Friday, March 30, 2018

The Good, The Bad and the Art of Zen Filmmaking


Here is an article I was asked to write in about 1997 for an indie film publication called Thunder Magazine. I am presenting here exactly as it appeared in the magazine for your reading pleasure and to maybe/hopefully provide you with some new insight and inspiration in the world of filmmaking.

Thunder Magazine

In a simpler time, I used to sit down with friends, pop in a bad movie and drink some beer. It was a sick pass time, but one that provided an endless amount of cheap entertainment. Because of this experience, titles like Curse of the Queer Wolf and Roller Blade will forever remain as grade A entertainment for me. Little did I know that Rollerblade would not only spawn sequels, but spin-off sequels? And if you’ve never heard of these films, then you’re probably sane and not much into watching bottom-of-the-barrel budget flicks that will occasionally offer more excitement than Hollywood’s by-the-numbers bullshit. That said, you’ve probably never heard of Scott Shaw, Donald G. Jackson or the bevy of direct-to-video quickies they’ve amassed over the past few years. So for those of us interested in the art of filmmaking, or zen filmmaking as you are about to learn, here’s a real eye opener for independent film buffs interested in breaking into the action/adventure film biz.  

--Xander Octavius

                        The Good, The Bad and the Art of Zen Filmmaking

By Scott Shaw, Ph.D.

            Whereas most people aspire to come to Hollywood, walk down the boulevard of the stars and hope to rub elbows with the rich and the famous, I was just the opposite. Born in L.A., I grew up in Hollywood and attended Hollywood High School—where more than a few of my classmates were already ex-movie or TV stars struggling to adapt to life in the mainstream. Others were the children of famous actors or directors who knew that any day they would become stars.  It all seemed like bullshit to me: the egos, the insecurity, the drugs to provide courage and the never enough money to pay the bills for the high lifestyles they all lead. Though these adolescent relationships got me onto the sets of some marginally memorable films, I swore I would never get into the industry.  Or, should I put that in quotation marks, “The Industry.” So, I spent most of the next decade or so in various geographic locations of Asia, refining my lifelong involvement with the martial arts and Zen Buddhism.
Back in the States, I was continually receiving offers to be in martial art films.  I finally accepted.  That was my big mistake.  I got bitten by the bug.
I spent my early film career doing starring or co-starring roles in the then very lucrative independent action/adventure market, performing small roles in A-films, guest starring roles on TV and shooting documentaries in Asia.  One day I got a call.  The voice on the other end of the phone line said, “My name is Don Jackson; I make movies. Can you really use the samurai sword as good as everyone says you can?” From this phone call our initial meeting took place at the Gower Gulch in Hollywood. The rest is Zen Filmmaking history...

PARTNER IN CRIME
            Don Jackson, or more properly Donald G. Jackson, had spent his early adult life in Ann Arbor, Michigan working in an auto factory for fifteen years and struggling against the odds to become a filmmaker. He finally made the feature, Demon Lover and the wrestling film, I Like to Hurt People—which was purchased by New World Pictures.  This financed his move to L.A. Once here, he made a film called Roller Blade—a futuristic piece referring to samurai sword wielding girls on skates.  It was shot on his credit card for $5,000.00—New World purchased it and the film made over a million dollars.  From the video market success of these two films, they asked him what he wanted to do next.  An actor named Sam Mann and him had been toying with an idea which eventually lead to his next film, Hell Comes to Frogtown.
Upon meeting, Don and I, both influenced by the films of Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leone, set about on the path which became Zen Filmmaking—though it took a few swings at bat before we hit a homerun...

THE FOUNDATIONS OF ZEN FILMMAKING
            When I first met Don he had financing in place for an action adventure film in which he asked me to perform the lead. We started the film in December of 1990.  Due to the fact that the screenwriter was backstabbing Don to the Executive Producer, midway through the production, the financing was pulled. The screenwriter wanted me to finish the film with him as the Director. Fuck that, if you don’t have loyalty to your friends in this cut-throat industry, you have nothing.  Thus, the film went to never-never-land and Don and I moved on. 
Don directed another film and I acted in several. Perhaps most ironic of my performances during this interim came when Robert Altman called me up and asked me to do a Cameo in his film, The Player. As if to hail the coming future, when we were shooting one of my scenes, I really did like what the script had my character say, “Can I change this?”  “Sure, just say whatever you want,” answered Altman...

THE FIRST ZEN FILM
            In November of 1991 Don and I regrouped and made the first Zen Film, The Roller Blade Seven.  For this film we continued Don’s Roller Blade concept, combined that with two books I authored which were made up of spiritual aphorisms (to use as a basis for dialogue), added some samurai swords, some semi-naked girls and we were off...
Though relatively obscure, this film has been credited with influencing everything from Oliver Stone’s U-Turn, to the TV series Homicide, onto Six-String Samurai, (though now that the Six-String boys are on top, they probably wouldn’t admit it).  Even today, RB7 has a big cult following in the U.K., (the only place where the Director’s Cut was released).  I get E-mails all the time from people who form groups to discuss the true meaning of the feature.
Though we played equal philosophic roles in the creation of Zen Filmmaking, during the filming of RB7 Don really showed me the ropes of how to make a low budget art film. So, there is no doubt that he holds the title of, Godfather of Zen Filmmaking. 

INSTANTANEOUS CREATIVITY
            But back to the point… Just what the hell is a Zen Film? First of all, and perhaps most importantly, scripts are out the window. I like to say, “Scripts are for sissies.” This doesn’t mean that you let the actors improv. For the most part you wouldn’t want to see novice actors improv-ing. The problem with scripts is that performances become so contrived when people have their lines memorized for days or weeks—it’s just boring.
To create a film what we do is Don or I comes up with a concept, we cast some people who fit the roles we have in mind, we go out to a location, get inspired and then guide them through what they should say and do. As Don says, “Zen Filmmaking is like painting: you get a canvas, you get some paint, but you never know what the painting is going to look like until you apply the paint to the canvas.” 
For example, we took our cast out to the El Mirage Dry Lake Bed for our film, Toad Warrior. When we got there, someone was flying an ultra-line aircraft. Don asked them if we could use it.  They agreed.  My character Max Hell got in, took off, and it became the opening sequence for the film. You just can’t plan or anticipate those occurrences.  You just have to live them.  If you base a film on a script, all instantaneous creativity is lost.
Instantaneousness doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take a lot of planning. Mostly, you have know what the hell you’re doing, but beyond that, you have to be prepared: have all the technical equipment ready, the film stocks to be used, make sure that the cast has their costuming, and be ready to adapt to any situation.  Sometimes the first planned location doesn’t workout, so we move onto the second, and the third, if necessary.
In Zen Filmmaking the big crew thing doesn’t work either. A small crew not only keeps the budget down but it also allows much more spontaneous creativity.  If you have too many crew people, they all want silly things like story boards, shot lists, and stuff.
A funny experience I like to relate is when Don and I were doing a film with Frank Stallone. Frank met us, we put him in Don’s car, and we drove over to this location we like to use.  En route Frank asked, if the crew was set up and waiting for him at the location?  Well, actually he was riding with the crew.  Don was operating the camera; I was doing the sound and performing the lead. I would get the tape recorder up and running, go in, slap the slate, walk out, and then walk back into the shot and act with Frank.  Needless to say, he wasn’t the kind of actor to get into Zen Filmmaking.
But then there are people like Conrad Brooks, one of the last remaining Ed Wood confidants. He is a great guy and a true Hollywood icon. One night we were shooting with him at our Hollywood studio—there was some down time so he went out and had a few drinks.  When he came back, he was a little light headed and couldn’t remember any of the lines we would give him.  So, we fed him his dialogue one word at a time. Editing that was interesting to say the least.
That’s one of the great things about Zen Filmmaking; editing is where it all comes together. I look at all the footage and then let my feelings guide me as to where each scene should go. 
There are no mistakes in Zen Filmmaking. It’s like enlightenment, it all happens in its own perfection.
Just as editing takes care of itself, so does the budget. In Zen Filmmaking you really can’t draw up a formal budget. There is just no way to budget inspiration.  The people who fund these films understand that we are creating art and we must possess C.C.C. (Completely Creative Control).

NO RULES
            The main thing to understand about Zen Filmmaking is that there are no rules. You cannot compare a Zen Film with a traditional screenplay based movie.  A Zen Film is an entity onto itself.  If the story isn’t all that constant—who cares, all the stories have already been told.  A Zen Film is more like a rock video in that it moves with a visual essence which is absent from traditional filmmaking.

GET ON THE BUS
            Zen Filmmaking is so simple and so filled with art that many people question its results. But we have proven it works in numerous films. It’s generally the wannabe actors who have gone to way too many acting classes and freak when they hear about it.  They always question, “Will I get dialogue?” Or state, “I need tape on myself.” Our answer is to pull out a roll of camera tape, rip off a piece, and stick it on them. There you go, you have tape on yourself...  In reality, the people who get on the bus and stay with us for awhile get the biggest roles. If they doubt the process, it is better not to take them along, for their negativity can bring the whole thing down.
Real actors, people like Golden Globe winner and two-time Academy Award nominee Karen Black or Clint Eastwood co-stars Don Stroud or William Smith love the process. These are the really creative people; they have nothing to prove, their acting is completely natural and they truly appreciate the art of Zen Filmmaking.
A funny story… One night last year we were shooting my film Rock n’ Roll Cops. We decided to rent a room at the posh downtown L.A. hotel, the Boneventure, and bring William Smith in for some scenes.  Not only did we have the bell hops bring up massive quantities of lights and film equipment to our suite, (why they didn’t ask questions, I don’t know), but by the time Don and I arrived, there were like twenty actors and actresses in the room hoping to be in the film.  Don, (the Producer), in rare form, kicked most of the people out, including William Smith’s girlfriend. I tried to diplomatically hold Bill back but he is an intense guy and went in and put a chokehold on Don.  Had he not remembered they had been friends for more than a decade, I’m sure the whole incident would not have turned out to be the memorable joke it is remembered as.      

PAYING YOUR DUES
            In the past we have paid neophyte actors hoping it would assure that they would show up, have a good attitude, and so on. It doesn’t work!  Everyone in Hollywood thinks that they are going to be the next big star.  You cannot imagine how many times I’ve heard, “No, no, I’m the one that’s going to make it!”  I wish them all the best but paying a person whose name means nothing to the projects serves no purpose.  I’m much more hard-core about this than Don. And besides, there are many ways of compensation that do not involve money. We are giving people the opportunity to be in a film which will receive international distribution. In essence, we are paying for their demo reels.

JUST GOT ON THE BUS
            A couple of new friends on the Zen Filmmaking bus are Penthouse Pet and B-Movie Queen Julie Strain and her husband, Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and publisher of Heavy Metal Magazine. We plugged them into our film, Guns of El Chupacabra, and four films after that (Armageddon Boulevard, Lingerie Kickboxer, etc.). Julie, who has been in many script-orientated films, immediately took to the process. She poetically stated after smoking a joint, “Zen Filmmaking unfolds in front of your eyes when you give someone the freedom to expand their mind and let the creativity flow like a waterfall. It’s like Niagara Falls running through my veins. Zen Filmmaking boundaries are limitless. To me it is like a drug.  I admit it, I’m a junky.”  She calls… us up all the time and says, “Let’s make a movie.”  With Zen Filmmaking, we can do that—forget about all of the unnecessary preparation and just go and make art. In fact, one day we shot an entire feature film at the Turtle Mansion (as we have named their Bel Aire home) called Vampire Child. It generally takes a lot longer to make a movie, but when the magic hits, it’s there.
The question is always asked, “How do you get established actors to be in your films?”  Well, as the independent film has taken over Hollywood, the unions have begun to fade from the picture, allowing established actors to become what is called SAG Financial Core and do non-union films. As an actor, I find that sad, but as a filmmaker, the unions can really constrict what takes place on a set and throw a monkey wrench into the gears of absolute creativity. Zen Films really need to exist outside the realms of meaningless control.

NICKEL & DIME ACTION
            Due to my extensive martial arts background and, of course, the mystical powers of the samurai sword, I generally integrate this heritage into all of my movies. The fight scenes are staged as the movie is created—they are never rehearsed.  I never attempt to choreograph more than one or two moves at a time. What I do is stage a punch, kick, block, or sword techniques, film it, and then have the cameraman move to a new location that will sell the next technique. This way it keeps all the movements fresh and the reactions natural.
All of the stunts in my films are created right on the spot. Inspiration strikes and I lead people through the techniques. So, it’s always good to have trained martial artists, wrestlers, and gymnasts in the cast.  It’s rare, however, to have an advanced Muay Thai Kickboxer like Kevin Eastman on the set.  Most martial artists believe that due to their long years of physical training that they will be the next Bruce Lee—so their own egos really hold them back from getting into films.
Then there are people like Traci Lords. She was scheduled to do a film with us and everyday she would come by and take private sword lessons from me—just so she would look good on film.  But, that is a rare thing. 

LET’S TALK GREEN STUFF
            I’ve acted in several but I have never personally produced or directed a film that I would call a martial art movie—though there has been martial arts in virtually every film I’ve created.  The sad truth is that the market has just been flooded with bad, low budget, rip-off martial arts movies—films that are just mimicking what has been done much better on a substantially larger scale.
This style of filmmaking is what has really poisoned the international market. As the quality dropped, so did the prices. There was a time when the U.K. would give you $50,000.00, Germany $100,000.00, Japan $500,000.00 for one film. Now, Taiwan wants to pay $1,500.00, Malaysia $750.00 and Korea $500.00. And, it doesn’t matter what NAME actor you have in it. If it isn’t someone the caliber of Nicholas Cage or Bruce Willis, nobody cares.
There is the occasional breakthrough film, but the whole dynamics of filmmaking has really changed. No longer can you count on quadrupling your budget in sales. Now, you’ve got to make your money from your investor or you may never get paid. Don says it best, “The real art of filmmaking is in raising the money to make the movie.” That’s why it’s great when I’m just hired as an actor to be in somebody else’s film—it’s all so easy...

GETTING IT OUT THERE
            In terms of independent film distribution there’s a lot of distribution companies out there, but the days of up-front advances are long gone. Now, they may take your film but they will charge back all publicity and marketing costs.  That way they can justify not paying you any money. And more than that, they may decide to reedit and ruin your film. I know that happened to Steve Wang with his film’s Kung Fu Rascals and Drive and to us with RB7—the Executive Producer took the film and its sequel, Return of the Roller Blade Seven, reedited them into one movie, and changed the title. She did this, even though it broke all of our contracts.
The sad thing about Executive Producers and distributors is that they know it is going to cost you more money to sue them then you could ever win in a lawsuit.  Justice and honor means nothing in modern Hollywood.
To remedy some of these problems Don set up a distribution company so we would have more control over our releases. But, this is very expensive. From this, our films generally do fairly well, particularly in Asia where I am an established actor and they appreciate our style of comic book action adventure. In fact, my film Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell won me Best Director honors at the Tokyo Experimental Film Festival in 1993. 
In reality, getting a film out there is a complicated game. You have to do it for the love of the art and realize if your film doesn’t have a several million-dollar budget, even though it may be released, there will only be a few thousand video or DVD copies of it made. Once those are gone, it will be forgotten. That’s what’s great about Zen Filmmaking—all that matters is the perfection of the moment: it’s here, you live it and then you let it go and move on. 

Copyright © 1997—All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Zen Filmmaking: Don't Miss the Bus


By Scott Shaw

It is kind of interesting… People forever perceive the everything else of the everybody else based upon their own point of view. If they operate from a space of positivity, they see all things as positive. If they operate from a space of negativity, they see all things as negative. Most operate somewhere in between. That’s just life. But, here we all are. We are all attempting to operate our way through our life in the best and most beneficial manner possible.
Some people create things. It may be paintings, drawings, photos, music, poetry, literature, films, programs, businesses, children or… Other people do not create. This is not bad or good; this is just life and the definition thereof.
As everybody comes at the everything else of the everybody else based upon their own point of view, some people who do not comprehend the process of creation want to base their life upon judging what another person creates. I mean how many times have you heard people criticizing the art created by someone else? How many times have you heard someone criticizing someone else—meaning that they are criticizing the parents of that person as those parents not only gave both to that individual but raised them into adulthood, as well.  But, all this criticism is just mind junk. It is just someone attempting to find something to do with their mind and the time that they have here in life instead of actually getting out there and creating and understating the process of inspiration equaling creation.
Okay, to the point… Zen Filmmaking is based upon the most spiritually pure source of energy that there is; instantaneous creativity. No definition, no judgment, no negativity, simply pure, in-the-moment, cinematic realization placed upon film or video or digital memory cards or whatever come next…  It is about grabbing a visual instance in the purity of the meditative moment and realizing it upon film. What it is that is captured doesn’t matter. Whether it is perfectly framed or not, in or out of focus—if it captures a moment never seen again throughout human history or it is completely meaningless is unimportant; what it is, is just that—it is what it is.
Zen Filmmaking is about operating from a space of mental and spiritual purity. Yet, there are people out there who want to place their own definition upon Zen Filmmaking—based upon their own dominate emotion: be that positive or negative. But, by doing this, they completely miss the point. And, by missing they point, they miss the point! Thus, all they have done is to damn an elemental process geared towards generating enlightenment into the realms of interpersonal, self-defined, mind junk. Which means, they don’t understand it at all.
Free yourself of definition and criticism leaves your vocabulary. What happens next? Satori.

Copyright © 2018 — All Rights Reserved
No part of this may be used without the expressed permission of Scott Shaw or his representatives.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Zen Filmmaking: The Final Definition


In the first exploration of Zen Filmmaking: 1992 until approximately 2005, the Zen Films were based upon character-driven dramas.  Though always visually illuminating, by the mid-2000s, Scott Shaw began to redefine this Cinematic Art. Born, was the Non-Narrative Zen Film. These films initially held descriptions such as A Zen Film Mind Ride, A Zen Film Meditation, A Zen Film Acid Flick, and A Zen Film Movie in the Moment. In 2009, Scott Shaw created the last character-driven Zen Film. Thus, evolved was the final stage of Zen Filmmaking with all works being free of dialogue and focusing solely upon moving visual images and holding the titled, “A Zen Film.”

Freedom of mind is the ultimate definition of Zen Filmmaking. 

Zen Filmmaking: The Final Definition @ scottshaw.com

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Scott Shaw and Zen Filmmaking Documentary: The Truth Be Told




From the Scott Shaw Zen Blog.


By Scott Shaw

            Like I always say, You know you're famous when people you've never met say things about you that aren't true…
            I am sitting here at my studio this afternoon, waiting to run a class with a few of my advanced students/friends and a couple of people have contacted me about the fact that Allison Pregler AKA Obscurus Lupa has put her so-called reedited documentary about me up on YouTube. This makes me smile, kinda. I remember when she first released that documentary and all of a sudden I was getting tons-and-tons of hate email. Hate email for a guy like me… That was a first… Believe me when I tell you, I’m a nice guy. Just ask anyone who actually knows me.
            Anyway, as I have a little bit of time before my class, I just took a moment to glance at YouTube and to read some of the comments regarding this supposed Scott Shaw Zen Filmmaking documentary and, as the internet promises, her documentary is once again provoking a lot of negativity being sent my direction. In fact, my web guy, who handles all my emails, told me I have already received a couple of very negative comments and one death threat over the past week since the piece has been up. Not cool… But, I am trying to stay positive.
            Regarding the negative YouTube comments… Most everything, everyone is saying is not true! Just like in Allison's piece, the interpretation of me, who I am, how I feel, and what I think is totally wrong. And, this is the problem when somebody creates a documentary like this. It invokes negativity. And, negativity is never, under any circumstance, a good thing. 
            Let’s get a couple of things out of the way for those of you who may not know… In a very short period of time, about five or six years ago, Allison did a couple of things, regarding me, without ever contacting me or speaking with me. In fact, to this day, she has never met or spoken with me. So, how can she know anything about me? But, to the point…

1. She stole ASCAP Registered, Copyrighted music I had created and used it to soundtrack a film her boyfriend, (I think his name is Phelous), and she created. Had she just asked if she could use it, I probably would have said, “Yes.” But, she did not. I didn’t even know who she was. I had worked long and hard to create that music. Have you ever created something and had someone steal it from you? If you have, you will know what I’m speaking about and why it was a problem for me. 

2. She made the aforementioned FU documentary about me and used footage from my films that were under U.S. Copyright Protection to illustrate it. This, in association with her Trademark Infringement as she confiscated and used Zen Filmmaking in her title to gain notoriety for the piece. If you are going to create an FU documentary at least have the decency to film your own footage like Joe DeMott and Jeff Kreines did when they created the documentary about Donald G. Jackson, Demon Lover Diary. Here’s the thing, and the truth about her so-called Scott Shaw documentary, she takes a word here or a passage there from what I have written and makes it all sound very negative, like I’m a total asshole. I am not. If you read the books she took those words from, Zen Filmmaking and Independent Filmmaking: Secrets of the Craft or anything else I have written about filmmaking, they are all designed to help the indie filmmaker. But, by using limited passages and putting her own spin on it, all she does is invoke a big misunderstanding about my philosophy; how I think and what I do. That is just not cool! How many budding independent filmmakers has she hurt by turning them off to what I have to teach?  

3. She did a highly footage heavy review of Max Hell Frog Warrior, (which she has also uploaded to YouTube). Due to the amount of footage used, my lawyer documented that her review damaged the sales of the movie and its ability to be further marketed. But personally, I thought it was marginally amusing, even though, like in her documentary, she does get several facts wrong. In fact, as I am not a big fan of that movie, when she removed the footage and added her created images to her presentation, I thought it was actually more interesting than when she was only using the film's footage that was protected under U.S. Copyright Law. 

            It is important to note, believing that she was simply a young woman who did not understand the ramifications of her actions, I personally stopped my attorney, who was also the CEO of my Production Company, from suing her in Federal and Civil Court (he had the papers all drawn up). This action caused us to have a major falling out which ultimately ended our business partnership and cost me a lot of money. But, did Allison thank me for that? Nope. Thus, lesson learned…
            In fact, one of her minions posted a highly distorted discourse on what took place between her and I, with Max Hell Frog Warrior, on a website that does not allow rebuttals. Did she do anything about that? Not a thing. It is still up there to this day. 
            As it was a total hatchet piece and his facts were totally wrong and speculation at best, he also damaged my reputation. Yet, here she is again, re-releasing the documentary and creating all this negative energy being sent my direction. For someone like myself who is all about helping people, this is just not cool. 
            Ultimately, one must question, what is the point? So she can make a little bit of money off of her YouTube Channel and develop a few more fans? This, while she hurts the career and reputation of another person. Again, not cool!
            Keep in mind, I am not the only person this has happened to. Alison has apparently made an entire career based upon stealing the creative film work of other people and then placing her opinions upon those movies. This, without ever gaining the legally required permission to use copyrighted material and/or paying the creators of the films one cent for the use of their footage. From a moral perspective, that is just not right. And, as we all understand, that is one of the main reasons that there are copyright laws in the first place, so people can't just steal the intellectual or creative property of someone else and make money off of it. But, there she is, doing just that. At least she took the footage from my movies out of the YouTube re-release of her so-called documentary.
            Loving or hating my films is fine, that's personal opinion. Not understating what I'm doing or why I'm doing it is not a problem, that's just the human condition. But, making money and a name for yourself off of misrepresenting who and what I am and what Zen Filmmaking is all about is just wrong. 
            From a personal perspective, I find her misplaced interpretation of my life and my philosophy and her altered dissemination of my writings almost amusing. But, being on the receiving end of what she is saying I also understand the negative ramifications of what she has invoked. Ask yourself, how would you feel if you began receiving hate mail and even death threats because of a highly bias so-called documentary somebody made about you? I thought with the demise of Blip.tv a few years ago, where her presentations were originally posted, all this melodrama was over, but now it has begun again. 
            Furthermore, here’s a fact that you may find interesting in regard to this matter… As stated, in the documentary Allison quoted from two of my books on filmmaking. I guess at some point she got pissed off at me and took those books and some of my films and sold them to a local used bookshop. A university student who was into what I do noticed the transaction, alerted me to it, and I own the aforementioned books. Looking at them it was very enlightening in that I could see what passages Allison had highlighted in yellow. Again, those books were designed to help the independent filmmaker but what she had done was to remove passages from the greater text, which not only made me look bad but completely distorted Zen Filmmaking and what I was hoping to present in those writings. Looking at her highlights, I could totally see what she was doing. She was not reading the book(s) as a method to learn new knowledge or to be helped in the practice of filmmaking but as a means to find a method to use my own words to make her preconceived notions about me a reality and to make me look bad. Not cool! But, it was/is truly interesting to witness how her mind works. 
            I imagine Allison may post a slanted rebuttal to this piece somewhere, as that is what she has done in the past; justifying her actions. But, I didn't ask to be dragged into any of this. Allison, you should really choose to be more than someone who creates and inflames negative situations.
            As I always discuss in this blog and elsewhere, if you are doing anything that creates negativity in the life of anybody, what do you think the ultimate result of that chosen action will be on your life and the lives of others? As I always say, put your personal judgments in check and only say and do positive things! That is the key to living a good life! 
            And, to all you naysayers out there, at least find out who I truly am and what I am actually about before you cast your judgment.
            That’s the story… It is so stupid to be put through this again. But, what can I do? I just hope those of you who read this will add a little truth and positivity to a negative situation that I had nothing to do with creating. 
            Anyway, I have to go teach a class.
            As always, get out there and meet negativity with positivity.

Be Positive and Smile! :-)
#bepositive 

            Follow-up: Somebody asked me an interesting question this morning. They asked, why did I mention Allison's name and her Scott Shaw Zen Filmmaking documentary in this blog, as didn't that just give her and it more publicity? 
            The answer: Because one of the things that I do in this blog is detail my life experiences, how they affect me, how I feel about them, and how I react to them. From this, I hope it provides the reader with a deeper insight into life and human behavior—perhaps even giving them some new insight into how they should interact with other people as they pass through their life. Certainly, I would have preferred to never be made part and parcel to any of this. And though I rarely mention names in this blog, but if she or anyone else gets some publicity from what I write; great—good for them!
            Ultimately, do I care what Allison or anybody else thinks about me? Absolutely not. My life accomplishments speak for themselves. If they didn't, people like Allison would not be making documentaries about me in the first place.
            At the end of the day I am just a very simple person. I hope to keep my family and friends safe and happy and hopefully make this world just a little bit better place with everything that I do. Hope that answers the question and gives everyone else a bit more insight into Scott Shaw, Zen Filmmaking, and the Scott Shaw Zen Blog.

God Bless.

Copyright © 2017 — All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Max Hell Frog Warrior: The Story of the Production



 

By Scott Shaw

FADE IN:

            The Zen Film Toad Warrior, which became Max Hell Frog Warrior, was the third film that Donald G. Jackson and I completed as a filmmaking team. The first two were Roller Blade Seven and Return of the Roller Blade Seven. It is important to note that about a year ago a young journalism student contacted me and I did an extensive interview with him on the creation of Max Hell Frog Warrior titled, Max Hell Frog Warrior: The Facts and The Fiction. There is a lot of interesting information and insights into this film’s creation in that article. But, as we have well passed the twenty-year mark of the inception of Max Hell, I though I would take a few minutes and detail a bit more intimate information about this film’s ideology and its production facts as there is a lot of ongoing interest in this film and there remains a lot of questions and incorrect speculation about what actually took place during its creation.

The Roller Blade Seven
            To begin with, Don and I had parted ways upon the completion of the Roller Blade Seven under less than ideal circumstances. The money had run out on the production budget before we were finished. Don being Don had squandered much of the budget and Don, as he tended to be, was very self-involved. Thus, any remaining money he kept for himself and to spend on his girlfriends. …He kept the money even though I did much of the work on RB7: casting, producing, acting, editing, soundtracking, plus most of the words spoken in the film(s) either came from or were influenced by two books I had authored: Essence: The Zen of Everything and Zen O’clock: Time to Be. But me, I walked away totally broke. In fact, I had to sell my 1930s D’Angelico New Yorker just to survive. That was a terrible loss that I have never been able to replace. (For the record that was one of the Masterpieces created by John D’Angelico himself and not one of the replicas that are on the market today). Plus, my ’64 Porsche 356 SC had blown its transmission and somebody had crashed into my Harley as I was driving it on La Brea in Hollywood; totaling it and injuring me. Thus, it was not a good time for me.
            The fact is, I cannot discus the creation of Max Hell Frog Warrior without referencing Roller Blade Seven as the two have a very close correlation. Roller Blade Seven was a chaotic production. It didn’t have to be. But Don, being Don, made it so.
            Have you ever had one of those life-experiences where someone is so based in a negative mindset that they bring out the worst in you? That happened to me, in association with Don, when we made RB7. This was amplified by the negative, petty actions of our Executive Producer. Though we made a great movie, that is still at the forefront of the Cult Film Hierarchy, it left my life a mess. The fact is, during production and post production both Don and I were constantly carrying Xanax with us as there was so much perpetuated anxiety associated with the production of that film. As I have stated in several places, though I have written an extended chapter about the creation of RB7, which is presented in my book Zen Filmmaking, I really want to write an entire book about the film as so much went on during production that understanding the process may truly help other independent filmmakers overcome obstacles and allow everyone to come to a better understanding about human consciousness.  
            One of the essential things to note is that when Don asked me to come on-board and make RB7 with him, the production was scheduled for one month. One month, I can handle that. So, when I showed up at our production offices at the Hollywood Center Building on Hollywood Boulevard on the first day of pre-production I had no idea the months-upon-months that it would take to complete that movie and its sequel. Now, think about taking months out of your life while making no money. As I am a dedicated, one-pointed person who doesn’t give up, I did not leave the production. But, I did pay a very high price for my involvement with that film.

Moving On
            By the end of Roller Blade Seven, I was ready to set out on my own and make my own films. As the video revolution had just hit and realizing I had the skillset to make it happen, I immediately went up on Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell upon the completion of RB7.  Don being Don, got jealous so he went off to work with Mark Williams who was both a part of the cast and the crew of RB7. Then, the Executive Producer of RB7, to play a petty little power trip, had me kicked out of our production offices and banned from the building. This, after she had already made thousands-upon-thousands of dollars on international sales of RB7 and Return of the Roller Blade Seven. Though Don and I occasionally communicated over the next few years, I did not have good feelings about him or the Executive Producer as they were both prospering off of my vision and my labor.
            Then, in 1995, out of the blue Don contacted me via the Voice Mail system which was the main method of industry communication of the time. We all carried our pagers. He wanted to make another movie and he invited me to his production office in North Hollywood to talk about it. Though I had serious doubts about going, but as I had nothing else on my plate at the time, we set up a meet and I arrived.
            To track backwards a bit… Don felt that Mark Williams, (a good guy), had gotten too dependent on the film financing Don had in place. Don hated people becoming dependent upon him. Though Mark was writing all of Don’s scripts at the time; including: Rollergator, Little Lost Sea Serpent, Baby Ghost, Pocket Ninjas, etc., Don fired Mark in a rage. (Just a note: Don was prone to rages). But, Don was one of those people who couldn’t work alone. So, he paid to have friends. As RB7 was already becoming a Cult Fan Favorite in Europe and as he remembered that we worked well together, he decided we should make make another movie and, thus, he contacted me.
            When I arrived at the production office, I was surprised to see how old Don had become in just the couple of years since I had last seen him.  At the time, I didn’t know that he had been diagnosed with leukemia—which was probably one of his main reasons for contacting me, as he knew I got things done and he wanted to cement his filmmaking legacy and needed someone like me to do that. We spoke for a while, hung out over the next few days, and I finally reluctantly agree to make another movie with him. Keep in mind, I had a lot of trepidation about working with him again. But, we set up a weekly pay scale for me that was reasonable and we moved along.

Pre-Production
            For the next few weeks we would meet at the office every day about eleven, scout locations, do casting sessions, hang out with other filmmakers, get drunk at lunch, go to private movie screenings, go and see obscure alt country and bluegrass bands in the evening, hit the occasional strip club, (scouting for talent), and do what industry folk do…
            In terms of the pending production, we toyed with a few ideas prior to settling on Toad Warrior. The reason we finally decided to make Toad Warrior was that Don’s creative vision had been taken away from him on both Hell Comes to Frogtown and to a lessor degree on Return to Frogtown. He never really liked the finished films—though, at least at the time, Hell Comes to Frogtown was frequency playing on TV and that film had really cemented his career as a known filmmaker.  But, as he was never content with the two previous features, he always wanted to make a more free-flowing version of a film with Frogtown as the backdrop. Thus, Toad Warrior.
            Though Don was linked into a company that was financing his films, so money was free-flowing, we decided to keep the production small. And, as we both considered Roller Blade Seven to be a true Zen Film Masterpiece, we hoped to re-invoke the essence of that film in what we were next to create. 
            Another factor to keep in mind about the inception of Toad Warrior was that by this point in my career I had begun to see myself more as a Producer and Director than an Actor. Don, however, wanted me to star in the film as Roller Blade Seven was already gaining Cult Classic status, plus he wanted to capitalize on my martial art notoriety of the time as I was in a lot of magazine, had a very successful Hapkido Video Tape Series on the market, my books were being published, etc... Thus, he suggested that we Co-Produce and Co-Direct the movie, while I star in the film. I agreed and we moved forward with this as our basis.
            As RB7 was already a legacy for us, we wanted to invoke that film’s sensibilities. Thus, my character again wore a black suit, black shirt, and the elbow and knee pads from RB7—minus the skates, of course.

Production Begins
            On the first day of actual production, which was a Saturday, we were scheduled to go up at about noon. We had the entire second floor of offices in a building on Lakershim Boulevard in North Hollywood so we decided to dress the offices and use them as sets to establish the initial character interactions. As for our actors, the first to be cast was Joe Estevez. Also cast was a friend of Don’s, (from the days when they both were working for Roger Corman), to play Humphrey Bullfrog, a couple of girls Don had previously worked with in films, (finished or not), a newly arrived couple from New Jersey who we had just met at a casting session via an ad we placed in Dramalogue the day before, and one or two other new faces.
            The day of the shoot I got up, put on my black suit, and was preparing to go to my storage unit as that is where I kept all of my lighting equipment which I was going to bring to the set as Don only had a couple of cheap photofloods whereas I had a number of Fresnels, C-Stands, etc. As if a warning sign from the great beyond, the first thing that happened to me was I thought I had my keys in my pocket. I walked out of the door of my apartment, carrying some equipment down to my 356, but when I got to my car I realized it wasn’t my keys at all. Thus, I was locked out. A bit nervous about time, I went to find the manager of my building who was always in the office but she was not there. With a bit of freak-out running through my veins, I went on a quest to find her and finally located her in her apartment. She got the pass key, let me in, I got my keys, loaded my stuff, and was on my way. I get to my storage unit but the moment I opened the door I realized somebody had broken in. Someone had rented the storage unit next to mine and had cut a hole through the wall. They stole all of my lighting equipment, all of my costuming, my first guitar, my power tools, and a lot of guitar and amp parts and accessories I kept in the unit. I was upset to say the least…
            With the police report made, I sped to the set. Living in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, I was quite a distance from North Hollywood. As I was driving towards the freeway onramp, I see the train gates up ahead going down.  Damn!  It seemed like the very long train took forever to pass. Again, a sign?
            In the interim of waiting for the train, I called Don on my large flip phone and used some of the very expensive cellular minutes of the day to leave him a message on his Voice Mail and tell him of the situation.
            As I sat there waiting for the train to pass, me, I really felt like I had failed. Though the theft was obviously not my fault, it made me feel like a liar as I could not bring my lights.  And, as a person who is always very punctual, being late made my adrenalin serge. It was starting all over again, the craziness of Roller Blade Seven…  I thought to just call it quits and walk away… I still, to this day, wonder if that was the life-course I should have taken? But, I drove on…

On the Set
            By the time I finally got to the offices, a lot had already been accomplished. Don had brought in a camera guy, Jonathan Quade, that he had previously worked with. Jonathan was actually a gaffer in the big budget industry but he did a great job of set design, lighting, and low budget camera work. (We went onto work with him on a number of films). He, in association with a Production Assistant, had already created the set where Joe Estevez’s character is revealed with the parachute covering the walls. But, with my lights stolen, all we had to light the set with was Don’s two photofloods.
            Most of the cast was wandering around the offices as Jonathan, the PA, and I continued the staging. Don sat in his office, as he liked to do, talking on the phone, joking with the girls, and generally screwing around. Finally, Joe arrives and we get underway.
            We took Joe to the set where he was to be seated upon his thrown. Don asks him what he wanted to use as a character name. Joe suggested Mickey O’Malley, as he saw the green, thought of frogs, and wanted to reference his Irish roots. Don immediately hated the name. But, Don being Don, he didn’t say anything. Me, I also saw the problem… We had hoped Joe to be a very fierce and domineering character. But, with a name like that…

Taking a Turn for the Worst
            There is a point in every film where if you are an observant filmmaker you can take note of where the film all falls into place or where it all goes awry. This was that moment in Toad Warrior… Joe deciding on his name and Don or I not wanting to force a change. Thus, the production took a wrong turn that it never recovered from. This, before the first scene was ever shot.
            …That’s the problem when you are working with someone you really like and who is a really good guy like Joe—you don’t want to come off as harsh or condescending. You want to keep them happy.
            In any case, the first scene(s) to be shot were Joe interacting with the character Cricket AKA Sandra Purpuro, (the newly arrived actress from New Jersey). We immediately realized that she was a very good actress. In fact, immediately after Toad Warrior she moved onto having a very successful acting career.
            We also added a couple of adult film starlets to the scene to give it some depth.

The Hierarchy
            I was a bit in question about how Don was going to react to my co-directing the scenes as this was the first time we worked together in that manner. Though I obviously had a lot to say during the filming of RB7, I never felt like I was the director and I never crossed Don’s boundaries. But, he was totally cool. The thing to note about Don, as a director, is that he never really directed the talent. He just let them do whatever they wanted to do and say whatever they wanted to say—the way they wanted to say it. Me, on the other hand, I think natural inspiration is great but you need to give guidance to the actors, at certain points, so the storyline will stay on track. That’s what I did…
            We shot the scenes with Cricket and Joe. We then brought in his two minions: the boyfriend from New Jersey (Kent Dalian) and a Japanese actor, Tom Tom Typhoon. Don wanted the Japanese guy to communicate in English but as I speak Japanese I directed him to speak in his native language as he spoke very poor English. When you see him totally going off at Joe, that was totally his idea. He really got the essence of Zen Filmmaking and took it to the next, necessary level. Joe’s reactions to him are great. Those are probably some of the best scenes in the film.
            We then went and did the Humphrey Bullfrog stuff which I just do not like. That character and those scenes were developed by Don and his friend. They are just stupid and they don’t play well. Again, within the first few hours of filming, Toad Warrior was set on a wayward course.
            As evening was coming on, we decided to go to this nearby park that is linked to an overpass above the 170 freeway. There, we filmed the park fight scenes and the various characters crossing the bridge. While we were filming, we left the Production Assistant to create additional sets in the offices. 
            Returning, we then filmed the scene where the two girls are in jail: Agent Banner (Camille Solari) and Dr. Trixi T. (Elizabeth Mehr). This set was actually just an enclosed deck outside of one of the office windows. I thought they did a great job constructing that whole dialogue driven scene. And, they did it with no guidance. They were both talented actresses. 
            After that, we filmed my character’s interaction with Joe. We then brought in Selina Jayne, (the Spirit Guide from RB7), who I had remained friends with, to do a Fortune Teller thing with Joe. Though I love Selina and Joe, that scene just did not work. Then, Joe goes into the scene where he does the hokey-pokey with the one actress portraying Dr. Trixie T. Terrible! Terrible! Terrible! So bad, I could not even watch it being filmed. Though, for the record, it was totally improved. 
            We then filmed the scene with the girl singing in the club where my character gets a drink thrown in his face. That club scene was set up in the waiting room of our offices.
            We finished that evening by doing the inner-office fight scenes where my character and the actress playing Agent Banner fights a couple of frogs.

Calculating the Consequences
            If you look at the amount of scenes filmed in just one afternoon and evening, and if you know the film, you will understand that a good portion of Toad Warrior was actually created in that one day. Though we captured a lot of footage, the essence of what I hoped the film would become, was lost. It had become nothing more than a poorly acted, un-comedic (though it was trying hard to be a comedy), stupid storylined, production that was destine to just remain a mess. Yet, we continued… 
            Over the next couple of weeks, we filmed additional scenes. Next up was Conrad Brooks. I had never met Conrad prior to the day we first filmed him but I did, of course, know of his previous work with Ed Wood. I immediately realized he was a really nice guy. I liked him a lot. And, I loved his style of acting.
            We took Conrad to a location by the L.A. River where he and I interact with a couple of frogs. We then went back to the office and shot the scene in his tent. A tent that was constructed from the same parachute used to line the walls of Joe’s lair.
            For some reason, Don wanted to bring Conrad back as the character Swamp Farmer from another of Don’s films, Rollergator and have the talking Baby Gator in the scene with him, as well. I like Conrad’s performance but Baby Gator just added additional, unnecessary, stupidity to the film. That is the thing when you are working as a team member with someone, you may not always like their choices but you have to allow them their creativity.
            A day or so later we went to do an evening shoot at an old bridge that Don had titled, “The Bridge of Broken Dreams.” There, we took an actress we had just cast that afternoon. As she was new to L.A. I warned her about doing what she did; i.e. getting in a car at night with men she did not know and was not even aware of where she was being taken. In any case, she is the character that my character continually tells to, “Shuuu,” every time she tries to speak. We also did the scene where my character kills a frog at night with the bridge in the background.
            Referencing the anxiety that took place during the filming of RB7 and how this same style of emotion engulfs other people… Don had this Production Assistant who had been working with him for a year or so. He did the voice of Baby Gator during the filming of Conrad and myself in the tent. He was also the one wearing the frog mask that my character kills in the aforementioned scene on the bridge.
            Don had begun to get increasingly annoyed by this man. I thought he was fine but, again, Don found him becoming too dependent on his money. I suppose this change of heart had a lot to do with my now being part of the team as I was a fully functioning filmmaker and there was a lot of things that I could do that this man could not. As he had begun to annoy Don, Don had become more and more short with him. At one point that evening he yelled at the guy to get something out of the car. Instead of taking the frog mask off, he ran all the way to the car and back with it on. Thus, equaling a massive anxiety attack. It was the next day that Don, in a rage, fired him. The man called me up that night wondering what had happened and if I could ask Don to let him come back to work. I told Don the story but Don was the source of the money for this project so there was nothing that I could do as Don did not want him back.

The Lies Actors Tell
            Don and I continued forward hanging out everyday and occasionally filming over the next few weeks. One of the interesting stories, that I have told elsewhere, happened when we cast this girl because she told us she was an avid motocross rider and owned her own dirt bike. We though this would be a great addition to add to the film. We called her character, Road Toad. We meet her up on the dirt section of Mulholland Highway, where she promptly fell off of her bike and broke her clutch handle. Every time she got on, she fell off. Finally, to save any hope of making the entire situation equal anything, my character asks her if I can borrow her motorcycle. From this, we film me riding it for a bit. Keep in mind, I was shifting with no clutch. After that, the girl rode off. (I hope she made it home safely). But, we never heard from her again.
            Though we periodically shot a scene here or there, we only did serious filming maybe three or four additional days to create Toad Warrior. …Compared to the days-upon-days-upon-days of full-on production we had previously done on RB7, Toad Warrior had very few actual days of production. 

Expanding the Cast
            I had brought on Roger Ellis who had played the roll of Stealth in RB7 and I had used in much bigger roles in Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell and Samurai Johnny Frankenstein. He became Overload War Toad. Roger was a great actor and really added some good stuff to a very faltering film. We did all of Roger’s interior scenes at the garage/stage of Jonathan Quade, the aforementioned cameraman, who worked with us throughout the entire production. This is where the infamous spank scene(s) take place, which was the idea of yours truly.
            The girl in those scenes was a great up-and-comer named Robin Kimberly. She made her living as an exotic dancer. I remember her telling me she hailed from Alaska and I really liked her as a person and an actress. But, she was one of those people that we never heard from again after her days on the set. She played the roll of Agent Spangle. And yes, the female agents in the film were intentionally named: Agent Star, Agent Spangle, and Agent Banner.  That was on Don. …A sign of his abstract patriotisms.
            Next up was Adrianne Moore AKA Jill Kelly, a girl who did her first onscreen performance in RB7 before becoming a major force in the Adult Industry. In the opening scene we find her character being chased by frogs out at the El Mirage Dry Lake Bed. The work we did with her character really adds positive aspects to the overall film.
            El Mirage is one of the places where the, “Magic,” that I often speak of in association Zen Filmmaking, took place. We went there with only a basic idea about what we would film. But, when we got there we noticed a couple with their pair of ultra light aircraft. Don asked if we could use them. They said, “Yes.” With this, we added the entire opening scene to the film, providing a lot of production value.
            …We had no idea this would take place but we allowed the spontaneity of Zen to be our guide and, thus, True Cinematic Magic occurred.  

Something to Scream About
            Elizabeth, the girl who played Dr. Trixie T., was soon to be moving and she invited us over to her large house to film. Here, we created the lab set. Overall, she is a great girl and a good actress; I really liked her but many of her scene were too comedic and just added, in my opinion, to the overall failure of this film. This is the case with the lab scene that we filmed at her home. Her and another girl, (one of her friends that we never met before or after that moment in time), go into this whole fake British accent thing, talking about the development of the frog plague. Again, both very nice people, but the scene just did not work!
            One of the now-funny occurrences that took place that night was Don had left the set as he had something else to do. We had been there for awhile and I asked if anybody wanted something to eat. Some did, so we sent out. One girl who I had cast earlier that week, a new arrival from Japan, initially said she wasn’t hungry but then, all of a sudden, after we had recommenced filming, she completely started freaking about the fact that she was hungry and she wanted something to eat. I told her we were busy and reminded her that she said she didn’t want anything but this did not stop her. I told her I would give her some money if she wanted to walk over to a local fast food place but she would have none of it. She really was causing a scene. Finally, I took her outside and firmly explained to her in Japanese how unprofessional she was behaving. She calmed down, told me she was sorry, and she kind-of shut up. This is just a reminded to you filmmakers out there, sometime the people you cast can become a real problem to your production.

Going Nuclear
            We also shot exteriors at this one location in the West San Fernando Valley that used to house nuclear silos. That is where you see Sargent Shiva and my character do the Kurosawa influenced, long lens, sword fighting scene(s). I know a lot of people have discussed this scene in their reviews, incorrectly claiming there was only one take that was reused. But, if you actually take the time to study the film you will see there were several takes. We also shot some of the other additional exterior scenes out there that day.
            Though there were a few more days of filming small things, here or there, that’s what it took to create Toad Warrior.
            It is essential to note that the moment Don and I began working together again, we did not wholly focus on Toad Warrior. We, almost immediately began to formulate, come up with other projects, and begin filming them, as well. Most notable filmed around this same period of time were the films that became Shotgun Blvd. and Ghost Taxi. Though none of these first, “Next Generation Zen Films,” rose to the cult status of Max Hell Frog Warrior, at least in my opinion, they were all better films than Toad Warrior.

Post Production
            Post Production on Toad Warrior did not happen right away. As stated, we began working on other films. Finally, as the 1996 American Film Market (AFM) was approaching, we set about editing the movies we had in the can. I did Shotgun Blvd. and Ghost Taxi and one of Don’s friends began to work on Toad Warrior. But, he was using some weird system that did not output in a high enough quality format so Don went into one of his rages and fired the guy. He then gave the footage to one of his long time friends, Chris—a true film editor and a man who had edited some of Don’s previous features.  Don and he sat down and they did what they did.
            I don’t know if it was the lack of technology at the time, laziness, or just the fact that the editor was more locked into a sense of Traditional Filmmaking than Zen Filmmaking but he and Don really missed the mark on the original edit of Toad Warrior. The fact is, though they probably grabbed the best of the footage there was, so much more great footage was left unused. More than simply not liking the the finished product, the fact is, the film really bothered me. It bothered me that so much footage was left on the preverbal cutting room floor. Plus, the story construction was shoddy. And, Chris knew it. He didn’t like the edit either. He asked me if I wanted to redo it. But, there wasn't time. To me, the edited film kind of felt like they were just filling in the required eighty-two minutes that it takes to make a movie viable for international sales.

AFM
            As AFM was coming up fast, Don and I gave the edited Toad Warrior to a sound design company to finish up the soundscape. We both watched the final product and didn’t like it. But, as the hotel rooms that they turn into AFM selling suits on the Santa Monica coastline are expensive, we had to have product. Thus, posters were created, a selling staff was hired, and Don and I hung out at AFM, did some interviews, and watched a lot of movies.
            One of the funny experiences we had at the 1996 AFM is when Jill Kelly came by one evening. We walked around the expansive hotel, full of buyers from all over the world, and all eyes were on us. Well… They were actually on Jill. She was a beautiful sight with her long blonde hair, her big platform shoes, and the white, virtually see though clothing she was wearing.
            Though we didn’t like Toad Warrior, three countries did buy the limited theatrical rights we were offering to be shown only in theaters in their country. Japan, Malaysia, and the Philippines being the buyers. After AFM, Don being Don absconded with all of the money from the sales. Lesson: people never really change.

Post, Post Productions
            Post the 1996 AFM Don and I buried the film. We planned to reedit it but we were busy and we never got around to it.
            By the early 2000s, Don was in his late fifties, getting very sick, and wasn’t really able to do too much. Me, I did take the original film and created a Zen Speed Flick Version of Toad Warrior titled, Max Hell in Frogtown.
            For those of you who don’t know, a Zen Speed Flick is a film cut down to its most essential elements. This re-edit really gave the film a new vision. Gone was all the bad implied humor, leaving only the best of the best. Don loved it and I liked it a lot better than the original version.

Max Hell Frog Warrior
            In 2001, as computer editing had become a realistic possibility, I pulled the original edit of Toad Warrior into my MAC G4. I begin the process of a re-cut in an attempt to make it a better movie. I removed some of the scenes that really bothered me, tuned-up some of the others, and added a bit of unused footage. I did not, however, go into a full blown reedit. What emerged was Max Hell Frog Warrior.  Better than Toad Warrior? I think so. As good as this movie can be? No.

The Next, Better Version
            I have personally sat down, looked through the footage, and started to do a completely new, better edit of the film four times over the past fifteen years or so.  I do this, because as stated, there is a lot of great, unused, never before seen footage that could reveal an entirely different and better movie. Each time I have sat down to do this, however, I get maybe a half hour or so into the storyline development and something stops me. …I don’t finish. Then, I dump the edit. Though I know I really should complete the process something has always stopped me from doing so. What, I don’t know?
            Perhaps at some point, I will compete this process as I know there is a better film hidden within the footage.
            Though I suppose there is a million subtle stories I could tell about the creation of this film, in this piece I have provided you with an overview of the All and the Everything of Toad Warrior AKA Max Hell in Frogtown AKA Max Hell Frog Warrior. I hope this provides you with some factual insight into the actual goings-on.  Any specific questions, you can always ask…

Be positive and smile.

FADE OUT.
THE ZEN

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You can also find this article on Scott Shaw.com at: Max Hell Frog Warrior: The Story of the Production.