The incomparable Kevin Smith has become a pop culture icon and made a fortune doing so, but there was a time when he was just Kevin from Red Bank. Going from 'some nerdy guy' in New Jersey to one of the most recognizable faces in several fandoms is no mean feat, and he worked hard to get there. From the early days working at a youth center with future co-star and comic fan Jason Mews to having his own movies stand up specials and shows, Smith knew what he wanted out of life in a time when that dream job didn't exist. These days Kevin is married to a gorgeous woman and worth millions, but how did he pull it off? Well, it was one part luck and ninety-nine parts talent and drive. Here's the story of how Kevin Smith achieved a net worth of $25 million.
Anyone who grew up a little overweight can tell you that it's easy to end up with a cynical and snarky take on life. In that respect, Kevin was no different, except that he dealt with things through humor. As a youth, he spent his time reading comics, making observations about the world around him, and filming basketball games and juvenile sketch comedy on a handheld camcorder.
At home, Smith's father worked a night job, which he came to loathe. For an observant young man whose schedule often had to work around his father's third shift job, that attitude would have a profound effect on him. Perhaps if Kevin's dad had been a nine to five guy who always looked on the bright side of things, we would all have missed out on some outstanding entertainment. We won't say it's 'fortunate' that his early influences included watching a parent who resented their work. Still, in a roundabout way, it contributed to shaping the man he would become. For that, we are grateful.
Sometimes it's not the big, crazy, world upending things that change our course in life, but rather the small, seemingly inconsequential choices. One such turning point for Smith was a movie he went to see at the age of twenty-one. Richard Linklater's comedy Slacker was filmed in his hometown. The idea that a whole film could be shot on a small budget, right where you lived, and still see the big screen was something that not only appealed to Kevin... It inspired him.
After realizing that making films was what he wanted to do with his life, Smith decided that was precisely what he was going to do. Soon after that, he applied and was accepted at Vancouver Film School. He attended for a mere four months, during which time he met Scott Mosier and Dave Klein. However, after a season in school, Kevin had learned what he needed to know and was ready to start saving the money he needed to make his movie, so he dropped out and went back to work.
Kevin lost no time getting his old job back at a convenience store, where he decided to set his first film. He was inspired by, among others, Spike Lee and his "Do the Right Thing." Smith had the dream and the idea. He even had his location. All Kevin needed was enough money to make it happen. In addition to his job, he sold off his personal comic collection and maxed out several credit cards, and filmed the now-classic Clerks.
In 1994, Clerks was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Filmmaker's Trophy and the attention of not-so-controversial-at-the-time Harvey Weinstein. Harvey offered a young filmmaker a seat at his table and asked if he could buy the movie. It was this first, entirely self-motivated success that led to the career that we all know and love. Needles to say, it was an impressive feat, but Kevin believed in his dream, so he made it happen. If this were a motivational story, we'd end it right there, but Kevin didn't make twenty-five million dollars off of one, admittedly fantastic film.
Onward & Upward
It typically takes more than one good idea to make millions, and in this as well, Kevin was typical. Where he differs significantly from those who are working nine to five or overnights, is that he had the ideas. Smith was full of years worth of humorous observations, fantastic stories from reading comics and watching movies, and all the drive anyone could ever need to make their ideas a reality.
Catching the attention of Harvey Weinstein might have been problematic for young women, but as a male filmmaker, it was a very positive experience. In terms of Hollywood career makers, Weinstein was undoubtedly one of the biggest in the business. From 1994 until 2008, he financed every Kevin Smith movie except for Mallrats.
The end of that incredibly productive relationship that helped put Kevin where he is today hit the breaks when Zack and Miri Make a Porno flopped in theaters. Smith and Weinstein had a falling out. More than that, Kevin worried that his career was over and that he'd hurt other's careers in the process. Fortunately for Kevin, he was underestimating himself, just as so many non-audience members underestimated that hilarious and heartwarming film.
Zack and Miri didn't end anyone's career, least of all Smiths. He's continued to write, star in and produce outstanding films over the years. In addition to his film work, Kevin has put his writing talents to use in other areas. Namely, he's contributed to Arena magazine, and written five books of his own. In addition to those works, he's done standup tours including this year's Jay & Silent Bob Reboot, comedy specials, and made appearances on talk shows, podcasts, and radio shows.
Going back to his roots and his fandom, he owns Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash, a comic shop in his hometown. In fact, they made a show about his comic shop. Comic Book Men is a reality Tv show about being in the retail comic-book business.
Some people are forced to make their money the 'old fashioned' way, by working a job they don't want to do. For Kevin Smith, just seeing someone he loved go through that was enough to inspire him to find a better path. However, it wasn't easy getting where he is today. Smith has worked for every penny of his fortune by doing what he loves so well that others have to recognize and admire him for it. We certainly do.
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee