For local comedian James Nghiem, doing a shot-for-shot remake of Kevin Smith’s influential indie comedy of 1994, Clerks, just sounded like a fun thing to do.
“I really like the Oklahoma film and comedy scene,” Nghiem said. “I wanted to do a project that wasn’t too heavy and involved a lot of local people.”
Clerks Too, which debuted today on YouTube, was in part inspired by an unauthorized remake of Star Wars that he and his friends saw online.
“I was looking at the production quality of the video and I thought, ‘I could do that!’” Nghiem said.
Not only can the film be viewed for free, but fans can download the soundtrack for free as well, featuring covers of Clerks’ original cuts by local bands Shitty/Awesome, Depth & Current, Brine Webb, Luna Moth and more.
Josh Lathe, who plays a character who is a combination of himself and Clerks protagonist Dante, said that he and his friends came to the no-budget film with few resources.
“We were doing it with no money and no experience,” Lathe said. “James had never directed anything this massive before. Most of the people we were working with were stand-up comedians, so they’d never really been in front of a camera before. It was kind of a learn-as-you-go experience.”
They soon discovered that shooting would turn out to be a bigger undertaking than they thought.
“We had shot about half ... and James was looking at it and we decided that it wasn’t that good!” Lathe said with a laugh. “It had already taken us a year to shoot what we had, and if we wanted to make the December deadline, we had to do something different.”
Nghiem and his friends decided to change their approach and go “meta.” He and the other actors drew from the experiences they had while shooting and what was going on in their lives at the time to create a more unique film, Lathe said.
The end result runs 37 minutes, and Nghiem said a YouTube release is ideal for this type of project.
“I figured with YouTube, I’m safe,” he said. “It’s free; I’m not monetizing it. And I figured I could get more viewers this way.”
Although Nghiem has a passion for film, he said that stand-up comedy is where his true passion lies.
“I’m writing another movie right now, but I’ll always feel more of a comedian than anything else,” he said. “I also play drums in a band with my brother, but I think I’m a better comic than a musician!”
He said that living in Norman has contributed to his drive to create and entertain.
“Growing up here, sometimes it feels like there’s nothing to do,” Nghiem said. “Then I realized that you have to make things happen, not just wait for people to come here. Instead of just sitting around, I could get people interested, get people excited. That’s what I want to do.”
Lathe said that the best part about working on Clerks Too was getting to work with such fun, creative people.
“It’s a great new experience for all of us,” Lathe said. “Plus, it’s a great way to kill a Saturday and Sunday afternoon.” —Alyssa Grimley