Magazine article American Cinematographer

View Askew Lines Up Its Sights

Magazine article American Cinematographer

View Askew Lines Up Its Sights

Article excerpt

The end credits of Kevin Smith's sophomore effort Mallrafs(1996) contains a thank-you from the film's young writerdirector and his partner to a business associate for "treating us like the Coen Brothers instead of the twentysomething know-nothings that we are." This selfdeprecating description is no longer an accurate summary of the young director's position in the film industry, however. A few short years ago, Smith was a Vancouver Film School dropout making ends meet as a clerk in a Quick Stop convenience store near his economicallydepressed Jersey Shore hometown. Today, he is an artistic and financial success poised on the brink of full-scale Hollywood prominence.

The wildly enthusiastic reviews and solid business generated by Smith's latest writing/directing effort, Chasing Amy, have erased memories of the critical and commercial failure of Mallrats. Smith and producing partner Scott Mosier - who named their company View Askew - have a slate of projects in various stages of production, all of which are overseen from a ramshackle suite of offices located in the burgeoning town of Red Bank, New Jersey, some 50 miles south of Manhattan.

The duo will earn a prominent credit this Christmas as executive producers on Gus Van Sant's newest film, Good Will Hunting, which will be distributed by Miramax. Mosier explains, "Our role was really mostly in setting up the deal, bringing [Chasing Amy star] Ben Affleck's script for Good Will Hunting to Miramax after it was put in turnaround by Castle Rock."

Kevin Smith's story has truly humble beginnings. While still in his early twenties, Smith sold his comic book collection and maxed out his credit cards to finance the $27,000 needed for the principal photography of C/er/rs(1993), which was set and photographed in the very same convenience store where he had toiled. This idiosyncratic, black-andwhite slice of lower-class Jersey Shore life scored major kudos at Sundance and instantly made Smith a hot Hollywood commodity.

Then, just as suddenly, Smith progressed from no-budget hero to $6 million zero with the less-than-successful Mallrats. Universal produced the film as an R-rated teen comedy, but the picture was sent into wide release by the studio's art-house division, Gramercy Pictures. This odd match of subject matter and marketing didn't jell, and Mallrats quickly tanked.

Smith's comeback effort, Chasing Amy, was supposed to be a $2 to $3 million affair, but Miramax (with whom the director has a first-look deal) wanted some recognizable name actors for that price. "We agreed to disagree on the casting," Smith says. "I'd written the film with certain actors in mind, so we asked Miramax if we could go off and make it on our own, and gave them the option of picking it up if they liked it. They said 'Fine.'"

View Askew raised the initial $250,000 for principal photography, and a first cut, on their own, and then hired barely-known lead thespians Joey Lauren Adams, Ben Affleck and Jason Lee. The film itself was shot mostly in the picturesque area immediately surrounding View Askew's Red Bank offices. "We shot almost everything right around here to save money," says Mosier. "It wasn't quite like running an extension cord from our offices to power a couple of lights, but it wasn't too far from that. We only had a generator for two sequences." (The film's final budget was around $1 million. A great deal of the additional money, provided by Miramax, went into the soundtrack.)

According to Mosier, shooting in Super 16 turned out to be a mixed blessing "due to a time crunch in making the 35mm blow-up. We were rushing to get to Sundance, so we were working at Christmas, and we hit a lot of lab overtime. …

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