David’s like, ‘It’s never been done before,’” Smith says. “I was like, ‘Well, that sounds fun. Wouldn’t that be more fun than trying to go out there and shop it from studio to studio, distributor to distributor, as per usual?’

“This way, we bring somebody else into the game, somebody who’s never done it before, and you become an instant distributor — you get to monetize in the real world,” he adds. The winner will get the movie’s actual “hard-drive files.” Plus, Smith says, he’ll make himself available to do press for the film.

In the following interview, which has been condensed and edited for clarity, Smith lays out his NFT vision, reveals some Clerks 3 plot details, and entertains the interviewer’s ignorant filmmaking question.

What drew you to the world of NFTs?

This is one more place for me to go practice my craft. In a world where movie theaters are shutting down left and right, people like me are looking for places to go. And yeah, of course there’s streaming and stuff, but now that’s crap. You know, good luck finding a slot at Netflix. So if there’s suddenly this new digital playground and platform, I’m all for it.

I’m looking down the road. Right now, you can stick a little audio and a little video on an NFT. But like two years from now, you are going to be able to stick a whole movie on an NFT. So we kind of dug in deep.

Jay & Silent Bob’s Crypto Studio

Right now, we’re talking about doing a series — because we’re heading off to shoot Clerks 3 this summer in Jersey, and there’s a big crypto storyline that runs through it. So I’ll be shooting mini-films as well, putting them out in a series with some art attached to it. There's just so much you can do with it.

The world of crypto has been very welcoming. Blockchain folks have been very welcoming. I caught some social media heat from some people that aren’t really involved in the world of crypto or NFTs at all.

What kind of heat?

People being like, “This is killing the planet!” And I quickly pointed them to all the information about Phantasma Chain, which is the first ecologically sound blockchain. I mean, I can’t pay for the sins of everyone else who's using something that’s not Phantasma Chain.

There were definitely some people who were like, “This guy: anything for a buck,” but they’ve been saying that about me since fuckin’ Clerks, so that doesn't really turn me off. I remember early on people being like, “How gross — he makes T-shirts and toys for the people that like his movies.” This was back in 1997, my friend. So if that’s gross, I’ve been gross for the better part of a quarter of a century now.

So you’ve auctioned a movie before, at Sundance in 2011 —

I mean, kinda. Kinda.

But you ended up buying the rights [to Red State] yourself, pissing some people off. Given that, do you think people have a right to be skeptical about this NFT?

It's been over 10 years since that, and I think most people understood that was not truly an auction. That was us calling attention to the movie. It was a real bait-and-switch, and it certainly got me in Dutch with the distributors. There were a bunch of cats who were mad, like, “We wouldn't have come to this screening if we didn't know we were going to be able to really buy it!” or something like that. To which I was like, “You weren’t going to go to a film screening at a film festival? What the fuck you doing here then?”

I thought it was clear once I got onstage at Sundance, like, Oh, they were always going buy their movie — this was this is a publicity thing. I’ve done stuff like that over the years. I’ve always kind of explored little areas that other people don’t really give a shit about, like the internet and podcasting, that then later on they do come to give a shit about.

“I’m always looking for a new place to go because my shit’s not mainstream by any stretch of the imagination.”

I’m always looking for a new place to go because my shit’s not mainstream by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t have the benefit of being able to be like, “Look at my new Jedi.” Or “Check out my new Justice Leaguer or Avenger.” You know, I’ve got my own I.P. in terms of Jay and Silent Bob, and Lord knows, I’ve certainly been milking it since day one.

In terms of the NFT, I’m not going to swoop in at the last minute and buy the movie. If anybody’s like, “He’s not really going to be auctioning the movie,” they can allay their fears. Lord knows, this is a serious as a heart attack.

You've admitted that this could fail.

Some people are like, “You’re going to make that Beeple money,” and I’m like, “No, we’re not.” So to a lot of people, if we wind up making $200,000, they would see that as as failure. But to me, there’s no failure, because at the end of the day, Killroy Was Here now has a bigger profile than it has ever had. So even if somebody wants to buy the NFT for like 10 bucks, it’s a huge fucking story, even if it’s a story of failure. Guess what? That makes that movie a hell of a lot easier to sell on the marketplace, because it now comes with a story attached to it. I don’t see how it could possibly, truly fail.

The only possible downside I’ve seen is, at least in terms of people’s reaction to this thus far, “Hey man, what if somebody buys it and puts it on a shelf and never shows anybody?” And I don’t think they will. I can’t guarantee that won’t happen, although we’re starting to have conversations about maybe saying part of the win is that you do have to distribute the movie, you have to put it out there into the world. But my feeling is they’re going to want to, because that’s the fun of it: It’s a real-world movie Monopoly game that you get to play.

“Lord knows, I know how to live through failure, and how ultimately failure is a perception in the moment.”

I mean, you’ve got to remember, I’ve been doing this shit since like 1994, so I've lived through Mallrats, which now everybody loves. But when it came out, everybody hated it. It was a bomb, and everybody shit in its mouth. So Lord knows, I know how to live through failure, and how ultimately failure is a perception in the moment. Now, you know, Universal’s talking about making the Mallrats sequel.

Are there any other rules? Like, can the purchaser of the NFT recut the film?

What a great question — nobody’s asked that. As far as I’m concerned, yeah. Because, look, when Miramax bought Clerks, they cut time out of it. Well, we cut the time out of it, but they told us cut the time out of it. Any distributor that does a negative pickup of your movie, they’re giving you money; they are fully within their rights to be like, “I want to make some changes.” All costs and changes are on them though. And those costs, like for any studios, would be yours for the person who wins it.

So you don’t care if somebody goes in and fucks with your movie?

Well, generally speaking, of course I care. But I would be involved. There’s never been a situation where somebody’s quote-unquote gone in and fucked with my movie and I wasn't involved in it. I’m the editor. So they kind of need me, you know what I’m saying?

Couldn’t they do it themselves, using iMovie or something?

They absolutely could. But why would you? In a locked film file, you can't just do it on iMovie — it would look like somebody took a scissor to it or something. I think what you’re asking is, “Would I mind if they were like, ‘We want changes in this movie?’” I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but is that the question?

Sure. Or if they took it upon themselves to do it.

I’m not trying to be a dick here, but there’s ignorance in that question. Nobody could literally just do it themselves. As the editor of the film, they would need me to do it. Plus, they need all the technology to do it. Like they couldn’t just slap it in iMovie. They could, but they’d be severely hurting their asset. It’s just something that wouldn’t happen.

A Platinum Token, which entitles the holder to a cameo in Clerks 3.Jay & Silent Bob’s Crypto Studio

So one of the Smokin’ Tokens you’re selling gets you a cameo in Clerks 3. How does that work?

In the plot for Clerks 3, one of our characters is massively into the world of NFTs. And he gets derided by the other characters, of course. It represents whenever I talked about blockchain in real life — same fucking thing happens to me. So in that storyline, there is a what we call a “crypto cameo.” Our hero Elias is talking about his crypto club, and we cut to the 10 members of the crypto club. Whoever wins the platinum coin is one of those members. So you send us footage or we shoot you, and bam, you’re in the movie.

So for someone reading this who maybe has a couple million dollars laying around in crypto and is considering buying your film: What’s your elevator pitch?

My elevator pitch on Killroy? [Pitchman voice] Have you ever wanted to be in the movie business, kids? Did you ever want to be a distributor of a major motion picture, making the decisions, making the calls, creating relationships that you'll foster, under which you’ll make future productions? Here’s your chance: a turnkey opportunity to enter the movie business with a fully finished film made by filmmaker of questionable reputation who has been around far too long. You will not only win a one-of-a kind nonfungible token in the cryptoverse, you will also hold rights to a motion picture IRL, as the kids used to say online, which you can use to decide not only the destiny of said film, but also reap the financial benefits.

Sounds like a good opportunity.

It’s not bad. But you know, this is only if, as you said, that person has crazy money laying around. What I would suggest for everyone else is start sniffing around this world, kids. If you’re an artist, there’s one more place to be able to sell your art in this world.

There’s only two fucking paths in this life. There’s destruction and creation. Now anybody that’s creating stuff is A-OK, as long as no one’s hurting anybody. So I’m all for artists going, “Woo, more places to create!” It’s just a better world if everybody’s doing more creating, less destroying.