I watched Clerks for the first time when I was about 13 years old (probably too young). I knew who Kevin Smith was and how he was also a fan of a lot of the things I’m a fan of, like movies and comic books, and…talking. But I had never really delved into his filmography and I wanted to. So, I started from the beginning. That small, little, black and white film, that takes place in a convenient store.
When it started, I was a little unsure. I mean, I was aware that it had a low budget and that it was his first film, but I didn’t really expect how much of that, that it was. So, for the first few minutes, as we montage through Dante’s early morning routine, I was slowly debating on rather I should just not watch it all. I had had a long day and I was tired and maybe this movie just wasn’t for me.
And then I fell asleep. Before Dante even got to his first customer. Lights out.
After I woke up, I decided to give it another chance. I started it again and like the last time I was unsure. Only this time I got to the first customer and the speech about how cigarettes can kill you by the Chewlie’s gum rep. And right there is when things got interesting. Kevin Smith is known for his dialogue; at the time I didn’t know that. But the way he was talking and monologuing really captured me in a way no other film had. And that lasted of course throughout the movie. These witty and weird characters talking to each other throughout the day. And while at 13, I didn’t relate to everything that came out of Dante and Randal’s mouths (37), for the first time I saw a little bit of myself in a movie. These weren’t normal movie characters. They were friends hanging out and talking all day. I was mesmerized. These guys were doing what me and my brother and friends did all day.
Clerks is filled with all-time hilarious moments and amazing characters that only Kevin Smith could’ve come up with. It feels so authentic. It’s a movie essentially about people sitting around all day talking to each other, but the dialogue and the characters keep your eyes glued to the screen the moment they start talking.
Clerks changed things for me. After I saw it, I went on to become a huge fan of Kevin Smith. I listened to all of his podcasts, watched his interviews online, and watched the rest of his movies and fell in love with the others as well. And some of them I think may even be funnier and better made than Clerks. But it always comes back to Clerks for me. It’s honestly the most inspiring movie I’ve ever seen.
You see, I saw Clerks at the perfect time in my life. It was during a transitional period for me as a film fan. Growing up my favorite movies were all the movies most kids like me grow up loving. Star Wars, Toy Story, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and all of the superhero movies I grew up with like the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films and The Dark Knight Trilogy. When The Dark Knight came out in 2008, it also changed movies for me. I’m a huge Batman fan and at the time it was like the coolest movie I had ever seen, and it made me fall even deeper in love with film. I wanted to watch more movies like that. I wanted to dive deeper into it all. So, I started to watch a lot of crime films and watch movies by directors who were on all of the best directors lists. Filmmakers like Scorsese, Tarantino, and obviously more of Christopher Nolan’s films. And I’d try and write and make films, usually with my brother. And they were always trying to be Nolan, or Tarantino, or Scorsese, or whoever.
But then I saw Clerks.
It was people like Spielberg and Lucas who made me fall in love with movies. It was people like Scorsese, Tarantino, and Nolan who made me want to make movies. But it was Kevin Smith who told me that I can make movies.
Kevin Smith made a movie about him and his friends. A movie only he could’ve made. It was about him and his friends and the world that he grew up in. That was an important lesson for me because like I said, at the time I was just trying to make a 13-year-old’s version of Goodfellas. But nobody can make a Scorsese movie except for Scorsese. Like no one can make a Kevin Smith movie except for Kevin Smith. And that taught me that no one can make my movie but me. Tell my stories. Share my feelings. Be me, because no one’s better than me at that. Clerks, and subsequently Kevin Smith, taught me that.
Kevin Smith, throughout his various podcasts and shows that he does has always preached stuff like that. That anyone can do this. He’s always encouraging artists. Encouraging people who are scared to take the leap. He has a quote that I love, where he says:
“In the face of such hopelessness as our eventual, unavoidable death, there is little sense in not at least trying to accomplish all of your wildest dreams in life.”
And it’s true. Why not at least try? As someone who’s very self-conscious and is constantly doubting myself, that inspires me more than anything. And I think Clerks is the embodiment of that. It’s the proof. It’s not just the words he’s saying, it’s the proof that he did it. That he took what he had, and he made the art that he could. And people loved it. He created something that spoke to a lot of people and inspired them to do what they were passionate about. We aren’t all financially able, we don’t all have family members who can help us get in, most of us don’t get a head start and have to work with what we have. But even though the odds are against us, why not at least try? So, years from now when we’re looking back, we don’t go “Imagine if I had written that, or drawn that, or done that”. Instead, we just did it. Clerks is as low budget as it gets. It’s proof that anyone can make a movie. You don’t have to wait until someone gives you the opportunity. And no one can tell your stories like you can.
And that’s another reason why I love Clerks. It’s also especially why I love Kevin Smith. There’s a lot of famous people out there, there’s a lot of artists. But very few are like Kevin Smith. Few reach those heights and still want to encourage others to do the same. Very few have a relationship with their fans the way that he does.
Clerks is obviously not the only film that’s personal and Kevin Smith is obviously not the first artist who has encouraged others, but he and the film that he made was what opened my eyes and hammered that lesson home for me. And Clerks widened my taste. It made me want to watch more small and independent films. It made me want to watch films by the directors who inspired him like Spike Lee, Richard Linklater, and more. There are a few films that have changed my life, and Clerks is one of them. It’s a reminder of the great art that can come from such little that you may have. Or that anyone can create. If you haven’t seen Clerks, I highly recommend you watch it. And remember to encourage artists. Art is important, stories are important. People getting to tell their stories is important. No matter who you are, what you look like, or where you come from. It’s important that we all get stories that inspire us and help us. Thank you, Kevin Smith. By putting your art out there, rather it’s the films, or the comics, or the podcasts, or any of the other countless things that you’ve created, you’ve inspired a lot. And if anything, you’ve given me the confidence to want to tell my stories. So, Thank you.