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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Jason Mewes on Animation, Clerks 3 and Why Jay and Silent Bob Could Go to Mars

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When Jason Mewes forged a friendship with Kevin Smith, he probably didn’t realize he was also entering into a career-defining partnership. The two have since collaborated in more than a dozen projects, many as the drug-dealing, truth-telling duo Jay and Silent Bob, supporting characters in Smith’s 1994 directorial debut Clerks who have a way of popping up in Smith’s other franchises. For the last several years the two have also toured behind a podcast, “Jay and Silent Bob Get Old,” which Smith started to keep Mewes sober. “This show is more than anything else therapy for a dude who won't go to therapy,” Smith told the Shepherd in 2011, in advance of a live taping at the Pabst Theater. “After the life he's lived, being the son of a heroin-addicted mother who used him as a bagman to deliver drugs when he was 9 years old, Mewes has a million-dollar heart, and it shines through, but his past is full of horrors and every once in a while that comes through, too.”


On Wednesday, May 22, the two will return to the Pabst Theater to present a screening of their latest project, Jay & Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie, which will be followed by another live recording of their podcast. In advance of that appearance, Mewes spoke with the Shepherd about his many upcoming projects, the future of Jay and Silent Bob, and progress on Clerks 3.

How did you and Kevin decide to make an animated movie?


I was telling Kevin that I wanted to try different stuff. Had directed a music video and told him I wanted to try to direct more, and that I wanted to try to produce as well, and I wanted to start small. I didn’t want to jump into some big responsibility for a full feature or anything. He asked what I wanted to do, and I said, “I don’t know, I just want to try something.” So he had a script he had on his shelf for Bluntman and Chronic that he had written for Chasing Amy, because the characters Banky and Holden had written Jay and Silent Bob comic books, so when Kevin wrote the comic books for the characters, he was like, “I should just write a whole script for a graphic novel for the characters.” And he did, and he had it lying around, and he gave it to me as sort of “busy work,” as he says. He said, “If you want to try producing, go produce this thing.” And I went out and I found an animator I really liked and started talking to him, and there it went.

What were you looking for in the animation?

Well, I thought, of course I wouldn’t mind having some cool, like, Pixar or Wreck-It Ralph-style animation, but I knew that one, I was paying out of pocket, and I didn’t have the money, and b, it takes a lot of time to do animation like that. But I knew this guy Steve Stark had been doing SMODimation for their podcast, animating the stories they tell. He really knew the characters, and really could bring their stories to life. Even though Kevin and Scott are talking about getting a Gremlin for Christmas and what they’d do with it, and blah blah blah, he can turn the characters’ expressions and hand movements and all that, so I thought it would be perfect. I talked to him and found out how much it would be and how long it would take and all that, and he started working on the first four or five minutes of the cartoon, and sent that over to me, and just kept going with it.

The funny thing was at first, I was thinking I didn’t want to wait a year and half to finish the movie. I wanted that instant gratification, so I thought maybe we’ll just do 10 seven- or eight-minute pieces and put them up on iTunes or what have you. and I showed Kevin the first bit and he said, “No, we should do this as a movie.” And I said if we did it as a movie, “Can we tour with it?” But that’s how it came about; we just thought that Steve really brought the characters to life, and understood how they moved and acted.

I imagine that’s especially important for a project like this, since your fans already have such a good understanding of how these characters are supposed to be presented.

Yeah, definitely. And most people dig it and think it’s funny. Most people who see it think it’s funny and don’t care about the animation. Of course, there were a handful of people who expected the cartoon to be like the Clerks animated movie. What those people don’t realize is the Clerks animated movie was a studio doing it, and they needed 450,000 for each 22 minutes. And this movie is over 60 minutes, and we didn’t have that kind of money. It was fine, though. I like the animation for the Clerks animated series, but I really do think Steve brought his vision to the characters and really brought them to life.

It seems like directing animation is actually a way more difficult first project than a live action film.

Yeah, I think so, too. When he directed the movie, and you envision these characters maybe telling each other they love each other in a hot tub, you’ve just got to tell these two characters to deliver the dialogue and maybe kiss or whatever. But with animation, there’s all these bits that weren’t written in the script. It’s definitely got to be harder, to tell the story, so I agree. With movies, too, you also have a whole team surrounding you when you’re doing live action, where here it was just the animator directing it and doing it himself.

Do you have any more projects lined up?

We’re hoping to tour this until September or October, then if all goes well I’d love to try to get another one going. I think that’s the beauty of this, the animation and the characters. You can take the characters anywhere in animation. It could be Jay and Bob Go to Mars, or whatever it might be, and the characters don’t get any older. So in another two or three years, it’s not going to be Kevin and I squeezing into our outfits at 45 years old or something. So I want to do that, and also, right now I’m shooting a web-series, called Vigilante Diaries. In a week we’ll put the trailer out and put up the episodes. We didn’t have the money, but it’s really cool. It’s me and another dude, and it’s sort of like The Punisher. A vigilante is going around stopping crime and taking criminals out, and I shoot reality and I’m a successful reality guy, my character is, and I end up getting footage of the vigilante and I sort of blackmail him to let me go around with him. So you get all this cool footage, because we have a lot of first-person shooter footage of it. It’s a lot cooler that I’m making it sound.

So is this going to be more of a serious action series, then?

It’ll be action/comedy. There’s definitely a little comedy, of course, because I’m running around following these guys. I blackmail the vigilante into taking me along with him while he takes out this crime syndicate. I’m following him with a camera, so you get all these cool POV shots of us running around shooting guys. Right now we have the first episode. We’re going to put it up and see if people dig it. There’s 10 episodes written, so hopefully we’ll get to finish that, because I do think it’s a fun web series that people dig. So I hope to finish that after we tour behind the movie. Right now we’re touring behind the movie and afterward we do a Q&A and a podcast, and a meet and greet and say hello and hang out. It’s really a lot of fun, to sit with the audience as they watch the movie, and see their reactions, if they’re laughing at the funny parts, and afterward talk to the audience and see what they thought about it. And afterward we do a little wrap up and play a game that we do where we bring three audience members on stage. So hopefully we’ll get to that, and Kevin’s writing Clerks 3 right now, so hopefully that goes as planned and I’ll be in Clerks 3 with Kevin. I might also be in the new Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. They were shooting that in Canada, and there were cliffhangers on season two, and they weren’t able to do a season three because it was too expensive, so they want to do an animated movie to address those cliffhangers, so hopefully that goes as planned. So there’s some things in the works.

It sounds like a lot of things, actually.

Well, hopefully everything goes as planned. It’s interesting, because sometimes I’ll have five or six things lined up, and I’ll think this is great, I’m going to be busy. But right after we go into this, they’ll say all of the sudden, “We don’t think this summer is going to be good for shooting this, so let’s move it to winter.” That happens all the time. But we’re sort of in control of some of these things with our company. We’re still waiting for Clerks. There’s politics with the Weinstein’s. Kevin has to figure out if the Weinstein’s want Clerks 3, because they get first look because they bought the first two. So there are things in the works.

If Clerks 3 goes as planned, will that be the final time you play those characters in live action?

Yeah, definitely. I would say definitely. Kevin and I… well, I guess who knows? I can’t say for me personally, honestly. I’m not saying I want to be 45 or almost 50 and doing the character still. But I know if we did Clerks 3, and at the end of the year, and Kevin was like, “I dug doing that so much, that I want to do one more. I want to do Jay and Silent Bob 2 or Dogma 2 or Mallrats 2, or something, I can’t say that I would say, ‘No way, I won’t do it.’ But right now Kevin feels it would be perfect to do the Clerks trilogy. We started with Clerks, and he wants to end with Clerks. We’d have a Clerks trilogy.
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