-by Ken Plume
In anticipation of the DVD release of Clerks 2, we took some time to go in-depth with Zak Knutson and Joey Figueroa of Chop Shop Entertainment, the two cats responsible for the online behind-the-scenes featurettes (affectionately known as “Train Wrecks”) that documented the making of Clerks 2.
For the DVD release of Clerks 2, however, they’ve crafted a brand-new, feature-length documentary about the journey from the original Clerks to Clerks 2 titled Back To The Well. We chat about their work with Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse, the ethos behind the “Train Wrecks” and Chop Shop Entertainment, and what it was like to document the journey back to the well…
Before we get things started, though, how about a look at the trailer for Back To The Well (there are additional clips at the end of the interview):
KEN PLUME: When did you both first get involved with Kevin?
JOEY FIGUEROA: Well, there was talk of doing it long, long before we even got that on the budget to do it. That’s basically our holdout was the budget, and the okay from the studio, and Kevin and Scott (Mosier) really pushed for it. They’re really into it. More so Kevin, with the online stuff. For us, the documentary was the most important thing we really wanted to get off the ground.
ZAK KNUTSON: Ken, are you talking about when we first got the idea to do the documentary?
KEN PLUME: Even going further back than that. Respectively, when did you two first start working with Kevin?
ZAK: Ah, okay. I was a production secretary and the visual effects assistant on Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. And I stuck around. They were kind enough to keep me employed on Jersey Girl, and I kept in touch with Kevin & Scott through emails and whatnot, and then when Jersey Girl came up I was the post-production coordinator.
JOEY: And me I came on during post-production on Jersey Girl as an office assistant. What led us to this point, I guess, was our work with (the Clerks 10th anniversary documentary) Snowball Effect at first, because we did the work with Phil Benson. Kevin was really happy about it.
KEN PLUME: Speaking of that, when did Snowball Effect begin to come together? Because obviously you two both had worked on Jersey Girl…
JOEY: Well, Phil Benson - the one that directed and produced it - he had pitched it to Kevin, Kevin was all for it, and then he basically brought on Zak and myself to help out.
ZAK: Phil had told me about it one day at the office. He said, “I got this idea for this documentary,” because they’re planning on doing this Clerks 10th anniversary DVD. He told me it was originally going to be called From Jersey to Sundance. And I told him, “If you don’t do it you’re a fool, because that’s a really great story.” Because I was a fan before I even actually started to work with these guys. And I used to beat Phil over the head so hard about it that when he finally got the balls enough to actually do the documentary, he asked me to do it and he asked Joey to do it. That was towards the end of Jersey Girl, because we were in post production hell on that movie, like everybody knows. And then I went off to produce a movie with Dave Klein, and when I came back Joey and Phil had already done a lot of prep work on the documentary, and we basically did the entire thing from start to finish in about four months.
KEN PLUME: Which, considering how many things needed to be pulled together for that documentary, is quite an accomplishment.
ZAK: It was a huge process, ’cause that documentary was basically done by four guys. It was done by Phil Benson, Rich Fox - the guy who actually cut the documentary - and then Joey and myself.
JOEY: All the photography we did was in a span of only three weeks.
ZAK: Yeah. We interviewed everybody in three weeks, and we went from L.A. to Washington to New Jersey to New York and then back to L.A. to finish up interviews.
KEN PLUME: So, for each of you respectively, what was the biggest learning curve in diving in and doing something like that?
JOEY: Just the whole process of putting something together from nothing, you know? You’ve got your basic story, and you just get the gist of what it takes to create something when it’s not always right there in your face… Without fabricating shit, is what I’m saying.
ZAK: Myself, I basically fell in love with the documentary format. I’d never been a documentary guy, and that one really taught me what goes into it and how it’s filmmaking, but it’s kind of the exact opposite of when you go to a movie. When you’re doing a documentary you kind of have an idea of what the story’s gonna be, but you kind of create it on the fly in post-production, because that’s when you find your stories in the little things that people tell. It’s not written down in a script. But since then I’ve become a huge, huge documentary fan. I can’t get enough. That’s all I have on my NetFlix.
KEN PLUME: When you talk about finding the story in editing, how different was the found story than what you originally set out to tell, and the original concept of Snowball was?
JOEY: That would be more of a question for Phil. I don’t want to speak for him, but I think what he had in mind was basically telling the story of Kevin making his movie on a shoestring budget, and it selling to Mirimax at Sundance. That was his basic idea, and the whole journey from… remember, it was originally going to be titled From Jersey to Sundance. And through that, and interviewing all the people, you got a chance to get the insight into all these little characters that were in that movie and what their original characters were supposed to be, and what not. And you get all these little stories. One that was really interesting with us was the Ernie O’Donnell was originally supposed to play Dante, and basically couldn’t learn his lines, so he essentially got demoted to playing Rick Derris. You know, so little things like that just come up through all the interviews, and you get a chance to put them all out there, which was kind of cool.
ZAK: Plus the black and white of the had already been out there for 10 years, and Kevin had told the story so much. But there were these other little stories that we kinda found out along the way, like how important the Ernie aspect was to how the film came out. And Ed Hapstack. Without Ed Hapstack, they wouldn’t have had things like lights, because he built them - and how he built them… all that kinda stuff. And then just the things with Jay (Mewes). Like, I didn’t know Jay was a roofer. And I didn’t know that when the movie came out, Jay was a roofer. Just these little things, and how the relationships were and how instrumental Bryan Johnson was in the actual story of Clerks.
JOEY: Little things like Kevin not even liking Jay when they used to hang out. He was somebody that he didn’t want around, and he just kinda grew on him - to the point where, obviously, today they’re family. They’re like brothers. More like son and father, in a way. It’s kinda cool.
ZAK: It’s almost kinda like a Batman: Year One story, where you get to learn where all the different characters came from… How Gordon and Batman and Alfred and al these guys just tied together. That was kinda what doing Snowball Effect was like for us.
JOEY: And also in the process, for me anyways, I got the experience of kinda knowing Kevin even more, his whole life, and his whole story. His whole background and his home town, and talking to his mother and his friends, and just everybody back home. You got a sense of who he was as a kid, and it was almost like he was destined to be who he was today. I mean, the guy was writing as a child, and he had people listening. It was kinda cool. It made me feel like I got to know him better as a person.
KEN PLUME: And you also were much closer to when there were still some raw nerves about Clerks in evidence, particularly with Jeff, and you got a much clearer picture of clarifying exactly what went down post-Clerks release…
ZAK: Well, there was a point when we were doing the DVDs that Jeff didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Jeff wanted to get away from Clerks. He wanted to get away from being Randal, and when we called him up to actually do the documentary, he kinda expressed that he wasn’t that interested in doing it. And Kevin had to call him up and say, “Look, doing this thing is kinda pointless if we don’t have you. It’s like doing Indiana Jones without Indy.
JOEY: Actually, Jeff was one of our last interviews on Snowball Effect. I mean, he really held out to the end. We interviewed him here at the office toward the tail end of the shoot, and it turned out that he kinda made a turnaround. Almost like on Clerks 2. It just took him a little while to get greased up, then he was all for it.
KEN PLUME: So you actually had to grease him then.
JOEY: Oh sure.
ZAK: Oh yeah. In a very sexy way.
KEN PLUME: Now I know what all the drums were that I saw at the office.
ZAK: (laughing) Exactly.
JOEY: There’s lubricant here just on standby, dude, like in a big fucking Crisco jar.
KEN PLUME: Well, I believe you can buy it through the Stash, can’t you?
ZAK: Yes, and it’s called “Frisco” because Crisco would sue us for copyright.
KEN PLUME: I thought it was like Mooby’s sauce or something…
ZAK: There you go.
KEN PLUME: Coming off of Snowball Effect, were things kind of nebulous as to what your roles would be after that documentary and Jersey Girl were wrapped?
ZAK: Well, one thing that Snowball did for us was that when we were wrapping up Snowball Effect, Kevin was big on Green Hornet, and he felt that we did such a good job on Snowball and Jersey Girl that he put us in the budget to make sure that we would be able to go over to Prague to film Green Hornet. Joe and I were kinda under the thing of, when we’re going over… we’re basically going over to Prague for a year. Let’s do something else besides what our jobs are - let’s try to forward ourselves somewhat, career-wise. So we had come up with the idea of doing these things for the internet, and kinda showing people - because Kevin was really big on the internet, and always has been, but we wanted to film some stuff and put it up on the web to kinda keep the fans informed and entertained and give us something to do besides either paperwork or running around Prague, or something like that. We wanted to do something as filmmakers ourselves, so we had the idea of doing kinda what we did on Clerks 2 on Green Hornet. And then Green Hornet fell out, and then Fletch came up. Fletch fell out, and then when Clerks 2 came around, we kinda looked at each other and went, “This is almost too perfect to do it. We gotta pitch this to Scott & Kevin, and they’re gonna have to go for it.”
JOEY: Well, pretty much it’s that whatever project was going to get greenlit next, we were gonna make the same pitch. We wanted these internet diaries, we want to shoot a documentary, and basically just roll footage from beginning to end. That was our pitch for any of the movies. It turned out to be Clerks 2, which was fucking awesome because the experience was pretty amazing. It was like hanging out and goofing off with your friends. That’s basically what it turned out to be in the end.
ZAK: But the internet diaries were gonna be nothing like they ended up being in Clerks 2. I was thinking, like, once every couple weeks putting something up with Kevin and Scott, and actually showing some stuff like the “Black Beauty” and all that kinda stuff. We had no idea the internet stuff was gonna explode and become as big as it actually did on Clerks 2.
KEN PLUME: So when you take that pitch in for what you two wanted to do with the internet featurettes, what were Kevin & Scott’s reactions?
JOEY: Well, you know, Kevin and Scott were all for it. They were all for it. The problem was more so the studio giving us the budget. Kevin was just like - at first he told us, “That sounds great, you guys do whatever you want.” We were just basically waiting on the budget. We actually started shooting and rolling footage prior to us even getting greenlit, just so we could have stuff in the can already, just in case. And it turned out that we did get the budget, and once we started doing the internet stuff, Kevin basically said “You guys can do whatever you want”… but, of course, later on he’s like, “Well, we don’t want to give away certain spoilers,” so he had to basically clear every Train Wreck that went up. They went through him first to make sure that “This is gonna be a spoiler, this is okay….” But other than that, he let us basically do whatever the hell we wanted, which was cool.
ZAK: Yeah, Kevin & Scott were for it in a big, bad way. We first brought it up to Scott, and Scott was like, “That’s a great idea. Follow up on it. Write some stuff up, do a pitch, do a budget, do all that kinda stuff.” And then when we took it to Kevin. Kevin, I think, got halfway through the pitch, and he was just like, “This is it, this is great. Let’s do it, pitch it, pitch it, pitch it.” So at that point we took it to the studio, which was basically Shannon McIntosh. And the weird thing was that, at the time - at the time, this was gonna be a Miramax thing, when we were going through this, and the Weinstein’s were splitting from Miramax, and they were forming The Weinstein Company. So we got caught into this limbo of The Weinstein Company basically not having any money to do it. And we wanted to do it, The Weinstein Company wanted to do it, but they didn’t have the cash flow at the time. So we basically had to wait until about two weeks before the actual movie started to know we could do it. Shannon McIntosh loved the idea, and she approved it and she ran with it, and she was kinda the one person at the studio who really, really kinda had our back through the entire thing.
KEN PLUME: Was there any real concern that it might all fall apart and you might not get the approval?
JOEY: Every day.
ZAK: Oh, we went to Vegas… (laughing) We went to Vegas as kind of a “feel bad for ourselves” trip, “Let’s go make ourselves feel better, let’s go get drunk and gamble.”
JOEY: Actually, that weekend, Scott had told us it’s about 99% dead in the water. Then he called…
ZAK: Five hours later.
JOEY: … five hours later, while we were in Vegas, he goes, “Well, hold on, it’s not dead yet.” And then that’s all he said. And then he calls back and says, “You guys got it.”
ZAK: That was all… in the period of five hours it went from “It’s dead” to “Harvey’s looking at it” to “Shannon pushed it through Harvey and it’s good, you’re gold, you got it.”
KEN PLUME: So how well did you do in Vegas during that trip?
JOEY: It didn’t really matter at that point.
ZAK: I think we won, didn’t we?
JOEY: I won some money the first night, and then I figured, “Fuck it, we’re gonna get paid now,” so I went and blew it all.
KEN PLUME: Boy, that’s a common story in Hollywood…
JOEY: We did pretty good in Vegas except for the last day. As usual. Vegas always wins. But we had a good time. It made the trip that much better knowing that when we got home, we basically had a job.
KEN PLUME: Going in, was there anything besides spoilers that was off limits?
JOEY: Um, yes. For a while, in the very beginning, Kevin wanted to hold out the fact that it was taking place at Mooby’s. So if you notice on some of the photos we put up, we turned them black & white just because the obvious purple & yellow colors would give that away. And being that it was at a location, not in a studio, he wanted to put it out that, “Okay, it’s gonna be taking place at a Mooby’s,” but then holding on to anything like the Quick Stop being on fire. We held onto that forever. Besides that, basically nothing was off limits as far as shooting, but everything had to be cleared with Kevin as far as what was going to be thrown out there on the internet.
ZAK: Kevin watched every single Train Wreck before it went up, and every once in a while would have an issue with, “You know what, there’s some purple & yellow in the background,” or “We don’t want to show this,” or something like that he would pop up, but that happened very rarely.
KEN PLUME: Once you were on the set - because the initial Train Wrecks were basically pre-production material…
KEN PLUME: When you were actually on the set and dealing then with talent and crew… I mean, it’s well known that Dave Klein wasn’t exactly happy to be on camera.
ZAK: Which, by the way, is a total, total act. We had this planned out. We were talking to Dave about it. I mean, Dave doesn’t like being interviewed on camera to start off with, but he doesn’t really mind it because he knows… I’ve worked with Dave doing three different movies, but Dave was like, “What if I’m just the angry guy? That’ll be my character. I’ll just be the pissed off guy. The guy who doesn’t want to be…” and it turns… as soon as that camera turned off or as soon as I cut it, we were laughing our asses off.
KEN PLUME: He did it so well.
JOEY: It was all fun and games, man, he was just fuckin’ around and fuckin’ around. Half the time he’d slap the cameras because we were asking him to.
KEN PLUME: What’s great is he was like this brilliant, angry combination of Moby, Charlie Brown & Phil Collins…
JOEY: More like Charlie Brown.
KEN PLUME: You can tell him I said that, too.
ZAK: Dave was always my cutaway guy. If I needed to cut away out of something, if I needed to cut away, “I need footage of Dave.” “Dave, I need footage. You’ve got to hit the camera. You’ve got to do something. Come on Dave, do something.” And he’d usually act pissed off or whatever, and I always had a cut away point to get into something or to get out of it.
JOEY: You know, at first a few people were a little standoffish about the cameras being there the whole time, but during the preproduction meeting, all the heads were there and they’re like, “Look, these two guys are gonna be on set every single day with cameras filming all the behind-the-scenes stuff, so you’re basically going to have to get used to it.” And there were a few people that were kinda standoffish, but pretty much, like, after the first week on set, everybody warmed up to it, and everybody wanted to be on camera as opposed to not being on camera.
KEN PLUME: So you had to start fending people off…
ZAK: Pretty much.
JOEY: And everybody was like, “Well, how come you haven’t talked to me yet, and bla blah blah blah.” It became one of those things where everybody wanted to have a little piece of their internet fame, I guess.
ZAK: Yeah, because really the only person to have done this kind of thing before this was (Peter) Jackson on King Kong, and no one really knew what to expect. They were afraid we were going to make them to look like assholes, or that they didn’t know what their jobs were, or something like that, or we were gonna make fun of them. Kinda like what Project Greenlight did. Because Project Greenlight has got this thing ingrained in people’s heads to where movies are always a huge pain in the ass and no one has fun and everybody’s fighting with each other. But that’s their TV show. They create that for the TV show. But with Kevin’s movies, that was one of our goals with the Train Wrecks, mainly, was to show people what it was like to work on a View Askew movie. Because after every movie that Kevin and Scott do, everyone comes up to them afterwards and says, “This was the best experience I’ve ever had. And if you guys ever do anything, give me a call. I’ll leave what I’m doing just to come work with you guys.” And I only know of maybe one or two other directors, like Clint Eastwood, who actually have that kind of relationship with their crew. Where they can be working on a series, and all of a sudden Clint calls and they go, “I gotta leave ’cause Clint called.” Because it’s such a great experience, and that’s what working on a View Askew movie is like. I’d say there was probably three days on set that maybe people… and it was usually with Kevin, and it was basically when Kevin was up all night editing - and when Kevin’s up all night, and he hasn’t had any food, he gets kinda cranky. But even when he’s cranky it’s still pretty goddamn good. So out of two months of shooting, it was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had, of being on a set. Just seeing everybody work, it was probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever seen.
KEN PLUME: Obviously, when you have the camera there and you’re shooting people doing their jobs, or people having moments, is there anything that you felt was an awkward moment?
ZAK: There was probably three or four times where Kevin said to turn off the camera. But it was never out of like “He’s talking to an actor.” It was never anything like that. It was usually because we had the camera in his face all day long and he was beat tired and he’s like, “Can we just turn this thing off now? Aren’t we done?” Like I said, out of 12 months of shooting, he only did that that a few times, and that’s pretty great. But there was never… it’s kinda the surprising thing when people watch stuff, there was never any high tension point. I mean, I was surprised at how great the actors were. Because usually actors are a little stand-offish when they stick that camera in, because the lines aren’t written for them or anything like that.
JOEY: But Rosario (Dawson)…
ZAK: Rosario had no problems whatsoever. Rosario was like, “Oh, you guys are doing that?” And she jumps right in front of the camera. And Jay was kind of the saving grace. Jay loved that camera. Without Jay we wouldn’t have half the Train Wrecks we did. And you know, Brian and Jeff, and just everybody, was just outstanding.
KEN PLUME: So who was the biggest surprise and turned into the biggest camera whore?
JOEY: I would say Jay was one of them, and Rosario was another. Them two, they were pretty neck-and-neck as far as really loving the camera and giving you little gold nuggets to paste together.
ZAK: Panasonic provided us with all the cameras, and they gave us two hand held cameras because we wanted some for the actors. ‘Cause our original thing was we were gonna give Kevin and Scott these little handheld cameras so that they could record their thoughts throughout the entire day. But when they’re making a movie, they don’t exactly have time to sit there and go, “Okay, I’m gonna turn on my camera and talk for five minutes now.” So what we did was we started passing the cameras around. Actually, it was one of the cameras, because Jay grabbed one camera and he didn’t let it go for the entire shoot. As a matter of fact, I think he still has the fucker. And Jay would just go around and shoot shit. And at the end of the day he’s like, “You got another tape? You got another battery? You got another tape? You got another battery?”
JOEY: I mean, we’ve got footage of Jay waking up in the morning, and recording himself taking a piss for no reason at all but he’s recording stuff.
KEN PLUME: For posterity.
JOEY: Yeah, sure.
ZAK: And like I say, about 80% of it was useless. But that 20% that he gave us, that you ended up seeing, that was totally worth it.
JOEY: Trevor (Fehrman) also loved that camera. He kinda got attached to it, also. He didn’t want to give it away. And that guy would shoot everything and anything that would get in front of that camera. I mean, he loved it.
ZAK: He’s a natural ham.
KEN PLUME: The biggest misconception people might have about the documentary, compared to the Train Wrecks, is that the documentary is just a duplicate of what they saw in the Wrecks…
JOEY: Well, yeah. Everybody, just from reading stuff online and on the message boards and stuff, had the inclination that it was gonna be just a bunch of Train Wrecks pasted together. And we kinda let that fly. We’re like, “That’s cool that they’re gonna think that, because hopefully it’s gonna be a nice surprise when they see it’s something totally different.” We wanted to do something a little more in depth. Because if it was just gonna be pasted together Train Wrecks, why not just watch all the Train Wrecks back-to-back?
ZAK: We really wanted to give them… Joe and I were kinda there to see all this stuff that we put in the documentary. Even when we weren’t doing the documentary. Like, we start out basically with the end of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. We go into Jersey Girl. We go into Green Hornet. Because Clerks 2 was kinda being bounced around throughout that entire time. So we kinda wanted to say, “Look, this is when it really started to roll.” Because at one point Kevin closed the book on the View Askewniverse. Now he’s going back into it. And after working with these guys for the last five years, there was a lot of story there to be told, that we just didn’t want to deal with Train Wrecks. We wanted to actually get in there and do some stuff. Like the fact that Scott left. Scott was really having issues with being a producer, and there were other things in his life that he wanted to do, and it’s the exact opposite of Kevin. You know Kevin - that’s all he wanted to do, is make movies and write. So there was all this stuff in there that we really wanted to get into and show, and kinda show the relationship between Kevin & Scott, because Kevin takes a lot of the spotlight, but Scott’s really the one who helps push Kevin, and when Kevin is on the fence about a joke or on the fence about a story or something like that, Scott’s the one that he goes to. Scott is kinda the unsung creative partner in the entire thing.
JOEY: And it’s also just trying to answer some questions that people kept asking, and it’s like, “Look, let’s just put it out there, these questions are gonna get answered, and leave it at that.” The whole Green Hornet thing, everybody had their own answer to why didn’t Kevin do this movie. And they probably still will doubt him, but like he says in the documentary, “This is why I did not make this movie,” and there’s a couple reasons that led up to him deciding not to do Green Hornet. The so-called lack of success of Jersey Girl - how much of that influenced making something on a smaller level? It had a lot to do with it. And we try to touch on all those bases. All these people asking these questions on the internet. We figure, like, “Fuck it, man, let’s try to answer these, and then we can basically just put it to rest.” Or we can try.
ZAK: Yeah, and one of our big things was, during the interview process, we didn’t want Kevin to give his standard interview answers - kinda like he does at cons - about Green Hornet, where he “would just have guys standing around the ‘Black Beauty’ talking about blow jobs.” We wanted the actual, real answers, the ones that we knew. And if we could get those out there to people who don’t know those answers. They know the ones that he gives at Comic-Con or the ones that he gives during his Q&As. If we could get the real answers… that’s one of the things that actually surprised Kevin when he watched the doc for the first time - he wasn’t used to watching himself not making jokes, and being totally serious. Because you’re used to seeing the stuff with the Evening with Kevin Smith, and stuff like that. Whereas on this one, he’s like, “I’m not used to watching myself being so goddamn serious.” And it kinda took him back a bit because he really gave us some great answers. He was totally open.
JOEY: There were a few times where it actually took us a few interviews to get the one answer that we really wanted, because he’d give us an answer and we’re like, “Well, that’s kinda like a pretty generic answer,” and I don’t think he really wanted to talk about it, because there was a couple of times where he’d tell us, “What does that have to do with anything?” And we’re like, “Well, we’re just trying to get to this point of why - why you actually came to the point of finally wanting to do Clerks 2,” because that’s ultimately the whole first reel of the story. And it took him a little while to warm up to that, because I think he didn’t want to rehash ant Jersey Girl shit with J-Lo and Ben (Affleck). And that whole Green Hornet thing he really didn’t want to talk about it. But then after the series of interviews, he finally decided, or finally figured out, like, “Wow, this is part of the story.” So he was real honest with his answers and it took a little while, a few interviews, before he finally warmed up to the fact that, “Hey, fuck it. Let me just put it out there, and this is what it is.”
ZAK: The lack of box office with Jersey Girl, and pulling out of Green Hornet, those things had to do with making Clerks 2. Those were reasons why he made Clerks 2, and that’s one of the things we wanted to answer with the doc, and we finally got around to it. And I think he’s real pleased that he actually can put out those answers and people can know.
KEN PLUME: Was there anything that was completely off limits, that people just didn’t really want to talk about, period?
JOEY: I think there was only one thing that he didn’t really care to talk about - and it wasn’t really big on our storytelling, anyway - and that was the Fletch thing. I think because it was such a short time where they actually considered getting it off the ground. So he’s like, “Meh, I don’t really want to get into that because I’ve told that a million times and it’s gonna be the same thing.” And we agreed. We’re like, “Meh, it’s not really something we really cared about covering anyway.” We were more interested in the whole Jersey Girl/Green Hornet connection, because it was like, everybody was up his ass about turning down an 80 million dollar budget movie. You know, it’s like, “Why, why, why?” And really, Fletch didn’t have anything to do with it. That’s the only time he really said, “I don’t want to talk about this,” was when we brought up Fletch.
ZAK: And plus Fletch, in the grand scheme of things - out of the five years that we basically cover, Fletch was about a month.
ZAK: Fletch was about a month. It was towards the end of Jersey Girl. It showed up. It got really hot. And then he just went, “Nah, I don’t want to do it.” It was basically that quick. So when you’re going through the grand scheme of things it’s like, “Do we really want to take this much time out of 90 minutes to focus on something that really only lasted a month, and didn’t have that much to do with Clerks 2?”
JOEY: But for the most part, nobody gave us an off-limits - “That’s off-limits to talk about.” They pretty much answered everything that we asked. Every question that we asked pretty much got answered throughout the interview.
KEN PLUME: I thought that in Jeff’s answers, that he seemed like he really enjoyed the ability to be fully candid.
JOEY: You know, the guy was so honest and didn’t hold back at all. It actually surprised us. He put shit out there and said shit that surprised us. The big thing was that, “Hey, I had no interest in making this movie. I didn’t want to do it for these reasons.” And along with him just being honest about how he felt about the first Clerks, as opposed to this one - even when it got into production, and not wanting to be there on set, and it taking a few moments of him seeing that it’s gonna possibly be a pretty fuckin’ good movie. Or it was just looking good. He was pleased with what he saw, that he kinda, like, became that springboard, that cheerleader, for the rest of the way. But throughout the whole process, Jeff was one of the guys that I think we thank a lot for being so honest and fucking just open, and he made himself available to whatever when we needed him for an interview. He was fucking cool, man. Cool guy.
ZAK: Yeah, Jeff… there are two interviews that people gave that we would not have been able to get as good a documentary as without those interviews. One was Jeff Anderson, for the reasons that Joe said, and the other one was Jen Smith, Kevin’s wife. She was our last interview, and we got that interview about two days before it was zero hour for me actually putting her in the documentary. Because the documentary was pretty much cut, but I needed Jen to put in there to hit a few certain things. And with that little amount of time, it was gonna be real iffy on how the interview went. And Jen came in, and she gave a personal perspective to Kevin, and making the movie, and what it was kinda like at home versus being a filmmaker and doing all that kinda stuff. Kevin gives that, but then to do that, you have to spend all this time away from home, and away from your family, and Jen gave really, really good insight into what it’s like to be married to a guy who all of a sudden, a year of his life is going to be given up to this movie. And she gave just an outstanding interview, and it was one of those things where, after the interview’s done, Joe and I looked at each other and went, “This is amazing.” Like, “This is really, really, really great stuff.”
JOEY: I think if it wasn’t for her interview, that whole Cannes section… who knows how it could have ended up. But she really set it off, man. The way she narrated that story, it made it so much easier to cut. She’s telling a story as we’re watching it, and if it wasn’t for that interview, I really don’t know how that would have turned out, that last section. Because she said it so perfectly. It was so, like…
ZAK: It was awesome. And the Cannes portion of the documentary is something that I don’t think anybody really knows about. I don’t think anybody knows as far as the fans or anybody who kinda caught onto the fact that Clerks got an eight minute standing ovation at Cannes. When Cannes got accepted, we almost didn’t get in. We got in at the last, last, last moment. And then when it got in, everybody felt like it was just a political move… Harvey did some wrangling, got it in there, and the festival didn’t even want it there. It was more like, “Alright, we’ll put you in it as a favor to Harvey Weinstein.” And those guys had been over there with Dogma and Clerks before then, and they had really good experiences. So when they got over there, and we’re sitting there with them, it was kinda like, “Whatever, let’s just get this thing over with. You know, this is gonna be bad. They’re gonna hate the movie. The festival doesn’t want us here, the people don’t want us here.” And then all of a sudden it got this amazing reaction. Like, to be in that theater for the eight minute standing ovation, and to film these guys, and to catch it and know everything that they’ve gone up to… the fact that six hours before then, they all just wanted to get on a plane and go home because they thought it was gonna go terribly bad…
JOEY: It was kinda fun for us, because we were stoked. We had never been there. We’re like, “Fuck yeah, this is hot, we’re in fucking Cannes,” you know, and having a good time, and Kevin’s like, “Meh, whatever.”
ZAK: I think Scott got more enjoyment out of watching Joey and I. Because we were like two kids going to…
JOEY: Chuck E Cheese or some shit.
ZAK: Yeah, like, for the very first time. And Scott’s like, “I’ve been here before, but to watch you guys, and you guys are making a movie, and you guys are here for the first time in the south of France during the world’s more prestigious film festival and all that shit…” Scott kind of enjoyed watching us throughout the entire thing.
KEN PLUME: So, in other words, Scott could have made a documentary about the two of you at Cannes.
JOEY: The publicist that was assigned to us basically gave us a VIP pass type all access thing, but they only agreed to let us on the carpet with the rest of the photographers - the cameras on the carpet and whatnot - but we really wanted to film inside the theater, and she’s like, “They’re not allowing anybody inside the theater. They never do allow video cameras inside the theater. But go ahead and do it until they tell you not to. Just do whatever you want, and if they give you a problem, they’ll come see me, and they’ll just ask you to leave.”
ZAK: She was totally on our side. It was like a guerilla filmmaker. It was fuckin’ outstanding.
JOEY: Which made it really cool because when the movie was over, and they started clapping, Kevin didn’t even realize we were in there filming. I jumped on the stage and was shooting from one angle, and Zak was shooting from the back angle, and we’re covering this whole moment, and then Jen looks over the stage and sees me and they start waving, and then Kevin looks over and he’s like, “Holy shit! They’re filming this!” And it was like, “They caught this moment on tape,” which was awesome, and he didn’t even expect this… we didn’t expect to be in there. Which made it like… hey, you can go back home and tell everybody you got an eight minute standing, and they’ll be like, “yeah yeah yeah.” But now we got the fuckin’ proof to back it up. You know what I mean? It was a really cool moment.
KEN PLUME: What I found equally as fascinating - and I could tell you did as well, while filming it - was the look on Harvey Weinstein’s face.
JOEY: That look on Harvey’s face said it all. It just looked like… he was just kinda like, “wow.” You know?
ZAK: I didn’t even know he was there until I started to cut the footage together, ’cause Joey told me. I actually cut some footage while we were in Cannes. We would shoot all day then at night we’d go back to the hotel room and I would edit. And Joe was like, “Did you get the footage of Harvey?” I’m like, “What the hell are you talking about?” “Dude, fuckin’ Harvey was sitting right there with the biggest smile on his face, and he was a cheerleader in the whole thing and I got it.” All of a sudden I start going through the footage and fuckin’ A, there’s Harvey right behind Rosario. It so fuckin’ great to get that son of a bitch there.
JOEY: Kevin actually said that he wanted to go outside and smoke. You can see him reach for his smokes and wanting to go out, and Harvey was like, “Don’t move.”
ZAK: “Enjoy this. Don’t move. Enjoy this.”
JOEY: It was a pretty surreal moment and it was cool and we’re glad we got it. And that moment right there was worth the whole trip. Everything else was just kinda like gravy on top of the fucking potatoes, you know?
JOEY: That moment right there was the whole trip.
KEN PLUME: The two of you having been there… five years of history, from Jersey Girl through Fletch and Green Hornet and Clerks 2… Was there any moment in doing the shooting for the documentary that completely caught you off guard? That was a complete surprise to you? Something you learned that you had no idea actually happened during that period when you were pretty much front seat to most of this stuff…
JOEY: I don’t know, give me a moment to think…
ZAK: I don’t know if there was a moment that totally caught me off guard. I had kind of a moment of realization of how special this moment is, but it’s not on tape. It was a total personal moment between all of us. It was directly after the movie screened at Cannes. We had the eight minute standing ovation. Anything else we shot was kinda pointless. We all went back to the Hotel Martinez. The cast, everybody, and there was champagne. Kevin’s not a drinker. Kevin doesn’t drink. And Kevin was a bit tipsy from the champagne. Everybody was hugging each other and all that kinda stuff. There was one moment I wish I’d got on tape, which we kinda cover in Snowball Effect - in Snowball Effect, when Kevin and Scott were at Cannes for Clerks, they were on a boat with Simon Le Bon and they said they kinda had this moment where, “Hey, we’re on a boat in the middle of the South of France with the lead singer of Duran Duran. How fuckin’ surreal is this shit?” Well, when we got back to the Hotel Martinez, everybody’s drinking champagne, we got this eight minute standing ovation, it’s been this long thing, it’s fuckin’ amazing. All of a sudden somebody goes, “Hey, look who’s over there. Look who’s sitting down.” And they go, “Who?” “It’s fuckin’ Simon Le Bon.” We’re like, “Fuck! Somebody get a goddamn camera! Where’s the fuckin’ camera?” We wanted to get a still camera, but by the time we got a still camera, he left. So it was like, “Ah, fuck.” That was the one thing we missed.
KEN PLUME: Maybe there’s not a real Simon Le Bon?
JOEY: There’s a series of clones running around Europe!
ZAK: Like, “There’s Kevin & Scott. Get the Simon clone.”
KEN PLUME: Maybe Simon’s like The Mothman.
ZAK: Totally. Totally! But that was one of those moments where it was just like… it was almost kinda like this… I mean, for Joe & I, after going through Snowball Effect, and then going through that, it was kinda like this thing had come full circle at that point.
JOEY: What I think you were trying to ask is have we learned anything or found anything new storywise that we didn’t know about Kevin, Scott, or any of View Askew, the company… anything. To answer that question, I would say just the fact that you just… it’s not like you learn something new, it’s like you just kinda bring it home that these guys are fucking… cool. You know what I mean? It’s hard to explain. It’s like hanging out with your friends. And you just kinda, like… every moment, it’s almost like… you feel like it’s thievery. It’s like, “We’re getting paid to fucking do this? Are you kiddin’ me?” You know? It almost makes you wonder like, “What does a person with a real job do?”
ZAK: And plus it’s almost like you get to document your friends on this journey. Basically we pick up with Scott, a documentary of him basically wanting to leave, like I said before. And then now, after going through Clerks 2, Scott’s got this thing to where he’s ready to make another movie. Scott kinda found…
JOEY: He said it recharged his batteries. He got back to that moment of the original Clerks where there’s it’s just a few guys, some buddies making a fuckin’ movie for not that much money. And that’s kinda like the feeling that everybody got after making this movie.
ZAK: And it seems that for Scott & Kevin, Clerks 2 helped them find the place where they are most comfortable and can be the most creative. With smaller budgets, with smaller crews. It’s more personal. They can tell more personal stories and they don’t have to worry about shit they had to worry about on Jersey Girl, or were going to worry about on Green Hornet. They know it’s like, “Look, this is what we like to do, this is what we want to do, this is what we’re fuckin’ good at. We can still take chances. And it’s fun again.” Which is what it wasn’t since Jersey Girl. They know what they want to do, and they know how to do it, and they can have fun with it. And for them, and them being our friends, it’s kinda like - they’re at a place… and us as friends looking at them, it’s like we’re extremely happy, number one, for them, but number two that we were actually able to capture that for some of the fans.
KEN PLUME: Tell me a little bit about Chop Shop Entertainment…
JOEY: Chop Shop basically was a company that we started just recently, and it was specifically started for this project. That’s because when we got our budget, it was easier for The Weinstein Company just to cut us a check and not deal with us until we’re done, basically.
ZAK: As actual employees.
JOEY: As actual employees instead of like, you know, us having to ask them “we need to buy this, we need to rent this.” And usually it’s like, okay, then we gotta do the invoices and they gotta go through this chain of paperwork, and then we get the money, and then blah blah blah. It’s really easy for them just to say, “Look, set up a company, we’ll cut you a check, do your fuckin’ documentary.” That’s how we got started, as far as like Chop Shop goes. Now, Chop Shop is something we’re trying to build into something a little larger, doing the same shit.
ZAK: Yeah. Basically what our things was, like Joe said, Chop Shop started off… we didn’t have a five year business plan. We didn’t have an idea. Joe and I just want to make movies and do our own thing and all that kinda stuff, and it presented itself to where it’s like, well, do it now, because now is when you have everything. And the great thing about The Weinstein Company, like Joe said, they basically wrote us a check and said go make your movie. There was nothing from the studio that said, “You know, we have to watch footage every couple weeks, we have to see what you guys are doing.” Now, granted, because of the Train Wrecks they knew what we were doing and they knew we weren’t just throwing the money away on coke and whores.
JOEY: Just some of it.
ZAK: Yeah, just a little bit. But the best thing about it was is that through this process, Joe and I have formed Chop Shop now, and what we want to do is what we did for Kevin and Scott - we want to talk to other filmmakers and to other studios. Because not only can we do these things for the internet, to get things out for fans - not necessarily just like Train Wrecks - but we’d like to do more informational ones and more technical ones and shit like that. But also to do the documentaries, so they have things to put on the internet as promotion to get fans excited about, but also to get new fans to come to the sites and go, “I wanna go see that movie.” And then when the DVDs come out, they then can have a feature length documentary, or a series of documentary shorts, that are more in-depth, that fans haven’t seen before, so that buying that DVD - which is now the studio’s number one priority money maker… studios make more money on DVDs than they do with the feature film release. So it’s the number one cash cow for those guys. They always want to try to make ‘em better - or at least most studios do. So if we can do that; do what we want to do, help out the filmmaker, help out the studio, and then make some money at the same time, it would be outstanding. King Kong with Peter Jackson, those guys did an outstanding job. Those are the ones that I look to as being outstanding. They’re entertaining, they’re informative - it got people, in my opinion, to want to see that movie. It kept fans entertained and it brought more people over. Bryan Singer started to do it with Superman and then bailed out, which I heard his crew basically… they were falling out of fuckin’ windows and all kinds of crazy shit. I really feel bad for those guys. Now at the same time, it’s Joe and me. Joe and I did pretty much everything on the Train Wrecks and on the documentary except for the music on the documentary. Danny Sternbaum did that and he did an amazing job. So if we can keep our overhead low, bring the creative, bring the business, and do all that kinda stuff, I would love to see Chop Shop do things for other studios and other filmmakers. Like, if we can get to the Jerry Bruckheimers of the world, the Steven Spielbergs, get involved in their projects - because a lot of times, especially now with the internet, which is what helped Kevin out with the Train Wrecks, you can avoid spoilers just by having your own stuff out there. Kevin was able to fend off people ruining the beginning and end of Clerks through the Train Wrecks. We had fire trucks out there. The Quick Stop was burning. Then the Quick Stop was rebuilt. But because we had the Train Wrecks we were kinda able to throw people off the path. Now, I don’t want to say I’m lying to people…
KEN PLUME: No. But you’re satiating that natural curiosity that people have about a project that’s interesting to them.
ZAK: Totally. And other studios are starting to catch on. James Bond has done a few things. But I think what people are sick and tired of seeing is the standard EPK. The stuff you see on Entertainment Tonight, and, “Oh, it’s so great working with,” you know, “Tom Cruise. It’s so outstanding.”
KEN PLUME: Where everyone’s obviously asked the exact same question and coached in the answer.
ZAK: It’s the exact same questions, it’s the exact same B-roll. Now, if you can do that same thing but have Tom Cruise talking to the camera - have Tom Cruise talk to the fans directly and say, “This is our set.” Like, if it was on War of the Worlds and you have Tom Cruise standing in front of the 747 that’s on fire that just crashed into a fuckin’ house, that’s something right there. Now, if you want to hold onto that footage, you can totally do something else with it. There’s a million things you can do with it for promotion, for DVD, to keep the fans happy. ‘Cause that’s the one thing I think a lot of studios forget, they just put out the EPK to do everything. You want to keep the fans happy. Filmmaking has changed because of the internet. Now, whether you want to call it piracy or whatever, I don’t think you want to look at piracy as the unsung enemy. I think you want to look at that as the competition. And how you’re going to beat that, as the competition, is to load it up what you got with everything else… The internet webisodes, the documentaries… anything like that. Anything that you can do on there that’s creative, informative, and entertaining…
KEN PLUME: Well, you’re creating an experience…
ZAK: That’s what Chop Shop wants to do for everybody else, including Kevin.
KEN PLUME: Right. And you’re creating an experience instead of what a lot of these guys are trying to do now, which is do it after the fact. You’re doing it in real time as the film is being put together, instead of having - after the fact - people going, “Did anyone catch anything?”
JOEY: And also real quick, once the studios figure out that for the price of a fucking Sunday ad in a Sunday newspaper you can get hours of what is basically commercials with the video blog, that are gonna live on the internet forever…
ZAK: Now, for Clerks 2, Chop Shop put together four-and-a-half hours of Train Wrecks. We also did an hour-and-a-half documentary. We shot the EPK. We basically did everything for that. Now, when you put out an ad in the Sunday Times, it would have been more expensive than everything that we did for a year. I don’t want to run the numbers for everybody, because we’ve still got rent to pay. It makes more sense, though, and you can reach more people and get more people, than you can for just the stuff that everyone else is doing. I think the studios are afraid of the internet because they don’t know what’s there. And they don’t know how to control it.
KEN PLUME: One of the biggest keys, though - when you talk about four-and-a-half hours of Train Wrecks, that was, what, 40 weeks?
JOEY: It was 48, almost 50 weeks.
KEN PLUME: That’s the big comparison I see as well, is that it’s not just a Sunday newspaper in a specific location, let’s say in New York or LA, that runs on one day and you’re hoping to capture the audience in that one shot… this is stuff that not only exists in perpetuity, but also will run over the course of a huge span of time, providing constant promotion for the project.
ZAK: Totally. And in some realms it will live longer than that. Like the Clerks 2 DVD comes out in three weeks. All those Train Wrecks clips are still on the Clerks 2 site for people to go see. They’re still available on iTunes. They’re on YouTube. Those Inaction figure shorts, they’re still on Quick Stop Entertainment, they’re still on YouTube. That promotion is still there, still keeping awareness out for people when the DVD comes out.
JOEY: We’ve had over 10 million downloads of the Train Wrecks. It’s like, compare that to a newspaper ad. A newspaper ad, whatever the circulation may be, let’s say for instance 10 million people do see that ad. Well, the next day, some puppy dog is taking a shit, being potty trained on the Sunday ad. You know what I mean? The commercials on the internet are still rolling - but for the same, or less, amount of money.
ZAK: Plus, you can’t take that newspaper ad and put it on your iPod. You can’t put it on your computer. You can’t put it on your favorites on your computer.
KEN PLUME: You could but the glue would probably ruin it.
ZAK: It’s something that lives and it breathes and it keeps going and it keeps doing exactly what it’s supposed to do.
JOEY: And at the end of the day, the studio’s going to get a kick ass DVD, you know?
ZAK: That’s the key for us, is you can take all this shit, and you can put it on the DVD. You can put it on a separate DVD.
JOEY: Yeah, it serves two purposes. It serves as promotion for the movie, the whole run of the pre-production, production and post-production. Get the people involved and happy and looking forward to this flick if they’re interested or whatnot. And at the end of the day, you can load up the DVD with all these extras.
ZAK: It’s not the standard “making of” you see on HBO. You’re getting something more. You’re getting more into the insight of the filmmaker. The making of a movie. The personalization of it. And when you spend your 20 bucks on it, you don’t feel ripped off.
KEN PLUME: Not just that; you also have something that - going back to the sort of emergence of DVD and everyone scrambling to find stuff - you have an entire production documented with footage that can be mined for decades to come.
ZAK: Out of the footage we shot, Joe and I figured we can probably do three more documentaries. Out of the stories, out of everything else, we could do three more documentaries. Like, we’ve already made jokes about, but one day it might be true, on the Clerks 2 10th anniversary DVD, doing an entirely new documentary out of the footage. Like, it’s totally possible. And it wouldn’t be a crappy documentary, either. It’d be really good. We just had to pick the stories that we felt were relevant at the time to telling the story. We’ve got so many others that we can go into. We can totally do another DVD just out of the footage that we have, as a supplemental, or as the one that stands alone five years from now. It’s a wellspring that I don’t think anybody has really thought about. And the other cool thing about the internet that I didn’t bring up, is you’re able to address stuff as it happens. If something happens at 11:00 that morning… this happened once or twice, where we wanted to get something on the net immediately. Kevin would say, “I want to put something on the net right now.” We would shoot his intro at 11:00, and by 4:00 I was uploading it to the server so that it could be up for 5:00 when people got home from work. That’s something that you don’t have with the newspaper. Something you don’t have with a regular article. It’s something that you can go all-out, boom, and it’s automatic. You can address something as it happens.
KEN PLUME: So I guess the big question would be to ask, what’s next?
JOEY: Well, we had some stuff going on where Kevin threw us this idea of shooting an in-depth documentary for the Chasing Amy 10th anniversary release. That’s kind of in a holding pattern right now for reasons we really shouldn’t even be talking about.
ZAK: We’ve got two projects with Kevin. This is the official one. We have two projects with Kevin that we would… actually more like three… that we’re talking about doing right now, but we’ve got to wait for things like money and contracts and all that kinda stuff, and then there’s a couple other people that we just started talking to, because they’re really pleased at the way the documentary’s turned out, and the Train Wrecks. So we’re trying to get it out there, and we’re trying to get it together. We just got our website up, that Ming from View Askew is helping us out with, and we’re trying to get that up and get that running.
JOEY: It’s a temporary site right now but Ming’s kinda diving into it pretty soon. He’s been real busy with all these screenings and whatnot.
ZAK: And then it’s basically putting together packages and trying to get in touch with filmmakers to say, “You got movies coming up - we can help you. And it’s not gonna cost you an arm and a leg, and you’re gonna be extremely pleased and happy with it at the end of it, and your movie will make more money because of it.”
KEN PLUME: What’s the URL again?
ZAK: Oh, it’s chopshopentertainment.com
KEN PLUME: So at what point are you two going to kill each other in some kind of Thunderdome battle?
ZAK: (laughing) It’s almost happened a couple times.
JOEY: Yeah, it’s almost happened a few times.
ZAK: Joe has a tendency to stand over my shoulder when I edit. And I can’t stand it. It drives me insane. But out of the….
KEN PLUME: Does he poke you and say, “Are we there yet?”
ZAK: Well, that’s the thing - out of the 10 things that he’ll tell me, five of them in my opinion will be completely bullshit, but then the other five I totally reluctantly have to agree to.
KEN PLUME: I’ll bet Paul Simon said the exact same thing to Art Garfunkel.
ZAK: Joe and I have worked with each other for the last 10 years, pretty much, and we’ve been friends, and we’ve always hung out, and we always had a thing with film. And I think we’re one of the few partners in town who can actually work together and get along and have a friendship at the same time. Some people have said, “You know, it’s a very Scott & Kevin kinda thing,” but we spend more time with each other than Scott & Kevin do. Which shows when the booze comes out…
JOEY: Not in a gay way.
ZAK: Yeah, it’s totally…
KEN PLUME: It’s good that you had to clarify that.
ZAK: Once or twice we’ve gone at each other’s throats but I think that’s totally expected…
JOEY: We chalk that up to alcohol sometimes.
ZAK: Booze is a big help in going at each other’s throats, because your nuts grow really big.
KEN PLUME: So who would win in a fight?
JOEY: No, I think Zak would.
ZAK: I’m bigger. I’m like 6′4, 290. But Joe wears a lot of rings. So it’s kinda like wearing brass knuckles.
JOEY: I’m closer to the nuts. I can get there faster.
KEN PLUME: So, in other words, Joe would use the Jack Sparrow technique.
ZAK: Yeah, we always say if there’s gonna be a fight, I’m not gonna do John Wayne - I’m gonna pull hair, bite, scratch… I’d hit you over the head with a fuckin’ chair… but the thing is he’s faster…
KEN PLUME: I somehow get this vision of Mongo from Blazing Saddles…
ZAK: Dude, you have no idea. (laughing) That’s why I like to sit in front of the Final Cut Pro system. I just sit there and plunk away at keys.
Download Clip #1 - “Rehearsals”:
Download Clip #2 - “Make Or Break”:
Download Clip #3 - “First Reactions”:
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