By Scott Shaw
When I first coined the term, Zen Filmmaking, during the period when Donald G. Jackson and I were making, The Roller Blade Seven, it was simply a means to categorize and loosely define what we were doing -- based upon our metaphysical perception of reality and filmmaking. Give it a name for those who were working with us and wondered what we were doing. I never assumed that over two-decades later there would still be a need to be clarifying the subject. That being said, when people saw The Roller Blade Seven that was when the discussion of Zen Filmmaking truly began…
Don was very big on interacting on the Internet prior to his passing in 2003. That kind of stuff never interested me. He would go around the various chat rooms and newsgroups that were up at the time and, in many cases, get into on-line confrontations with people about what and how we were doing what we were doing. In those chat rooms he discussed Zen Filmmaking, which really set its concept into Internet motion.
After RB7 and with the creation of films such as Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell, Samurai Johnny Frankenstein, Samurai Ballet, Max Hell Frog Warrior, Ride with the Devil, Guns of El Chupacabra, The Rock n’ Roll Cops, and my writings on the subject being published, people then began to further form their own opinions about Zen Filmmaking. The word spread… Some wrote that what we were doing was Direct Cinema or Cinema Verite.’ But, that wasn’t the case. We were doing what we were doing, based upon nothing done before. It was completely organic.
As the discussion continued, some filmmakers begin to move forward, using elements of the Zen Filmmaking philosophy, and they began to make their own Zen Films. All good…
As Don’s health faded and I moved forward with Zen Films such as Hollywood P.D. Undercover, Undercover X, Hitman City, Super Hero Central, and Vampire Blvd. the word of Zen Filmmaking spread further. And it has continued to spread. People have continued their discussion about Zen Filmmaking. It is written about in several books, numerous articles, detailed in courses at a number of universities, and even a few documentaries have been made on the subject. All this being the case, the reason I was, (in some-ways), forced to formally define Zen Filmmaking is all the talk that has taken place and a lot of the misunderstandings about what a Zen Film is or is not. In actually, it was never my plan. I just wanted to let the concept remain wholly (or holy) Zen. But…
For better or for worse, with the passing of Donald G. Jackson, it was left to only me to define and explain the art form and philosophy known as Zen Filmmaking. But, the more I have written and spoken on the subject, the more I realized that people continued to use my words to feed into their own misunderstandings. From the moment I first discussed it; some people immediately got it. That was great. Others only wanted to take my words and use them as a means to criticize Zen Filmmaking and Zen Films. But, that’s life… People like to talk and say nothing about philosophies they do not understand.
Which brings me to the point of this discourse. Finally… The ultimate truth of Zen Filmmaking is there are NO DEFINITIONS. A Zen Film is what it is in its own moment of time and space. Just as each film begins in the mind of the filmmaker and follows its path to creation, there is no definition or logical explanations for creativity. There is no definable reason why one person wants to create a film and another person doesn’t. There is no definition for art. There is no definition for satori. As such, art and enlightenment should simply be allowed to exist within their own perfection. It is only the mind of the unenlightened that attempts to draw conclusions so that they may find a reason to love or hate a creation.
Criticizing a creation is criticizing life. Criticizing a philosophy is simply a person attempting to find fault with the spiritual understandings of another person based upon their own preconceived notions of reality.
Freedom of spirit is the true soul of Zen Filmmaking. Zen Filmmaking has no ultimate definition.
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