The lesson of Sundance hits was that a young filmmaker didn’t have to be in L.A. or NYC to get started. As long as you had something new to say, you could make your movie in the Quick Stop Grocery in Leonardo, N.J. That’s where Kevin Smith shot his feature debut, for a chintzy $27,575. It’s pretty much just a long conversation between a convenience-store guy and his pal from the video store; they talk dirty but think long and wistfully about the life that is passing them by. “That seems to be the leitmotiv of your life: ever backing down.” Their customers and girlfriends are just as lost, goofy and irrelevant. Clerks, which got picked up by Miramax and earned more than $3 million at the wickets, pegged Smith as the Chekhov of slacker life — or maybe the Preston Sturges — a promise he fulfilled with Chasing Amy and Dogma.
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