I was recently asked a question about the theory and the possible downside of Zen Filmmaking. My answer pretty much sums up thoughts on the subject. This was my response:
Zen Filmmaking is really about freedom – it’s about freeing up the entire process of filmmaking and allowing the inspiration of the moment to be the only guide. As Donald G. Jackson and I both agreed, “All the stories have already been told,” so why bother attempting to tell a story, with a limited budget, that has been far better depicted in a high-dollar film? But, more to the point, to go into a filmmaking project with a formalized script leaves the filmmaker left simply trying to reenact what is written upon the page instead of allowing spontaneous, true artistic creativity to be the guide in a film’s creation.
The downside to Zen Filmmaking, (if you can call it that), is that there is little story structure. Some finished Zen Films end up with a much more coherent storyline than others. But, story structure is not the sourcepoint for creation in Zen Filmmaking. As a Zen Film is formulated at the editing stage, you are never quite sure what you will end up with. For some filmmakers they love this freedom. But, for the average filmmaker and for the typical movie going audience, they may not.
Zen Filmmaking is about art and spiritually-based artistic expression, while waiting for those moments of cinematic satori. It is not about structure, nor is it about catering to what a particular member of the audience may be expecting or looking for. Zen Filmmaking is cinematic freedom created by capturing moving images.