Saturday, July 10, 2021

William Smith: Another Great Loss

 

By Scott Shaw

 

            Sadly, the great actor, William Smith has passed away. For those of us who are old enough or for those of us who have watched the evolution of independent cinema, we know that Bill has appeared in so many films and TV shows that it is almost impossible to believe.  In the 1960s and into the 1970s he was ultimate badass. He was in so many biker films; it’s not even funny. But, before that he was in westerns. From there he went on to co-star with Clint Eastwood, he fought Kwai Chang Caine in the original TV series Kung Fu, he even took over for Dano on the final season of Hawaii 5-O. The man had a great career!

            I was lucky enough to have worked with him a few times. The first time was on, The Roller Blade Seven. I so remember the night Don Jackson and I went to meet him to talk to him about being in the film. He was homeless then; couch surfing at the home of one actor or another. When we asked him to be in the film, he actually cried, as he was so happy to be offered work.

            When we took him to the set, several days later, his constant mantra was, “Can I go home now, daddy?   Back then, he drank a lot. He had brought an entire gallon jug of vodka with him to the set and continued to drink from it throughout the day. None of this changed his performance, however. He was great.

            We shot with him for a few days on the Roller Blade Seven. Each time he as on the set he brought that great William Smith presence.

            I also got to act with Bill and direct him in my film, The Rock n’ Roll Cops. This story is told elsewhere, but the night we were to work with him, Don was in one of his major fuck with everyone sort of moods.  Don produced the film and shot it for me. Anyway, we had rented a suite at the Bonaventura Hotel in DTLA as a filming location. Don invited everyone to show up. And, I mean everybody. …Telling them they all would be in the film.

            Don and I had been messing around all day and well into the night, when we finally got there, and saw an insane number of people in the suite. Don immediately screamed and yelled and threw and general fit; throwing everyone out. He then fired the guy who was managing the talent, blaming him for allowing so many people to show up. Bill just sat there in disbelief while all this was going on. Don then decided that he didn’t like the fact that Bill had brought along his then girlfriend, later wife, Joanne along.  But, he didn’t have the balls to tell Bill he didn’t want her there. So, without me knowing, he told Bill I didn’t want her there. But, I was fine with it. I liked her! I noticed she was gone and I asked Bill what happened to her? He said, “Don told me you don’t want her here so she went down to the bar.”  When I told him that wasn’t the case, he got up and stormed into bedroom where Don was preparing the camera, jumped on him, and put his hands around his neck in a chokehold. It was just a joke, as he liked Don, but it was a funny sight to see, as he did all that with that pure William Smith intensity. After that, Bill gave a great performance!

            Another funny experience I had with Bill was when he invited Don and I to a private screening of a film he was in. Don also invited another of his friends, who I also knew. Anyway, the film was so bad, and Don’s friend kept making jokes and cracking up throughout it, which caused me to also laugh through most of the film. Believe me when I tell you, the movie was bad. After the film, we are talking to Bill outside, he stated, “Who were those assholes who were laughing, I’d like to kick their ass.”  Of course, this just caused us to smile. 

            With the amount of work Bill did, his legacy is set in stone, or should I say on celluloid. …This, even though much of his later work was shot on video.

            Overall, he was a great guy, a true badass, a great actor, and a very nice person. As I sadly said not so long ago, in regard to the passing of Julie Strain, the Zen Filmmaking family keeps getting smaller. The original team is almost all gone.

            As for Bill, it’s sad. He was a true talent!

            Rest in Peace my Zen Filmmaking brother.

 

Copyright © 2021—All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Zen Film DVDs

As of 4 June 2021 Amazon.com will no longer be distributing films on DVD from Independent Film Production Companies like Light Source Films. We are now offering our DVD's via a new distribution company. Here's the link:

The Zen Film DVD Shop

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Zen Filmmaking Tribe Just Got Smaller

 By Scott Shaw

            Sadly, Julie Strain passed away a couple of days ago. She died from complication from dementia that she had been suffering from for the past several years. She believed she got dementia from a traumatic brain injury she incurred when she was in her early twenties after being thrown from a horse. Scary… Julie was four years younger than me and I too suffered a traumatic brain injury when I was in my early twenties when a car hit me while I was riding my motorcycle fracturing my skull in numerous places.

            I always liked Julie. She was one of those very nice, very fun people. We spent a lot of time filming Zen Films at her home in Bel Air when she was married to Kevin Eastman. It was a great place. We used to call it the, “Turtle Mansion,” as Kevin is the co-creator to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There was this gigantic painting of Julie that hung on the wall of the living room. I think that painting and its placement truly depicted who she truly was.

            Julie was a talented person full of all kinds of fun and even crazy creative ideas. She was pretty much high all day long. She would get up, wake and bake, then smoke dope periodically all day long. I never smoked with her. I don’t like the high, though she always offered. But, some of our cast and crew did partake from time to time. Then, come eight o’clock, she was off to bed. Had to get her beauty sleep.

            Her house was always filled with the famous and the beautiful. The list of friends she had was astonishing. When I was there we would be sitting around with some of the A-list of Hollywood royalty or prominent porn stars.

            During the time I was working with Julie she had a very high-end publicist. Via this pathway she invited Don and I to be on a couple of big TV shows she did. I remember this one time she was at an event called, “Dragonfest,” back in the late 90s. This was a martial arts meet and greet thing. I was invited, as obviously I’ve written a lot of stuff on the martial arts and have been involved forever but Julie and Kevin also had a signing table there that year. It was crazy, sure people knew about the Ninja Turtles and were waiting to get a signed photo of Kevin with the Turtles but most did not even know what Julie had or had not done but there was a mile long line to get her autographed photo. She was quite a presence. This, when just the year before, Kevin and I walked around the event and I had to tell people who he was. Kevin is also a great human being!!! I was always so thankful for what they both brought to our productions.

            Julie was truly a one of a kind individual. With her passing, gone is one more piece of the puzzle to the original Zen Filmmaking troupe. First was Don, (Donald G. Jackson), then Karen (Black), Z’Dar, Conrad (Brooks), and now Julie. There is almost none of the original team left. Very sad! Julie was a great, beautiful (inside and out), talented individual and will truly be missed.

 

Copyright © 2021—All Rights Reserved


Friday, December 18, 2020

Movies and the Things You Never Know

 By Scott Shaw

 

            For anyone who has ever created a movie, or any creative project for that matter, there are things that take place that only the people who were there truly understand. For everyone else, it is simply speculation, projection, or guessing, at best. This is why I forever find it troubling when someone describes what took place on the set of one of my films when they were not on the set. They don’t know! Yet, there they are, telling the world what they believed happened. But, it did not.

            People believe. That is one of the realities of life. They hear and they think it to be true. But, look around at life. Look at all the things you have listened to. Think of all the things you have heard. How many of those things were the truth spoken by someone who lived it verses how many of those words were simply someone’s interpretation of what they believed might have happened? Me, personally, whenever I hear someone talking about something they have no true experiential knowledge about, I tune out. Why listen to them? They know nothing!

            I think to some of the movies I have created or been a part of. There is the completed product. There is what the audience sees. There is what the critics interpret and judge. But, so many times I am confronted with the fact that what people construe, what people think they know about what took place behind the scenes is so far off the mark that it is almost impossible to calculate.

            I can think of one film that I have rarely spoken or written about to use as an example…

            In the world of independent filmmaking, there has long been this seeming need to bring people onto a project that have some name recognition. This is most commonly done in order to hopefully boost potential sales.  I have never been a fan of this process. For me, as a filmmaker, I have always been much more happy to introduce the unknown actor to the world. Yes, in some cases, I have become friends with, “Name talent,” so that is a completely other ballgame. But, “The Name,” for name sake, in independent filmmaking, has always proved problematic.

            I remember my Zen Filmmaking brother, Donald G. Jackson, was at the helm of this one film we created. The shooting title for the film was, “It’s Showtime,” but Don never liked that title so I changed it to, “Strip Club Nights.” The script was written by Mark Williams (RIP).

            Don was always a bit Star Struck. Me, growing up in Hollywood and all that… …Seen it all before… Anyway, Don decided to cast Don Stroud. Great guy! Great choice! Plus, the actor who become famous from the movie, Grease and the TV show, Taxi, Jeff Conway for the, “Name talent,” of the film. Now, by this point in time, Jeff had a sorted past and was known to be a problem on the set. Yet, Don wanted him even though I questioned his judgment. On the set, it’s time for Jeff to come on and do his part. He refused to leave his trailer even though he was a paid a lot of money to be there. Everyone was trying to coax him out, to little avail. The guy was obviously high as that is what he did. Don even ended up being a totally dick and yelling at the great actor Don Stroud due to his frustration. If I was Don (Stroud) I would have told him, “Fuck you,” and walked off the set. But, he was a total professional. Conway, on the other hand…

            Anyway, Don finally talked Conway out of his trailer. He delivered a piss-poor performance, constantly forgetting his lines, but that is what you get when you hire a person of his mentality. He wanted to be treated like a star. He wanted to be pampered and babied. He was in the film, he was a, “Name talent,” but at what cost?

            Now, this is a very obscure film. I could go into what happened with the master copies of it and all that but, again, that is just something that if you weren’t there you would never truly understand. In the past, I have been pointed to people who actually viewed the film and have spoken about this film. All I can take is a moment or two of that kind of stuff because immediately I realize they are totally wrong in what they say. They weren’t there! They don’t know! Yet, they talk…

            So, what is all this discourse about? It is about the fact that what YOU live is what YOU live. If you have not lived it, why are you even thinking about it? It was not your life. What you think you know about it is only speculation at best. Why waste your Life Time contemplating anything that you were not a true part of?

            Life is about experiencing. Life is about living your life. If you are attempting to live your life via the doings of someone else, all you have done is to turn your life over to them. You are attempting to live your life through them. What is accomplished by interpreting the experiences of someone else? …Experience you have not and cannot ever truly understanding.

            Live your own life. Experience what you experience. Don’t attempt to chart the anything of anyone else because you were not there. Don’t waste your time attempting to understand it, because you can’t. All you can do is live your own moment as fully as possible. This is the place/the space; the state of mind where living a GOOD life is formed. Forming the Pure Mind is not out there. …Thinking you know and telling the world about something that you never personally experienced. It is found by living a good life as inquisitively and as positively as possible.

            Live your own life. Talk about what you know. Speak about what you have personally experienced. Then your truly knowledge, your inner-realization may be rightly exhibited to the world.

 

Copyright © 2020—All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Filmmaking: Keeping the Artist from Creating Art

By Scott Shaw

As most of the people reading this blog know, I’ve made a lot of movies. Whether or not the people reading this blog have seen any of them, well that’s a different story…
People often ask me, (because I’ve made so many films), “How long does it take you to make a movie?” The answer is, I have it down to a science. If I have a location, a cast, and a crew, I can shoot a movie in a couple of days, have it edited, and sound tracked in a week or so. So, within a month, the whole film can be in the can. And, in some cases, already released.
The reason I can do this is that I do everything. I do not delegate the jobs. I always have ideas, my equipment is ready to go, I am always working on new soundtracks, and I keep my software for editing functional and up to date.
The problem is, the devil is in the details, as the old saying goes. Ever since 9/11 it has become more and more difficult to find free locations to shoot at. Everybody thinks that you are up to something bad if you show up with a camera. And, you do get shut down. So, my lack of locations, in recent years, has truly hindering my filmmaking.
An ideal and somewhat amusing example of this happened to me when I went to shoot some stock footage in the L.A. Harbor. I didn’t even have a cast or a crew. I was by myself. I was grabbing some shots and The National Guard drove up and before I knew it I was in those plastic handcuff things. I thought I was on my way Gitmo. They were telling me, “We are at war...” Luckily, they checked me out and figured out I was cool, no threat, and just a filmmaker. They let me go with just a stern warning.
The other problem is, as I have detailed in so many articles and books, here in L.A., everybody thinks that they are going to be a star tomorrow. And, this mindset has continued to get worse. So, there is a lot of misplaced ego floating around.
This is not just the case for actors and actresses, as you may expect, but for crew, as well. I cannot tell you how many times I have had an entire shoot day ruined by the cameraman. Yet, they remain all full of themselves.
Though I am personally a very meticulous cameraman, as I appear in many of my films, I need someone to shoot some of the scenes.
From this, the question is often asked, “Why do I appear in many of my own films?” Again it goes back to egos.
With everybody thinking they are going to be a star tomorrow, you never know when somebody is going to get their panties in a bunch and walk off the set. With me in the film, I know I am going to show up and, therefore, can fix any problems with the story if some cast member leaves.
Outside of the industry, people don’t realize all of these subtle particulars. This is how producers get people to invest in a film. Because somebody doesn’t know what to expect, they expect nothing.
I know producers are always promising the investor everything: how much money they will make, how they are part of the greater good, how great the cast, crew, and director is. They are told they will get an executive producer credit and they pull out the checkbook. Everybody wants to be a part of the film industry, don’t they? But, these words are all bullshit. Nobody makes big money on little films. Well, at least not the investors. Maybe the distributors…
The whole essence of my filmmaking style, Zen Filmmaking, is freedom and art. It is about removing as many obstacles as possible from the filmmaking process. But, the unfortunate reality is that times have changed. So, I do not make near as many movies as I could. Or, as some believe, I should. And, it’s sad because all I need is place to shoot a film and a few competent and willing participants. I don’t even need or want money.
By the way, I never take money from investors. It just makes everything too messy...
So, you see, every realm of art has it problems and its own set of unique circumstance that keeps the artist from creating. How long it takes for me to make a film is not the issue. The issue is, do I have a place and a posse.

Copyright © 2011—All Rights Reserved

Originally from the Scott Shaw Blog

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

You Wanta Make a Movie?

 By Scott Shaw

I’ve been professionally in the film game for about thirty years. In that time I have witnessed a lot. There has been a lot of changes in technology, audience reception for films, and the attitudes that people bring to the table when they wish to become part of a project.
I have met some really great people in association with filmmaking. People who are a pleasure to be around and great to work with. I have also met a lot of not so nice people—people who bring their own weird agenda to the table and/or do some really uncool things on and off of the set. But, that’s just the nature of the beast.
One of the main things I have realized, in all of these years of filmmaking, is that most people do not want to partake of the craft. Sure, many-many people have dreams of being a filmmaker but very few step up to the plate and actually conceive of a project, learn how to actualize it, and follow it through to completion. There are a lot more people who simply want to walk on a set, spit out a few line, and walk away a star. That’s great! Good for them. But, not many of them are going to get very far in their quest.
Being based here in Hollywood, there are all of these people who come here with the dream. I have spoken about this subject in a lot of my articles and books on the subject. Many of them believe that if this certain famous person could do it, so can they. Sure, that’s a great belief to have. Unfortunately, of the literally millions of people who come here, maybe one in that group makes a name for themselves. The rest are left going to auditions (if they are lucky enough to get an agent) for roles they will never get or being an extra.
All this being said, early on in my immersion into the film business I realized that the true art of filmmaking is behind the camera. Actually creating the film. There you possess some control over what is actually being produced. There, at least you can create a something, as opposed to hoping for something to be created around you.
Throughout my years in the film business, I have actively tried to help other filmmaker actualize their dream. I offer people crew positions when I have them available. I give them advice when they ask me for it and so on. I have even offered to create a movie with some people who seem to be very driven. But, what I have experienced more times than not is, even the person who really talks the game, even the person who really expresses the desire, even the person in film school, when push comes to shove and I say, “Let’s make a movie,” they always find a reason not to. What happens to their career? I don’t know. They never do anything. But, the reality is, it did not have to turn out that way. They could have joined forces with me (or anybody else) made a movie and got their name out there.
Sure, as stated, there have been a lot of people who have worked with me over the years. They did something with their filmmaking dreams. They achieved something. But, there have also been so many more that have not.
Yes, yes, periodically people ask me to finance their films. But, I don’t do that. I have seen way to many people take money from whomever and never finish what they started. Dreams and promises mean nothing in this business.
As a personality, I am frequently asked to be an actor in other people’s films. Like I always semi joking tell them, “The only bad movies I’m in are my own.” But, the truth is, I am an active member of the SAG/Aftra Union so I cannot be in a nonunion film—which most indie films are. But, I am asked by the people who are already out there doing it. They are living their dream. They are actualizing their creative vision. If they ask me to help them behind the scenes, I am happy to do. And, that’s the thing, particularly in the realm of indie filmmaking, you help each other out. From this, new realities of cinema are created.
So, what am I saying here? …Particularly in this day and age, there are filmmaking opportunities everywhere. You can make a movie with your phone! You simply have to have the fortitude to actually do it. Sure, dreams are great. But, if you don’t make your dreams your reality then they are nothing more than something that is locked inside your head. …Lost forever inside of your brain.
If you want to make a movie, make a movie! Reach out to people that you believe can help you and get it done!
All creation is art. It doesn’t matter if it is loved or hated by the masses. Who cares what they think? The only criteria is, if you get it done, it becomes a something and from this you have become something, a creator.
Create. Make art. Make Cinema.

Copyright © 2019—All Rights Reserved
From the Scott Shaw Blog.

Friday, September 6, 2019

What Would You Do To Be In a Movie?

By Scott Shaw
I believe it goes without saying that pretty much everyone has, at one time or another, dreamed of being a movie star. Growing up in Hollywood, I saw all kinds of nonsense, related to that issue, throughout my youth. When I got into filmmaking in my thirties, I witnessed it from an entirely different level. There/then, I saw what people were willing to do to get a role and/or the things the people who claimed to filmmakers would do to get people to do the things they wanted them to do. It wasn’t/and isn’t a pretty picture. That’s why when I developed Zen Filmmaking it was all about the essential element of providing a positive/conscious give-and-take relationship between the actors and myself.
When people have come to Hollywood chasing the Hollywood dream, very few of them have made much progress except for paying a lot of money for classes and headshots. Maybe they even went on a few auditions that equaled no role. Some have jumped on the extra bandwagon—being as they are now politically correctly called, “A background performer.” But, that leads to nothing—nothing at least in terms of the pursuit of stardom. In fact, it is detrimental to that process. But, at least as an extra they may see themselves on the silver screen. It may be the first gig or it may take a hundred times on the set, but maybe they will be seen. That’s something, I guess?
But, for most who pursue the dream of acting, they want to actually be noticed for who and what they are. They want to actually act. They want to be a star. But, how does someone get there?
I was watching the film, The Tattooed Stranger, the other night. It’s a fairly obscure, sort-of Film Noir from 1950. In that film, Jack Lord (of Hawaii 5-0 fame) had a small speaking role but he was uncredited. That has happened to me in the A-Market, as well. It’s kind of crushing. But, it is not uncommon. I believe that my career may have taken a different turn if that had not happened in a couple of instances in the early stages of my immersion into acting. As no one knew who was playing the role, no one could seek me out. But, that’s life in the industry. That’s the life of being an actor. You have no control. But, just like Jack Lord was in, The Tattooed Stranger, I was in those films. Screen credit or not, you can’t deny that fact.
The thing is, and this is what I have always warned people about when they come to Hollywood with hopes of stardom; you have to expect the unexpected. This is especially the case on the indie film level. You’ve got to be careful. As I have said so many times to so many people, there are a lot of people who claim to be filmmakers out there. There are a lot of people who want to be filmmakers out there. But, having the dream of making a film and actually being able to complete a project is very different. Many films never get finished. So, all that time, hope, and energy equals nothing.
The thing about acting and about filmmaking is, it should be seen as an art form. Art as the filmmaker sees it and art as the actor interprets it. That’s why I allow my actors to improv. With this, they are adding to the process of creating a piece of cinematic art.
Another important point to keep in mind is that, especially on the indie level, few films make money. At least not the level of money that most people imagine. It is like myself being an author; everybody believes that the minute you get a book published by a major publishing company you are a millionaire. That is anything but true.
I know some people have criticized filmmakers, including myself, for not always paying their cast in dollars and cents. Though this has only sometimes been the case with my films, the fact is, do the people who launch these criticisms realize how much it costs to actually make a movie? Do they realize that the return is generally very small, if anything at all? I don’t believe that they do. Because if they had ever actually made a film then they would possess a completely different perspective of actualized understanding.
Moreover, as the title of this piece questions, “What would you do to be in a movie?” Admittedly, some indie filmmakers expect their cast to be locked in for days, weeks, or even months. That’s why I always shoot the dialogue-driven part of my narrative films for a maximum of two days. I do not take much of an actor’s time to make them a star. Plus, as I complete all of the films I begin, that actor does get an actual role in an actual film. They do get their names in the screen credits. They do get their name on the Internet Movie Database in association with the film; which is invaluable. They do get a copy of the movie to use as a demo reel—which as any newbie actor knows is essential. …Many pay thousands of dollars to have faux-demo reels produced. (Me too… I foolishly did that via the insistence of a manager way back in the way back when).
So… The point being… They are getting paid. Just not with money.
As an actor, I sometimes worked in the indie market for free when I was getting started. I learned a lot. So, that was the price I was willing to pay to be in a movie. What is the price you are wiling to pay?
Though I am speaking about movies here, because that’s one of the things that I do; make movies, this same concept can go to whatever it is you are pursuing in life. What are you willing to do to get what you want?
You really need to define that in your mind as each person has a different set of standards just as each person has a different set of morals.
Know what you want. Know what you are willing to do to get. But mostly, know what you are going to do if you don’t get it, because that is the fact of life for virtually all of us.

Copyright © 2019—All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 26, 2019

Scott Shaw and the Art of Zen Filmmaking - The Hollywood File Japan

Here's a fun piece, published in Kansai Time Out Magazine, Japan in 2008, where the author, Matt Kaufman, talks about Scott Shaw and some of his Zen Films.

By Matt Kaufman

Scott Shaw is a martial arts expert, author, actor and filmmaker who grew up in Hollywood and spent many years in Asia, including China, Korea, Japan, India, and Thailand. He holds an eighth-degree black belt in both hapkido and taekwondo and is one of the few actors in Hollywood that can expertly wield a samurai sword. Shaw began acting in Hong Kong and Japanese films in the late 80s and early 90s, and also nabbed small roles in major American television shows and films such as Seinfeld and The Player. In 1990, Shaw teamed up with the filmmaker Donald G. Jackson, the notorious director of low-budget cult classics such as Hell Comes To Frogtown, on a new production called The Roller Blade Seven.

The shoot was marred by all sorts of headaches, mostly due to interference from the producer, who made the Hollywood bottom-feeders in Elmore Leonard's novel Get Shorty seem like cinematic geniuses. The producer spent most of the budget hiring "name" actors; in this case, Frank Stallone, which meant that Shaw had to edit and score the film on his own. From this experience, Shaw and Jackson developed a new style of independent production that Shaw dubbed "zen filmmaking." In this approach, there are no scripts or sets. All rules are thrown out the window. The filmmakers have an idea of what they want to do, show up at a location, and feed lines to the actors just before the cameras roll. Actors are encouraged to improvise and experiment, and this often creates very natural and spontaneous dialog. The main problem with most low-budget movies is that the screenplays are written by untalented hacks. The producers are not going to hire someone like David Mamet or Charlie Kaufman to write a genre film, so sometimes it makes more sense to allow the actors to be creative and see where it goes. Zen filmmaking often comes together in the editing process, something that has become much easier and cost efficient in recent years.

The most interesting Shaw/Jackson collaboration is Guns of El Chupacabra (1997), a film that has been described as "Fellini meets the Coen Brothers." It's an acid-tinged spaghetti western about a space sheriff named James B. Quick who has come to earth to kill mythical creatures in the desert. The cast includes B-movie legends Joe Estevez (brother of Martin Sheen) and Robert Z'Dar (Samurai Cop), Penthouse Pet Julie Strain and her husband, Teenage Mutant Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman, and Conrad Brooks, an actor who appeared in the films of legendary director Ed Wood (Plan 9 From Outer Space). All of these actors were quick to embrace the creativity that Zen filmmaking allows and have appeared in many Scott Shaw films over the years. The first film that Scott Shaw directed on his own was Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell (the title says it all), which was made in 1992 and took only two days to film. Several Japanese actors are in the cast, including Nakamura Saemi, who later appeared in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers. Samurai Vampire Bikers From Hell was one of the first feature films to be shot on video and won an award at the 1993 Tokyo Experimental Film Festival.

In the 2001 film Undercover X (aka No Boundaries), Shaw plays an undercover LAPD detective named Truck Baker, a cross between action star Chuck Norris and The Dude from The Big Lebowski. He's laid-back, but he can also tear your head off with his bare hands. Newcomer Richard Magram plays Shaw's hyperactive partner Torino, who rambles on and on like Joe Pesci after four cups of espresso. The two actors work very well together and there's some priceless improvised dialog in the film, most notably in a scene in which Torino gets into an argument in a bar about whether drinking beer straight from the bottle is more manly than using a glass.

Undercover X was partially filmed in Seoul and Tokyo, and the natural lighting and backdrop of these "exotic locales," shot with handheld digital cameras, come across as more authentic than the faux Asia seen in Hollywood films like Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift. In the past few years, several major directors have started to incorporate elements of Zen filmmaking into their work, such as Sofia Coppola, who filmed a great deal of Lost in Translation on location without a script; Gus Van Sant (Gerry); Steven Soderbergh (Full Frontal and Bubble); and Brian DePalma (Redacted). There are also a few similarities (and some major differences) between Zen filmmaking and the Dogme 95 movement created by Lars Von Trier.

Scott Shaw can make a film that costs next to nothing and if it doesn't come out the way he expected; who cares? He'll just move on to the next one. Hollywood types, on the other hand, are always lecturing us about supporting important causes like the Amazon Rainforest, but then they go ahead and waste obscene amounts of money making incredibly bad films like the recent All The Kings Men remake, which starred Sean Penn and Jude Law. The screenplay, written by Academy Award winner Steve Zaillian (Schindler's List), didn't help either because the film lost over $55 million. They should have just made a Zen film over the weekend and given the rest of the money to charity.


You can also find this article at:  

Scott Shaw and the Art of Zen Filmmaking
and
Hollywood File Japan 

 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Guns of El Chupacabra in Femme Fatales Magazine

Here's a link to a fun article written in 1998 about Donald G. Jackson, Scott Shaw, and Zen Filmmaking in association with their film, Guns of El Chupacabra and published in Femme Fatales Magazine.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The 70s Were Great but They Ain’t Ever Comin’ Back AKA You Make What You Can With What You Have

By Scott Shaw

I was kicking around in the late night, last night, flipping channels, and I noticed that the film, Jackie Brown was just beginning. I hadn’t watched the entire film in a number of years so I sat back with a couple bottles of the grape and settled into the cinema. Good movie.
As is the case with many a Tarantino film, the 70s are heavily referenced. The 70s were a great era for film and music. This was especially the case for independent cinema. There was some really revolutionary stuff accomplished. Tarantino, who is just a years or so younger than me, grew up in that same era and he often makes reference to the 70s in his films. Me too… Of course, due to budgetary constraints, certainly not on the level of his films. Jackie Brown is an ideal example.
And, that’s the thing; you do what you do with what you have…
Certainly, I have my share of fans of Zen Cinema. I also have my detractors, who always seem to be way more vocal. But, like I often say, “Let’s see you do what I have done. Make a film with the scope of my Zen Films for a budget of $300.00 (or less).” Because that was/is my formalized budget. Sure, it can be done. I did it. But, do you have what it takes to get it done?
As the years went on my focus in cinema changed. For those of you who know me or know about me, about ten years ago I stopped doing narrative films and shifted my focus to pure cinema. Cinema for the sake of cinema. No dialogue; characters but characters in their natural state. With visuals as the driving force.
Though many/most of the people who discuss my films speak of those I did before this point in my cinematic evolution, it is essential to note that they did not even start talking until I stopped making—making narrative films. So, what does what they have to say, say about anything?
This being said, it is essential to note that there was not a big, fast, and/or immediate break in my filmmaking style. I was doing non-narrative films long before that point in my cinematic evolution. It was simply that they were not as widely viewed as my other cinematic works.
All this being said, I am often asked what would cause me to do another traditional film? …Well, at least traditional in my sense of the word… :-)
I thought about this last night as I was watching Jackie Brown. One of the things would be to be able to make that 70s style film with actors from that era like Tarantino accomplished. But, the sad fact is, they are all so old now, if they are even still alive. So many of them are gone. Though the cinema of that era will live on forever. The people who created the cinematic art of that era are rapidly waning. Thus, the talent pool is forever diminishing and will soon be eternally lost.
I guess this is like life. There are those who do what they do, done in an era. There are those who rise up in that era and are forever defined by that era but then life is gone. We all get old. We all die. There are forever those who will discuss what others have done. But, they are not the doers. They are not the knowers. They are not the livers. They are not the creators. They are simply the talkers. But, once it is gone, it is gone. The life, the people, the era. So, all we can do is what we can do. All we can do is make what we make defined by what we have available to us in whatever era we live.

Copyright © 2019—All Rights Reserved


From the Scott Shaw Blog.

Buy a Camera and Make Your Own Movie

By Scott Shaw

Recently, a guy contacted me and wanted to fly me into his city to make a Zen Film. He explained that he really needed my sensibilities in a movie he hoped to create. Initially, I thought that might be fun. Working with an entirely new and unknown group of people who were into Zen Filmmaking. But, then I started to see the flaws in this guy’s hopes and ideology. Though Zen Filmmaking is entirely about freedom—about simply getting out there and doing it, I was being asked to come to a city I had never been to and basically do everything. I mean everything. I decided to pass on the offer and I suggested to the guy, “Why don’t you buy a camera and make your own movie.”
In today’s world, you can literarily make a movie with your phone. I have. Or, you can use any number of relatively inexpensive cameras that are on the market. The fact is, it is very doable if you have the focus and the dedication.  But, I believe that is the issue, the focus and the dedication. There are a lot of people who want to DO but very few people who will DO.
Sure, I have my advice for budding filmmaking. …Like don’t try to mimic what has already been done. Make your own movie, using your own cinematic philosophy, and so on. But, it can be done. And, it can be done relatively cheaply.  Not like in times gone past.
This all kind of struck me as interesting when I gave that guy the advice, “Why don’t you buy a camera and make your own movie.” That was something I had said to someone else, way back in the way back when, under entirely different circumstances.
The story, I was making a movie and this guy/my friend (I surmised) was helping me out. He was an actor. I had met him working on the set of someone else’s film. And, like so many others, he wanted to break into the Hollywood game. Me, being me, I was charting my own course to achieve that goal.  In any case, we were filming one day and I was realizing that we were running late and we were having some technical issues and we should not film this girl he was crushing on very hard that day. He completely freaked out and started yelling and screaming. This obviously really messed with my small cast and crew. It wasn’t that I was not going to use the girl. It was just that I realized her scenes would be better filmed at a better location I had in mind and on a different day. In any case, we finished the day. Once home, I left him the message, “Why don’t you buy a camera and make your own movie.”
Though he apologized, we finished the movie, and remained in contact over the next several years; I knew I could never trust him again. That style of reactive behavior is just not healthy for the emulation of art: cinematic or otherwise.
Certainly, on sets, I have seen this style of behavior before and after that occurrence. But, it is just not good. It poisons the fruit. I mean, in worse case, if you are not liking what is going on, leave. I know I have done that. I have done that even in the case of one big A-film I was cast in and on a TV series. …That one was an interesting one… I was cast to do a role in the last (short-lived) sitcom that the great actor James Garner was doing. In any case, we were on the set, we had done the rehearsals, and then Garner shows up. We started to do rehearsals with him and what an asshole! I mean this guy was a total jerk! That was sad because I had always really liked him as an actor. We shot the scene as Garner continued to go off at me and everyone else. They called lunch. I left and never came back. The production company claimed I ruin the story by leaving. My agent got really pissed and dumped me. But me, good or bad, I stood my ground. I didn’t throw a fit. I just left. …And, you wonder what happened to my career in the A-Market. There’s your answer. :-)
Anyway… That’s just kind of a side note to the story and the point of all this. If you want to make a movie, why don’t you buy a camera and make your own movie. Use your phone. Use whatever it is you have. Get out there and film something everyday. It doesn't have to have story structure. Lord knows, my films don’t. All it has to have is you doing something. Film it, take it off of your phone or your camera, edit it if you want, and make something! Make art!
This is the same with any art you desire to create. Do it! Draw, paint, write.
Art is based in one person doing one thing. Again, do it! Because if you don’t, all your life will be left with is all of those artistic projects you envisioned in your mind but never created.

Copyright © 2019—All Rights Reserved