Kevin Smith

Ever since his emergence onto the national stage, writer-director Kevin Smith became the idol of aspiring filmmakers everywhere when his independent feature "Clerks" (1994) - made for a startlingly low sum of $27,575 - earned awards at both the Cannes and Sundance film festivals and went on to become a wild success in limited art house release. Self-referential to a fault, Smith used his films to expand his fictional universe populated with a regular cast of characters who eventually crossed over into other mediums, including comic books and an animated television series. Smith was in top form with his third feature, "Chasing Amy" (1997), though he took critical hits for later work like "Dogma" (1999) and "Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back" (2001), both of which were admired by rabid fans, but panned by the public at large. Always assured with slacker characters, raunchy dialogue, "Star Wars" (1977) references and endless penis jokes, Smith did occasionally step outside his comfort zone - as he did with "Jersey Girl" (2004) - though such efforts were usually followed up with returns to more of the same, marking Smith as a champion of the Gen-X crowd, but often out of touch with wider audiences.