‘Clerk’ documentary director Malcolm Ingram talks interviewing Stan Lee, being friends with Kevin Smith

Noah Levine

“Clerk,” which premiered at South by Southwest 2021, is a documentary revolving around the life of iconic filmmaker, actor, public speaker and comic book fan Kevin Smith. The film features interviews with a plethora of famous filmmakers and actors, detailing Smith’s crazy rise through Hollywood starting with his first film “Clerks.” The Daily Texan spoke with director Malcolm Ingram (and longtime friend of Smith) about the documentary process. 

The Daily Texan: How did you get to know Kevin Smith?

Malcolm Ingram: I met Kevin in 1994, I was working for a magazine called Film Threat. He was touring with his movie “Clerks” and we met at the Toronto Film Festival. Basically, we got along and shared the same sensibilities. I did an on-set on “Mallrats,” a cover story and then we ended up saying friends. He helped me make my first movie. It’s just been a relationship that we kind of maintained over 25 years. 

DT: What was the most surprising thing you learned about Kevin while making the documentary? 

MI: I was very impressed with how impressive Kevin’s mark is on pop culture. When you are sitting there in a room talking to Stan Lee who is basically God. Hearing Stan Lee say those things about Kevin, about how important he is. On one half, Kevin’s my friend but on the other hand you have to stand back and admire somebody who Stan Lee will talk about with such reverence. 

DT: What was your favorite interview from the documentary?

MI: I was very happy to get Richard Linklater. That was one that I felt was really important to get. It was a real privilege to get to talk to all the people that I did. You know, Penn Jillette; talking to him was great. Sitting there with Scott Mosier in that interview was great. There was a lot of really great opportunities to talk with some incredible people. The whole thing was an embarrassment of riches. 

DT: How did you keep your cool around all of those celebrities?

MI: Yeah, it’s hard. Luckily I kind of kept it together.

DT: What was the original plan for the scope of the documentary? 

MI: It was always going to be a look back at the 25 years. I wanted to fill it with as much as possible, I wanted it to be very comprehensive. Having somebody who has been around for a lot of this story, that I had a particular kind of advantage. I knew the story that needed to be told … It was a great experience. 

DT: I don’t know if you want to answer this, but what’s your favorite Kevin Smith movie?

MI: It changes. “Chasing Amy” was a movie that really impressed me. “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” is just really funny. I think Jason Mewes is really great in it. The thing about Jason Mewes is that he might’ve started off being Jay, but Jason Mewes is not Jay. That’s a performance, and it’s an incredible performance … (The film is) like an episode of “Seinfeld.” You forget how many of Kevin’s famous bits are in that movie … There’s all these little special moments like the “Good Will Hunting” scene. I just love how many jokes are in that movie. 

DT: Were you always only into documentary filmmaking, or do you enjoy narrative filmmaking as well?

MI: I started off doing narrative and I sucked at it. I found a passion for (documentary filmmaking). It was easier to tell stories that I wanted to tell. The crews are small. I would like to maybe go back to making narratives at some point but documentaries are where my heart is right now.