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 Universal Peace and Harmony Through Bad Cinema. We know you're dying to read the whole thing, but after you've done that, like, eight or nine times, it might be handy to reference the individual parts. So here they are:
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 eighteen (formerly 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. Oh, and the voting audience, not we, are the final arbiters as to who takes the prize (so there's no possibility of anything being rigged).
Yes and no. We construct Offical Smithee Statuettes on an as-needed basis. Which is extremely seldom, since thus far precious few have come forth to claim their Smithee -- can't imagine why. In fact, as of this writing, there have been only two...both back in 1999.
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.
There is a rumor that since the name "Allen Smithee" has become too well-known, it has been officially retired by Hollywood. Nonsense! Even if the name itself is becoming less widely used, Mr. Smithee will simply assume a new one -- the spirit for which Allen Smithee stands will never die! Wherever a ghost writer pens a mediocre biopic, he'll be there. Wherever a comedian forgets a punchline, he'll be there. When a script gets manhandled by fifteen different writers and four directors -- he is 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 forget exactly where I was going with this, but you get the idea.
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 (The Director) 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 (the current 18 plus Worst Cover Copy, retired in 2017). 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, they 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 has been growing out of control ever since.
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 Ten Commandments (well, more like Ten Flexible Guidelines, really):
So, to summarize: Any reasonably obscure, not-previously-nominated, rated-less-than "X," live-action, non-comedy movie available for rental and shot by a motion-picture camera with an English (or Esperanto) soundtrack is eligible.
Well first, we watch a LOT of bad films, from lots of different sources. In addition to our own extensive private collections, fans send them to us, online subscription services often point us toward hidden nuggets, and yes, video stores do still exist in some areas (like mine) with Dumpsters they allow us to root through. After watching each film carefully (often several times, with clipboard and/or video editing software in hand), each of the Smith-ka-teers gets to submit several potential nomination clips 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. Internal debate ensues. At last a final list of nominations is determined and the 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 (usually sometime in Summer), the show video is presented in a gala ceremony which rivals the splendor of many fast-food franchise grand openings.
How do we endure 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.
First of all, let me state 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, currently 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 and a funny intro video, things generally take the following turn:
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 SPECIAL ceremony?
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 many times now. And if you think THAT'S tough, check out Ye UltraMegaMetas!
As for when and where you can see the MegaMetaSmithees, they're on years ending in 2 or 7. See more details below.
If you've read the above about the MegaMetaSmithee Awards, then you know that every five years, we pit the winners against each other.
But in 2018, we did the unthinkable: We pit the FIRST FIVE MEGAMETA WINNERS against each other! All the classic Smith-ka-teers were there to host, both in Columbus and Ann Arbor. It was Glorious! And it was dubbed Ye UltraMegaMetaSmithee Awards. Or YUMM, for short.
If you missed the YUMM Funn in 2018, then you'll have to wait until 2045 to see the next one! Gah!
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 has 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 thing at:
Smithee Awards XXIX: The Plague of Smithee
Greater Columbus Convention Center
Friday, October 9th -- 7pm to ~Midnight
In the early years, it was held in various (and increasingly swanky) locations in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Once upon a time, you could see a version of the ceremony there as well as at Origins (we were suckers for tradition). However, this is no longer the case.
If you miss the Twenty-Ninth Annual ceremonies (and shame on you), you can catch the THIRTIETH Annual Smithees next year at the same venue -- stay tuned to this page for details!
If you missed the 5th MegaMetaSmithees, well...I'm afraid you'll have to wait until the year 2022 to catch the 6th! And if you missed Ye UltraMegaMetaSmithee Awards...well...the second one of those will be in, let me see...Year 54 in 2045! Quite likely hosted by either my granddaughter or my disembodied brain in a jar.
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. When Greg talked in 1996 of doing the MegaMetaMegaMetaSmithees (later redubbed Ye UltraMegaMetaSmithees, or YUMM) for our Tarnished Silver Anniversary at Year 27, we thought he was crazy. He was. Greg's now on stronger medication, but nonetheless, the idea had slipped out and there wasn't a thing we could do about it. So YUMM we eventually did, in far-flung future year of 2018, pitting the winners of the first FIVE MEGAMETASmithees against each other in both Columbus and Ann Arbor. It's been quite a ride.
It is our hope that we'll be around even 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 who knows, perhaps elsewhere as well. 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.
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 harm anyone/thing, 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. And you have time. 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 -- email@example.com -- stating your intention to become a member of the Sublunary Sect of Schlock, and you'll (probably eventually) 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 simply join our Facebook Group! Click on the link and become Enlightened! At least to the ways of Smithee.
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!
There sure are. Our Epistle is spreading all the time. There are many others without whom the Smithees would not be as they are today. Please refer to our list of acknowledgements.
Sure. Here you go.