The Movie “Clerks” Proves The Innovators Are The Ones With Great Careers

Kris Dunn Innovation, Kris Dunn, Managing People, Performance, Pop Culture, Talent Management, Talent Strategy, Television, Video

We’ve said it in this space before. Follow along from home or the office:

–Great performers/talent see the world differently than others…

–Exceeds performance should be reserved for the game changers…

–Innovators do unexpected things others think are crazy…

I know, you’ve heard it before. If you’re a top performer, it doesn’t matter what you do for a living – accountant, fireman, sales professional, etc. If you’re really a player, odds are you are figuring out different ways to do things in addition to simply doing your job at a high level.

Thinking about “what’s next” is a common DNA characteristic of the great ones, as is creating new stuff from scratch.

Turns out, you can go to a run downtown in America, and even the best slackers/dropouts are actively thinking about new things to do, new ways to create opportunity.

Enter the Gen X film classic “Clerks”. If you’re not in the know, here’s a description of Clerks:

Clerks is a 1994 American independent comedy film written, directed, and co-produced by Kevin Smith. Starring Brian O’Halloran as Dante Hicks and Jeff Anderson as Randal Graves, it presents a day in the lives of two store clerks and their acquaintances. Shot entirely in black-and-white, Clerks is the first of Smith’s View Askewniverse films, and introduces several recurring characters, notably Jay and Silent Bob, the latter played by Smith himself. The structure of the movie contains nine scene breaks, signifying the nine rings of hell as in Dante Alighieri‘s Divine Comedy, from which the main character, Dante, gets his name.

I got referred to “Making of Clerks” over the weekend and lost an hour of my life watching how Clerks got made. See the video below (email subscribers click through if you don’t see the video) and I’ll give you some facts about how Kevin Smith, the writer, director, and producer, got the inspiration and got the film made.

Ready for some facts about Clerks? Ready to see an example of true innovation from Gen X slackerville? Here you go.

  1. Clerks was shot for $27,575 upon its theatrical release, but the film grossed over $3 million in theaters, launching Smith’s career. Smith maxed out credit cards to make the film.
  2. Upon graduating from high school, Smith worked a series of low-wage jobs near his hometown of Highlands, New Jersey. One of his longest stints was as a cashier at the Quick Stop in Leonardo. That’s where they made the film – at a combo quick stop/video store.
  3. Smith cast mostly friends and family as characters in the movie. Couldn’t afford anything else.
  4. The movie was filmed overnight. You know, when the store was closed.
  5. No one showed up to the premiere. Smith secured a place for Clerks at the 1993 Independent Feature Film Market, an event held at New York City’s Angelika Film Center. On the Clerks X featurette, Smith said he was “crestfallen” that the Sunday night screening attracted few viewers beyond cast and crew.
  6. One guy was there, and that turned out to be key to Smith’s future success. One of the moviegoers was Bob Hawk, an independent film consultant who served on the advisory selection committee of the Sundance Film Festival. Hawk touted the film to friends in the indie cinema world and helped land it a place at Sundance.
  7. The soundtrack cost more than the film. Once it was picked up by Miramax, Clerks got an alt-rock soundtrack featuring Bad Religion, Stabbing Westward, and Soul Asylum. Licensing the songs cost more than producing the film (which included post-production costs that dwarfed what Smith originally spent).

Clerks. If you’re like me, you loved the movie as a Gen X kid trying to get a career started in the 1990s and early 2000s. The real strength of the movie was its replay on movie channels, and yes – via rentals at the now extinct video store.

Watching “The Making of Clerks,” I was struck by how Kevin Smith created something valuable out of nothing and went deep about what he knew best.

I was also struck by how the movie would have died – if not for one connected critic who decided to be one of 5 people to watch the film at the end of a film festival on Sunday night.

Sometimes all it takes is one person – to recognize genius and launch a career.