Its not that I’m not thankful–but I am making the executive decision to blog about what is on my mind, not according to hard and fast themes. Hell, I’m thankful that I can MAKE that executive decision. There.
So, recently, there has been some flap online about Alex Honnold doing a commercial for Citibank. Alex is the strongest, boldest traditional climber at this point (as many people may know from the segment on 60 Minutes in which he appeared). Alex is beyond the words I have to describe–saying that he is immensely talented is a colossal understatement. He does things that most people could not even conceive in their mind.
Keep in mind that Alex lives in a van for the better part of the year–and that minimalism is part of his mystique (if climbing insanely difficult routes thousands of feet off the deck with no rope wasn’t enough!) Now, as this guy breaks through into the view of popular culture, guess what…Haters are drinking the H8-o-Rade claiming that his involvement in a “big bank” commercial is tantamount to selling out.
My intent is not to necessarily discuss if Alex Honnold did in fact sell out but to examine the idea of selling out in general.
I am going to be living out of a car for a solid year. Managing a disease while living in the most minimalistic way possible (without completely defecting from modern society) while shooting a documentary. This is not the first time I have done this type of thing. Filming and making a movie, yes–but I have spent many many months living in seclusion from society and enjoying the oft romanticized life of a wanderer.
As of this moment our only support is from people–individuals who believe in our mission and what we are attempting to demonstrate–but we are wrestling with the possibility of attracting corporate sponsors. With corporate sponsors comes greater budgetary freedom but greater responsibility to promote products rather than simply telling the story as it is without any other tangential objectives. So where is the balance? Isn’t it better to be able to make a better movie? To be able to show it to more people? Where is that point of diminishing returns–where your increase in funding no longer makes a better movie but simply enriches the film makers at the expense of the story.
Perhaps the sellout card is played a bit unfairly. Consider the MILLIONS of dollars that pro athletes like the Manning brothers or Michael Jordan are known (and loved?) for. No one claims they have sold out. That’s just part of who they are. Then someone like Honnold comes along, literally risking his life on a daily basis (doing things that would make elite olympic athletes SH*T themselves in horror) and when he has the opportunity to make a fraction of the money of other “pro-peers” suddenly he’s sold out?
I do believe that people can sell out–its just a question of where the line is. I am not sure if Alex Honnold (or anyone else) has done that. There is a line that every artist, athlete etc. must establish in their own conscience to determine how much compromise is acceptable.
Uncompromising people are easy to admire if they are one of the rare types who are never wrong–but it’s not uncommon for uncompromising people to really just be narcissistic asshats that die alone and misunderstood. Quite the dilemma that I hope to someday face!