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[SXSW ’21] An interview with director Malcolm Ingram on ‘Clerk’, Kevin Smith, and the importance of humor

A job that makes a difference.

Clerk is a documentary that looks at the prolific career of Kevin Smith. From his humble beginnings on the set of Clerks to the heart attack that changed his life, the film is a deep dive into the popular director’s career. AIPT spoke with filmmaker Malcolm Ingram about Smith, the documentary, and the importance of friends, family, and fans.

AIPT: What prompted you to make Clerk?

Malcolm Ingram: 25th anniversary, just seemed to make sense. That’s kind of an established benchmark in Kevin’s career. It’s an impressive 25 years and I just figured it’d be a good time to look back.

AIPT: There has been a lot in that 25 years. Was that the initial plan to go as in depth as you did?

Ingram: Yeah. I mean, having somebody who’s been in Kevin’s life since the beginning of his career… I mean, I felt I knew the story I wanted to tell. Kevin was very generous with his trust in me to tell it, and he gave me the freedom to kind of tell the story that I felt I wanted to tell.

The thing with Kevin is he lives a life in public. There’s not a big mystery to Kevin Smith. He’s a very authentic person. Kevin Smith is Kevin Smith. And my job was to tell hopefully a story that was worthy of his incredible career and have it supported by voices. And I didn’t want to just do a yearbook. I didn’t want to bring up just a bunch of talking heads that everybody kind of was expecting. I wanted to surprise people.

It was wonderful to have Richard Linklater. It was wonderful to have Jason Reitman. It was wonderful to have f----n’ Stan Lee. It was wonderful to have Penn Jillette.  These are people that mean something to Kevin. Jason Reitman, Ivan Reitman means a lot to Kevin. You know what I mean? Richard Linklater, all these people. So it was wonderful to have all these voices and to also be able to talk to Kevin’s mother, to be able to talk to Scott Mosier, to talk to his wife, his daughter. It was wonderful to kind of have all that access.

AIPT: The connections in Kevin’s life, whether it’s family, friends, fan is a running theme throughout the movie. How important was it to show that part of Kevin Smith?

Ingram: I couldn’t have told the movie without it. Family and friends are such a part of Kevin’s makeup. It’s so much part of who he is. And they’re so important to him that it was incredibly important to have those voices in the movie. And I think that it’s… Walter Flanagan, a lot of his fans know him because he’s been such a… through Comic Book Men and Tell ‘Em, Steve Dave.

Walter Flanagan is a very interesting character. I love Walt Flanagan. I have no idea what Walt Flanagan thinks about me. Not have a reason why it’s anything bad, but I love Walt Flanagan. So to put Walt Flanagan in this movie made me smile, just because he’s so funny. Just his take on things is so genuine.

AIPT: There’s this air of lightheartedness even when discussing heavy topics. Was that something that was intentionally done or did it just kind of come about working with Kevin Smith?

[SXSW '21] An interview with director Malcolm Ingram on 'Clerk', Kevin Smith, and the importance of humor

Ingram: It’s just a natural part of kind of the way he lives his life. Kevin is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. He’s just a genuinely funny person, and the humor… He’s also a very sensitive person. Sensitive people cope through humor. When you’re an ultra-sensitive person, humor very much becomes an armor. You kind of finally hone it. So I think there is a great humor and levity through the way Kevin lives his life and conducts his business. And I think that to not have that be part of the film would just, it wouldn’t be truthful to the subject.

AIPT: After the documentary, do you look at his work differently?

Ingram: No. I mean, there’s pre-weed and post-weed. That’s how you break up his career. And no, I mean, I’ve always been… Me and Kevin argue about this all the time. Kevin says if I didn’t know him, that I would be the guy in the basement, like calling him out and f--k him. Because our relationship is, is that I’m very much… I call Kevin on his s--t. I’m kind of proud of that. Although he’s loved by the world, I’m his friend and I’m going to tell him if I feel there’s something that he’s got to hear. He doesn’t always like it.

No, I like Kevin’s work. I am a fan of Kevin Smith’s works, and I have a great respect for his work, but I don’t look at it differently, no.

AIPT: What do you want audiences to take out of Clerk?

Malcolm Ingram: Ultimately, I just want them to enjoy it. Like I want them to hopefully see Kevin through my eyes as somebody who’s kind of watched his friend grow into this incredible presence in pop culture. What Kevin has built is impressive. And I hope that I’ve done justice in sharing it with people.

SXSW is March 16 – March 20. Tickets and a full lineup can be found here.

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