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Beginnings: The Breakthrough Moment

Kevin Smith, Director

“I looked around. ‘Where can I shoot a movie?’”

Smith in front of Qwik Stop, where he had worked, during the filming of ‘Clerks,' 1994.  

The last real job I had was at a convenience store. I worked at this convenience store called Qwik Stop in Leonardo, New Jersey — I worked at a series of convenience stores, and that was the last one. One day, I looked around — I was listening to an interview on Howard Stern with Robert Rodriguez, and he was talking about making El Mariachi. He said when I was writing it, I just wrote whatever I had in my life — whatever I had access to. I didn’t write above, or write about a spaceship. For El Mariachi I knew I had access to a bus, to a guitar case, and to a turtle. He’s like, I wrote all that into the movie. So I was sitting there in a convenience store listening to that, and I was like, “Wow, that’s kind of tight — all you have to do if you want to make a movie, make a film, figure out a story nobody else has told but, like Robert Rodriguez said, work with what you got.” I wasn’t going to set something in outer space. So I looked around and thought, What do I got? Where can I shoot a movie? I’ve never seen a less likely location to shoot a movie. God, I hate this job. If only I could turn it into something better. It took me weeks to figure out — Oh, you could shoot a movie in a convenience store. Nobody’s ever done that before.

Every once in a while you’d see a convenience store in a movie, and I’d get very excited, as a convenience-store employee — “Holy shit, we’re practically famous!” Nobody had ever set a whole movie in a convenience store, though — nobody had done that, nobody was stupid enough to do that. So I said, in order to get out of this convenience-store job, I’ll make a movie about doing the convenience-store job. And in doing so, it changed my life, inasmuch as I don’t work at a convenience store, but I never stopped talking about it. I made a movie where I turned a motherfucker into a walrus — you’d imagine people would be like, “Clerks, what?” But from now until the end of time, I’ll always be talking about that convenience store.