Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith on Movies, Porn, and Working in Video Stores in the 1980s

Photo: Steve Granitz/Getty Images

In Tom Roston's upcoming book I Lost It at the Video Store (a play on Pauline Kael's classic I Lost It at the Movies), a gaggle of filmmakers share stories of their lives as video-store clerks. It should come as no surprise that the two most quotable participants are over-caffeinated movie buff Quentin Tarantino and comic connoisseur Kevin Smith. Check out a few tidbits from the upcoming book, via Entertainment Weekly, below. (Then take our Tarantino Superfan Quiz and see how well you know the filmmaker.)

QUENTIN TARANTINO: I found Video Archives in Manhattan Beach and I thought it was the coolest place I had ever seen in my life.

[In 1985] the owner asked if I wanted to have a job there. He didn’t realize he was saving my life. And for three years, it was really great. The case could be made that it was really too terrific. I lost all my ambition for the first three years. I stopped trying to act and trying to direct.

I could definitely push the stuff that I liked, or what I thought was interesting and challenging. For the most part, I tried to gear it for the customer. A housewife comes and, say, she wants something. I am 24 and she’s 54, so I’m not going to try to give her Eraserhead or Forbidden Zone or some kung fu movie. If she likes Tom Hanks? I am not going to steer her toward Bachelor Party, but I could very well steer her toward Nothing in Common. “Have you seen Nothing in Common with Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason?” I was pretty good that way.

KEVIN SMITH: There was porn at RST. And it was stocked, son. Blockbuster never did porn, and so the mom-and-pops stayed in business with their porn rooms. Watching people interact with the porn room was awesome. Once you get comfortable with people, they wouldn’t do this dance, “Oh, what’s in the kids’ section? Ah, this looks good.” Pick up a drama. And then saunter back to the porn room and reach for the filthiest thing on the planet and then have to bring it up to the counter with Turner & Hooch. It was one of the particular joys of the video store.

Why bother accruing a lifetime of debt to go to film school when you can just work at a mom-and-pop porn hub?