“Hey, if they want to throw a couple million at me to direct ‘Wild Wild West 2,’ I’m not going to complain … even if it is crap.”

This was said to me by a young man who has dreams of working in Hollywood as a “big-time” director. It’s obvious he has the right mindset for that work environment, but I still can’t help but cringe whenever I think about how little he cares for what I like to call The Big Picture.

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you are involved in the art of filmmaking on one level or another. You may only be a fan, or you could be a screenwriter. What I’m about to delve into primarily concerns the people involved in the process of creation (and it applies to any artistic endeavor), but “consumers” of film might find something of interest in it, too.

Folks, we live in a country where everything you have is for sale. Your time, your imagination, and even your sperm is considered a commodity that should be available to whomever will pay. There are two things, however, that once sold lose their value immediately — your integrity and reputation. You sell out those things and they become worthless … even if you have good reasons for doing so. (Witness the criticisms Henry Rollins got after his infamous Gap magazine ad years ago, or the disdain shown for George Carlin and his Fox show.)

If you sacrifice your vision for money, people like me aren’t going to respect you or the work you do because we will always suspect that your heart isn’t in it. We will wonder what price got you to bite, and we’ll think your work has absolutely no merit in the grand scheme of things. You may want a nice house and car, but what you give up to get it says more about you than the material goods do. If you sell your artistic soul in order to get a new pool, how can you expect anyone to respect you?

Granted, the message we get as we grow up in America is that money means more than anything else. We are told that those with money deserve respect and adulation. However, it’s not the money we’re supposed to respect, it’s the way it was made. Drug dealers make a ton of money, but we are told that drug dealing is not an acceptable way to earn a living. (In all honesty, however, I respect drug dealers more than someone like a kiss-a*s executive.) So there is a value system attached to how we view one’s riches. That system is not supposed to include integrity and reputation, though. Those aren’t considerations, but they should be.

Artists get little respect in this society. Entertainers are treated like Greek gods, but artists are pitied, if anything. So the question to future filmmakers out there should be: Why would you care about the values of a system that doesn’t care about you? Make the films you want to make and don’t be seduced into making garbage for money. If you’re hired to direct a junk film, it will be your name that is remembered, not the names of those who hired you. Nobody cares about them. It’s understood they have no integrity. You, on the other hand, are the artist. You should at least have some self-respect.

Perhaps it’s just some crazy dream, but I long for a day when studios can’t find directors and writers to make sequels to pabulum like “Monster-In-Law.” I want to see a studio system that gives creators the leeway they need in order to create wonderful films that elevate not only the art of cinema, but society itself. I want that young guy who was almost drooling at the prospect of directing what would ultimately wreck him to say, “No, the ‘Wild Wild West 2’ isn’t something I’m even remotely interested in. You can shove it up your a*s, and good luck finding a director for it because it’s pure s**t.”

I doubt that day will ever come, though. There are too many people too concerned with money and not at all concerned about what they leave behind to ever make that a reality. These are people with little minds and little plans, and I’m tired of seeing the rotten fruits of their lack of labor at the local cineplex. Maybe they realize they’ve sold their soul one time too many and now have nothing left to offer, so they are grabbing what they can before society turns its collective back on them and forces them into an early retirement of corporate propaganda films and local used car commercial gigs. Truth be told, I wouldn’t hire them for that, either. By doing what they do, they prove to us that they are simply w****s. You don’t hire w****s to make your company look good. You hire them for cheap blow jobs in an alley.

It’s your choice, young filmmakers. W***e or artist? Blow jobs or films that change the world? Aim high or aim low? The decision is yours to make and yours alone. I hope you choose wisely.

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