Among the perks of his new fame: Smith got $5 million from Gramercy Pictures to make his next film. Not bad for a guy who dropped out of college and film school—and who funded Clerks''s $27,575 budget with credit-card advances, the sale of his comic book collection and a loan from his parents. Donald Smith, 58, a retired postal worker, and his wife, Grace, 45, are pleased by the success of the youngest of their three kids—they only wish the script had fewer expletives. "If it didn't have that vocabulary," says Donald, "I'd really like it." Still, his son knows why Clerks, despite limited distribution, is nearing $1 million at the box office: "It's a film for anyone who's ever had a crappy job."
Smith was inspired to escape his own career cul-de-sac by director Richard Linklater's wry 1991 hit about shiftless youths, Slacker. A frustrated comedy writer, Smith realized movies could be a vehicle for his musings. He promptly enrolled in a Vancouver, Canada, film school but left four months later. "We were learning more about moviemaking watching videos," says Smith's coproducer and film-school pal, Scott Mosier, 24. Smith admits he still has much to learn, but he knows enough to stay close to the source of his success. The title of his next film? Mall Rats.