The Smithee Awards
Frequently-Asked Questions List
This page details everything Smithee: our humble beginnings, our rigorous selection process, and even our subtle plans for World Domination Through Bad Cinema. We know you're dying to read the whole thing, but after you've done that eight or nine times, it might be handy to reference the individual parts. So here they are:
What ARE "The Smithee Awards?"
The Smithee Awards, or "Smithees," is an annual ceremony which celebrates Bad Cinema. In principle, it's sort of the Anti-Oscars, though in practice it's more like the Anti-People's-Choice-Awards. A number of films are so "honored" each year, and there are nineteen categories in which a movie might win.
Some distinguishing characteristics to help you get the flavor of things: We limit ourselves to titles available on home video, and year-of-release is irrelevant. We clip the films for you; this means you're not forced to watch the whole movie, only the best bits. There are five clips per category, during which we tend to withhold comment and allow the film to speak for itself (though an occasional gut-reaction may slip out). Oh, and the voting audience, not we, are the final arbiters as to who takes the prize (so there can be no possibility of anything being rigged).
Not many people actually get a statuette, since thus far only two have claimed their Smithee. Can't imagine why.
Where did you get such a weird name?
The name "Allen Smithee" (various spellings) has been the film-industry standard pseudonym used in the credits for any director who wishes to have his name disassociated from a movie. This is done usually because the film has either strayed too much from the director's original vision, or because he suddenly realizes that his vision just plain stinks. In 1992, when Bryan Cassidy, with the help of Greg Pearson, came up with the idea for an awards ceremony glorifying Bad Movies, "The Smithee Awards" seemed truly appropriate.
Recent developments in Hollywood have spread the rumor that since the name "Allen Smithee" has become too well-known, it will be retired. Nonsense! Even if the name itself becomes less widely used, Mr. Smithee will simply assume a new one -- the spirit which Allen Smithee stands for will never die! Wherever a ghost writer pens a mediocre memoir, he'll be there. Wherever a comedian forgets a punchline, he'll be there. After the apocalypse, when the last light bulb in the last camera has burnt out and we have all reverted to cavepeople, he'll be there whenever someone smudges the yak blood on the painting they were doing... Actually, I forgot exactly where I was going with this, but you get the idea.
So how did this whole thing start?
Bryan Cassidy and Greg Pearson were avid role-playing gamers living and going to graduate school in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1991, Bryan discovered a new game from Stellar Games called It Came From The Late, Late, Late Show, in which the players take on the roles of Actors taking on the roles of characters in a B-movie. Already interested in schlock, Bryan began Directing many different highly successful "films" such as Mars Needs Sheep, The Second Husband of the Bride of Frankenstein, BUGZ, Invasion of the Intestine Eaters from Planet Xeno, and Vengeance of the Sea Chimps, to name but a few.
Concurrent with the gaming sessions were occasional (tri-weekly?) Cast Parties, when all the players would simply sit around watching gut-wrenchingly awful videos (for reference) and eating junk food. It was around this time that it occurred to Bryan and Greg (one of the game troupe's main stars) how great it would be if there were only a way to distill the best parts (i.e., worst parts) of these kinds of movies and compare them. Sort of a training film for B-movie actors. Hey--how about some kind of an awards ceremony?
Being just crazy enough to try it and using the Late Show rulebook as an inspiration, Bryan and Greg came up with 19 categories where movies tended to be Bad. They started to collect horrible videos and bugged their audio/visually-connected friends to help them edit the worst parts (i.e., best parts) together. After one or four all-nighters in late May, 1992, it transformed into an evening of friends, unhealthy snacks, and the most hilarious parts of the most hideous films we could stand.
That turned out so well, we were compelled to do it again the following year, though some claim that they never fully recovered from the first. Like some mutant hell-beast, the Smithee Awards have been growing out of control ever since.
What movies are eligible?
Let me first dispel what is perhaps the most common misconception about the Smithees: a movie does not have to have been released in the past year to be nominated. ANY film is eligible from any year, but in order to be considered for a Smithee, it must meet the following criteria:
- It must be a movie that has not been nominated in a previous year. Anyone who's curious can visit our Smithee Film Gallery to see a list of all the nominees to date.
- The same scene cannot be nominated for more than one category, although it is quite common for many different scenes within the same crappy film to be nominated.
- It is one of our primary purposes is to drag into the light of day those "gems" which may otherwise have gone unridiculed. Therefore, films which are deemed too "high-profile" and/or "high-budget" may be ineligible. This means it is unlikely that films such as Plan 9 from Outer Space, Highlander 2, and Batman and Robin will ever make it into the Smithee Awards, however deserving they may be. The general public already knows those films are Bad, and there's no need for us to beat a dead horse. Besides, we frequently find films that make the likes of Plan 9 look like Star Wars. The final decision is up to the Supreme Committee.
- Comedies, spoofs, farces, and other intentionally funny films are ineligible. Campy bits or attempts at light-heartedness in otherwise "serious" plots are acceptable. While opinions may differ as to what is or is not a "serious" film, the final decision rests with the Supreme Committee. Deal.
- It must be available somewhere on video (that is, a video store, where Joe Box Office can get at it). Your taping of the Movie of the Week doesn't count. Due to time considerations, we've had to leave out many hilarious parts to most Smithee films. We therefore like to encourage our viewers to seek out the rest of the films whose clips we present.
- The film must be rated either "R" or milder. In other words, pornos, X-rated films, and NC-17 movies are not eligible. Likewise, unrated films which, in the opinion of the Supreme Committee would be rated above "R" will be removed from consideration. Given the average caliber of the plotting/direction/acting/etc. in such films, this rule, in addition to maintaining the Smithees' accessibility to our younger enthusiasts, prevents the Smithees from turning into nothing but no-budget pornos, independent films, and home movies.
- An extension of the above rule, the movie must be shot on actual film rather than video, gum wrappers, or toilet paper.
- Since the Smithees aren't a foreign film festival, the film's soundtrack must be in either English or the international, artificial language of Esperanto. Dubbing is therefore acceptable, while subtitled movies are not.
- The Supreme Committee has the right to allow/disallow any film, change/alter any rule, or otherwise force its will as to the content and format of the ceremony, at whim.
So, to summarize: any reasonably obscure, not-previously-nominated, rated-less-than "X," non-comedy movie available at most local video stores and shot on film with a soundtrack in English (or Esperanto) is eligible.
How do you choose your movies?
Well first, we watch a LOT of bad films, usually rented from video stores. Then, each of the Smith-ka-teers (there are usually about five or six of us at any one time) gets to suggest two potential nominations for each category. From this pool of putrescence, a sub-committee called the Supreme Committee pares down the suggestions into five clips for each category, taking into account various factors such as availability, length, ease of portrayal, and the preference in which they were nominated. Once the final list of nominations is determined, clips must be gathered, ordered randomly, and assembled into a final production video that has higher quality (if not budget) than most of the movies it showcases.
Then, on Smithee Night (sometime in Summer), the tape is presented in a gala ceremony which rivals the splendor of many fast-food franchise grand openings.
How do we stand hours and hours of watching the same hideous films over and over (and over, and over) again? I compare it to arsenic or perhaps iocane powder. Taken in small doses, a tolerance can be built up such that one can later withstand a dosage that would kill ordinary human beings. In other words, we are total professionals: do not attempt this at home! Ah, what the heck--go ahead.
What happens at a Smithees Ceremony?
First of all, no audience members are ever harmed [physically] in the making of the Smithee Awards. Upon entering the theater, each member of the audience is given an Official Smithee Award Voting Kit, consisting of a pencil, a cheap pad of scratch-paper, and a sense of impending loss of sanity. After a brief introduction by Your Host, things generally take the following turn:
- The upcoming category is described as a colorful title slide is displayed, courtesy of our Computer Graphics Guru.
- The five nominated clips are shown from the Master Smithees Video (assembled by our Video Editing Department).
- There is a short period of recuperation.
- A "reminder" slide is displayed, showing the names of the clips with an associated number.
- Each audience member uses his/her Voting Kit to write down the number of the clip he/she feels most deserving of a Smithee Award.
- The Envelope Bimbo and her assistants go around and collect all the audience's ballots.
- The ballots are handed off to our Official Statistician, who, in return, gives the Bimbo the envelope containing the previous category's winner. The Statistician and his helper(s) will then get busy, frantically tallying the votes for the present category by the dim light of the next round of clips.
- The envelope is handed (with style) to Your Host, who (with flair) announces the winner of the previous category!
- In the event of a tie, the winner is determined by the highly scientific method of audience applause.
- Repeat until out of categories or until all the audience has gone.
What is this "MegaMetaSmithees" thing I keep hearing about?
Due to constraints of time and sheer volume of material, only so many films can be displayed during a year's ceremony. It was heartbreaking to us that we would never know if a superbly bad cinematic mess-terpiece like Star Crash is as "Bad" as, say, Erik Estrada's The Lost Idol. Then, we had an idea! A "normal" Smithee Awards uses five clips per category, right? So every five years, why not pit the previous years' winners head-to-head in a no-holds-barred grudge match?
Thus, the MegaMetaSmithee Awards were born. Let me tell you, even during a "regular" Smithees, the voting can be mind-shreddingly difficult. Choosing the winners from among the winners is even more impossible. But it has been done.
As for when and where you can see the MegaMetaSmithees, see below.
Where and when can I see these miraculous ceremonies?
In 1994, the huge gaming convention ORIGINS (® GAMA) got wind of us through our buddies at Stellar Games. They asked us to present the Smithees there and it was a smash sensation (Bryan even proposed to his wife on-stage during that first ceremony -- Awwww). The Smithee Awards now have a home at Origins. So drag your tasteless friends along someday and help them exercise their right to vote. They'll probably forgive you eventually. This year, we will do our things at:
Smithee Awards XVIII: Full Groan
Greater Columbus Convention Center
Friday, June 26th, 2009 -- 7pm to ~Midnight
However, in the early years, it was held in various (and increasingly swanky) locations in Ann Arbor, Michigan. You can see a version of the ceremony there still (we're suckers for tradition). This year, the venue is:
Smithee Awards XVIII: Full Groan
Room 3, Modern Languages Building
University of Michigan Campus
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Saturday, April 19th, 2009 -- 7pm to Midnight
If you miss the Eighteenth Annual ceremonies (and shame on you), you can catch the Nineteenth Annual Smithees next year in the same locales -- stay tuned to this page for details!
If you missed the 3rd MegaMetaSmithees, well...I'm afraid you'll have to wait until the year 2012 to catch the 4th! And that's the year predicted by both Nostradamus and the Mayan civilization to be the End of the World. Coincidence? I think not.
Where do the Smithees go from here?
That's anybody's guess. I suppose it was rather ambitious of us, at the genesis of the MegaMetaSmithee idea, even to consider that we'd still be doing this sort of thing for at least five years. Now Greg is even talking of doing the MegaMetaMegaMetaSmithees (or whatever we'll end up calling them) for our Tarnished Silver Anniversary at Year 27, when the winners of the last five MegaMetaSmithees can go head-to-head. (Greg's now on stronger medication, but nonetheless, the idea slipped out and there's not a thing we can do about it now.)
It is our hope that we'll be around that long and longer, steadily gaining in fame, fortune and power. Only time will tell. I suppose if we do insist on doing this year after year, we may gain some measure of notoriety, if only on the principle that if something hangs around long enough, people are bound to smell it and come investigate.
In the meantime, we will still be presenting our videos at Origins every year, and also in Ann Arbor (at least as long as there are willing Smith-ka-teers who still live there). It is our intention simply to continue bringing you a product with the same perseverance, attention to detail, and quality you've come to expect from The Smith-ka-teers. Maybe even occasionally better, sometimes, if we're not too busy.
What is the Sublunary Sect of Schlock and how can I join?
Well, first of all, it's not a cult or anything. Okay, it is a cult. At least it's not a bad cult. We won't ask for your money (yet), and we promise never to ask you to kill yourself or anyone/thing else, or to rendezvous with any spaceships. All we ask is just a little bit of your total devotion.
To what are we devoted? Bad Movies, of course! You have to promise to watch at least one a week. If you want to. Oh, and you must also be slavishly devoted to our Fearless Leader, Allen Smithee. But you only have to do what he says if you feel like it.
How do you join? Simply send e-mail to the following address -- firstname.lastname@example.org -- stating your intention to become a member of the SSoS, and you'll get an e-mail back confirming that you're now a member. That's all there is to it! It costs nothing but some of your time and, potentially, a little of your sanity. No newsletters (yet), no mailings, no selling your name to the "John Tesh for President" phone list. In fact, you'll be amazed at how little you get in return. But at least you'll have the peace of mind knowing that, if something truly earth-shattering happens in the realm of Smitheedom, you'll be informed. If we feel like it.
Alternatively, you could write snail-mail to:Sublunary Sect of SchlockPlease include a SASE. We collect them.
c/o Allen Smithee
302 Fairfax Ct.
Chesterbrook, PA 19087
Who are you people, anyway?
Well, as interest grew and the production of the ceremony got more technically advanced, more people jumped on the Smithee bandwagon and others left. In 1994, Bryan needed to communicate with the whole crew via e-mail. Creating a personal distribution list required a name for the group, so he came up with "The Smith-ka-teers," and it sorta stuck. The Smith-ka-teers include all the people involved in the selection, production, and presentation of the Smithee Awards ceremony. They're so awe-inspiring, they deserve their own page: meet The Smith-ka-teers!
Is there anyone else involved in this lunacy?
There sure are. Our Epistle is spreading all the time. The folks at Stellar are always willing to lend us a helping hand. Plus, there are many others without whom the Smithees would not be as they are today. Please refer to our list of acknowledgements.
Still have more questions?
The Smith-ka-teers can be reached via E-Mail at email@example.com.
© 2011-2017 Bryan D. Cassidy, Greg Pearson, Matthew Quirk, and Kevin Hogan. All Rights Reserved.