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Zen Filmmaking


Zen Filmmaking

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Zen Filmmaking is a formalized style of filmmaking that was developed by Scott Shaw in association with Donald G. Jackson.



The primary premise behind Zen Filmmaking is that no screenplay should be used in the creation of a film. In Zen Filmmaking, "The spontaneous creative energy of the filmmaker is the only defining factor. This allows for a spiritually pure source of immediate inspiration to be the only guide in the filmmaking process." [1]

The Six Tenets of Zen Filmmaking:

1. Make all unpredicted situations work to your advantage.

2. Don't waste time, money, and energy attempting to create your sets when you don't have to. Instead, travel to them and allow their natural aesthetics to become a part of your film.

3. Just do it. 99% of the time you can get away with it.

4. Never let your storyline dominate your artistic vision. To many would be filmmakers attempt to write what they believe is a "Good" script and then try to film it. Without an unlimited budget it is virtually impossible to get what is on the page upon the stage.

5. Zen Filmmaking is a spontaneous process. Just as the Zen understanding of enlightenment teaches that though you may meditate for years it is not until the moment when you step beyond your thinking mind and realize that you are already enlightened that you achieve Satori. Thus, if you acutely plan your productions, with screenplays, storyboards, and locations, there is no room for the instantaneousness of filmmaking enlightenment to occur and you will always be lost between the way your mind desired the scene to be and the way it actually turns out.

6. Ultimately, in Zen Filmmaking nothing is desired and, thus, all outcomes are perfect.

From the article, The Saga of Guns of El Chupacabra and the Art of Zen Filmmaking. [2]

Comparison and Contrast

Zen Filmmaking is often compared to Direct Cinema or Cinéma vérité. This is primarily based upon the fact that all of these styles of filmmaking employ the use of impovsational acting and are filmed with techniques similar to those used in the creation of a documentary film.

The concept of improvisational acting is not new to cinema. Directors such as John Cassavetes and Wong Kar-wai are well known for creating their films with an intentional lack of formalized structure. In Zen Filmmaking, however, this lack of structure is a formality as opposed to an artistic decision.

Similar to both Direct Cinema and Cinéma vérité, Zen Filmmaking relies heavily upon the edit of the film to create the final product. This is due to the fact that as there are no screenplays used in the creation of these films, the edit is what is ultimately used to define the story and present what the audience will view.


The first film created in this style of filmmaking was the 1991 feature The Roller Blade Seven. In this film, such well known actors as two time Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee Karen Black appear.

The documentary film Interview: The Documentary details the process of creating this first Zen Film.

Zen Films:

The Roller Blade Seven (1991)
Samurai Vampire Bikers From Hell (1992)
The Legend of the Rollerblade Seven (1992)
Return of the Roller Blade Seven (1993)
Samurai Johnny Frankenstein (1993)
Atomic Samurai (1993)
Car Jack (1993)
Samurai Ballet (1994)
The Queen of Lost Island (1995)
Toad Warrior (1996)
Shotgun Boulevard (1996)
Guns of El Chupacabra (1997)
Armageddon Boulevard (1998)
Vampire Child (2000)
Ride with the Devil (1999)
Ghost Taxi (1999)
Quest of the Invisible Ninja (2000)
Undercover X (2001)
Rock n' Roll Cops (2002)
Max Hell Frog Warrior (2002)
Hitman City (2003)
Rock n' Roll Cops 2: The Adventure Begins (2003)
Vampire Blvd. (2004)
Super Hero Central (2004)
Interview: The Documentary (2005)
The Final Kiss (2005)
Killer: Dead or Alive (2006)
Aimee Semple McPherson (film) (2006)


Variety (magazine) May 4, 1992
Independent Video Magazine Issue Number 7, 1993
Who's Who in Entertainment 3rd Edition, 1997
Draculina Magazine Issue Number 32, 1997
Femme Fatales Magazine Volume 7, Number 2, July 1998
Thunder Magazine Issue Number 4, 1998
Variety (magazine) February 23, 1998
Hollywood Reporter February 24, 1998
Psychotronic Video Magazine Issue Number 36, 2000

External Links

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.