In the doc, Smith discusses how Harvey Weinstein bought Smith’s first film, Clerks, straight from the Sundance Film Festival in 1994. Weinstein, as the head of Miramax, paid $227,000 for the film, with the two ironing out an agreement that Smith would earn more from the backend if the movie became lucrative. That fall, Clerks pulled in $3.2 million in the North American box office—and as a cult hit, grossed tens of millions more on VHS.
In a new interview with Variety, Smith described how Weinstein took seven years to settle some of the owed royalties and how he deployed evasive accounting schemes so he wouldn't have to pay Smith. “I’m still out money. But you got to understand, I never cared about the money,” Smith told the publication. “Money’s never been a motivator for me.”
But when Smith tried to collect what he was owed, Miramax kept telling him, “‘Nope, the movie is still not in profit.’”
He described his experience when Miramax brought Clerks and Pulp Fiction to the 1994 Cannes Film Festival.
“Miramax didn’t get Clerks in,” Smith said. He described how the festival covered his travel and hotel and that “Miramax didn’t have to pay for anything. There was a yacht, the Miramax yacht. ... That’s where all the stars were. ... But that yacht wasn’t for us. When the festival was over, we got the financial statement. They had taken the entire Cannes bill, everything they spent in Cannes, and just chopped it up ... Clerks was charged as much as Pulp Fiction.”
Smith said that his lawyer wanted to audit Miramax, but Smith declined. He never audited Miramax until after Clerks 2 and “got a bunch of money. If I was a better business person, I would have gone for more money.” He added, “The nature of this business is everybody wants to keep as much money as they possibly can.”
When asked why he kept working for Weinstein after the Clerks debacle, Smith explained that he “got paid upfront for each movie,” revealing that he made between five and six million as director of Zack and Miri Make a Porno. “I was never like, ‘Hey man, where’s those nickels and dimes on the back end?’ And perhaps that’s why they kept making movies with me, even though my movies weren’t box-office profitable. Home video, they were goldmines. That’s really why they kept me around.”
In Clerk, Smith says that he would never have worked with Weinstein if he knew he was a sexual predator. “But having watched the doc without any mention of him in it, it felt like—well, whitewashing. It felt like something was missing,” Smith told Variety. “You can’t tell this fairy tale story without mentioning the monster.”
Due to the pandemic, Clerk has been put on hold for now, with the hope that it can debut at a fall film festival. Weinstein, for his part, is serving 23 years in prison for sexual assault and rape.