Paradigm Shifting, Kevin Smith and John Wooden

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I’m a Kevin Smith fan.  This of course has nothing specifically to do with volleyball, or even sport, other than in the Terry Pettit sense that everything you read or experience informs your life as a coach.  To be brief, Kevin Smith makes (mostly independent) movies, records podcasts and does a bunch of other amusing (depending on your sense of humour) things.  He has just made a new movie, which has created a huge amount of controversy.  Not the movie itself, but the fact that he has decided not to sell the movie to a distributor, and instead to distribute and promote the movie himself.  Specifically he wants to prevent a large sum of money being spent on marketing the movie.  His reasoning is that his audience is well defined, relatively fixed, already know he has a movie coming out and are are already planning to go to see it.  On the other hand experience shows that his movies typically don’t play well to people outside this core audience and no amount of advertising seems to be able to attract them.  Therefore money spent promoting the movie by a distributor would be wasted money that would eventually come out of his pocket.  This seems like a sound business decision with no possible losers except for Smith himself.  If he is right he makes a big(ger) profit from his movie.  If he is wrong he and his investors (and noone else) lose money.  But somehow this has caused a huge ruckus in movie business (critic) circles and has generating quite a bit of (mostly negative) discussion.  Of course part of this is driven by Smith himself, he does after all have a movie to promote and all publicity is good publicity, but the negative reactions seem to be massively out of proportion with what he is actually doing.

The point of the story is the ‘dangers’ of attempting to shift a paradigm.  Coincidentally I just read a passage talking about American Football that goes through a list of innovations which were ridiculed at the original moment but which have in a relatively short time became standard practices in the sport.  That is always the way.  Every standard practice was once new and strange and ‘wrong’ because (and only because) it was different to the then standard practice.  I can’t imagine what other international coaches thought of the US 2-man reception system when they first saw it.  And I often wonder how international volleyball would look if the USSR hadn’t boycotted the LA Olympics and the USA hadn’t won the men’s volleyball gold medal.  Would the 2-man reception system taken off if it hadn’t been so (recognisably) successful?  And how many great ideas have never seen the light of day because the originator didn’t have the strength to cope with the ridicule inherent in trying to shift a (any) paradigm?

As John Wooden said “Not all change is progress, but all progress is change.”

A pretty good (i.e. short) review of the Kevin Smith controversy is here.


  1. I find your post here very uplifting and motivating, rather vindicated lol. Reminds me of my times where I wasn’t able to play volleyball through injury and decided to coach instead.
    It’s like in New Zealand, your volleyball language for an offensive system won’t translate all too well from one club to another. I guess everyone knows what a Post is in New Zeland or an A-Quick, but as far as tempo of passing to the height of a set or anything more intricate, it’s like anyones guess and everyone just makes things up. Which is no problem, but when I tried to introduce the late Jim Coleman set system (which I think is a great base for getting people on the same page) I was faced with alot of skepticism. My players were very supportive and adapted quickly. But I was so surprised even feeling dejected by other people thinking I was wasting my time. Even adpoting defensive patterns that were outside the norm that seemed to work really well were looked down on by others.

    But I stuck it out, having very clear systems in place where the whole team had a positive attitude helped make the season enjoyable and a challenge. Trying new things where they work successfully is what every coach strives for, new ideas can come from the most unlikely of places, mine just happened to come from curiosity and questions to myself.

    Like how you came up with this idea for this post from being a Kevin Smith fan lol, and Kevin Smith could be onto something good, but I can only imagine how many people in his industry wanting to shut his practices down lol.


  2. Oddly enough, this is exactly what i spend my time doing in my “real job”. Kevin Smith isn’t wrong. This is how traditional film distribution works:

    1) The average wide release film costs at least $30M to market – that is making up the “prints” and advertising – mainy a male 15-25 audience, cos these guys are the ones that go to the movies early and create “buzz”

    2) In the first week, the distributor gets 70% and the exhibitor gets 30% (it’s the other way around in countries outside the US). it goes to 50/50 by the 3rd week.

    3) Most movies won’t recoup their production budget through the theatrical release. some won’t even recoup their marketing cost (“P&A” – prints and advertising). Independent films rarely recoup their marketing costs.

    4) A distributor has to recoup their costs before investors start seeing any returns.

    The big waste of money is that advertising. Prime time television advertising to court a specific audience.

    But guys like SMith can do it differently. he does have a defined audience (in spite of his inability to produce a good film in 10 years). He can use word of mouth through the internet. Do a limited release strategy and make money. It is a shift, but it’s something we’re looking at doing too.

    It is a paradigm shift, but i can assure you being 500,000 in debt to a distributor AFTER your theatrical run has finished is not funny at all.

    Recently speaking to an experienced producer i knew who said her mortgage was bigger now than it was 20 years ago wasn’t funny either.

    Making films all your life and making bugger all while all the crew, actors, lawyers, insurers, distributors etc make good livings might just be mildly funny. for a while.

    I really hope Smith exploration into self-distribution pays off!


    1. I find the process of what he’s doing interesting in the sense that I appreciate those people who are able to build a career on their own terms.
      But what piques my interest the most, and the point of the post, is the reaction of others. Firstly why would people care at all, and secondly why would people care enough to be outraged. It seems to me that the response is driven almost solely by the fact that he is attempting something ‘new’. It doesn’t even seem important what that is, just that it is new.
      It is the same response one gets when one proposes that using your arms is more important in reception than using your legs. In 30 years, I have NEVER had someone able to explain to me WHY you should use your legs. Only that you have to because it is better. It doesn’t matter what logic you bring to the discussion, it is different therefore it is wrong.


  3. I really don’t know why Joe Public would care. Although, auteurs who do try to do everything have often been criticised as being indulgent.

    The people who really should care are the distributors and studios. The idea that a filmmaker can cultivate their own relationship with a paying audience, and finance and exploit their own work cuts them out of the equation. and that’s a dangerous idea indeed.


    1. As I understand the situation, it seems to be the film press who are up in arms. I wondered for a long time why they would care, before coming up with the obvious reason of ‘they are being prompted by the studios’. Duh!
      We are miles and miles from volleyball now, but about auteurs being criticised, I was thinking about Slash the other day because of the criticism of his superbowl appearance. Why shouldn’t he do whatever the hell he wants? If people don’t like, he’ll either stop doing it, or keep doing because he wants to. Either way, it’s up to him. Just like it’s up to everybody else.


      1. Another example: At the Royal Albert Hall concert in 1966, a member of the audience who was angry with Dylan’s electric sound, shouted: “Judas!” to which Dylan responded, “I don’t believe you … You’re a liar!” Dylan turned to his band and said, “Play it fucking loud!”and they launched into “Like a Rolling Stone.” Some people just always do what they want to do, and to hell with everyone else. And they survive.


  4. Just read an article on Conan O’Brien. When he finished with the Tonight Show he did a Tour which was only advertised on his Twitter Account. It sold out quickly.


  5. A wise mentor once told me that Filmmaking was “a marriage of the aesthetic, the technical and the economic”. Not unlike sport.

    A guy with a twitter account and a lot of followers can change that equation.

    The old way is unsustainably retarded. We’ll be seeing a lot more filmmakers follow Smith.


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