The Scott Shaw Blog Be Positive

Zen Filmmaking and All the Crazy Things That People Say

Back in February of this year I had the idea to put together a book titled, Zen Filmmaking and All the Crazy Things That People Say, focusing on the reviews that have been written about my Zen Films. I got distracted and went onto other projects. Maybe I will finish it up next year. In the mean time, here’s the intro I wrote for the book. You may enjoy it.


Here’s a fun book for all you fans (or haters) of Zen Filmmaking. Collected within these pages are many of the reviews of Zen Films that were posted on the internet over the years. Some are very positive, understanding, and praise the Zen Films while other (most) torpedo them proclaiming how horrible every aspect of every film actually is. In either case, combined, they present a fun, explicit look into the Zen craziness that is Zen Filmmaking. Read on and have fun.

* * *

Over the years since I entered the film game it has forever perplexed me how film reviewers, (professional and amateur), would take all the time and expend all of the energy necessary to write a review about an independent film they loved or hated. Of course, the reviews written by a hater of a film are always the most palpable but sometime people really love a film and write a strikingly positive review, as well. Personally, I always wondered why a reviewer would write a review instead of being imaginative in their own right and creating their own works of film art. But, that’s just me.

I have always found it very disingenuous for a person who had not actually gone through the process of creating a film to become a film reviewer. Like I have long said, “What is a film critic? With very few exceptions it is a person who doesn’t have the talent or the dedication to actually create a film.” …For if a person has not actually created a film they have no idea about the process involved and what it takes to actually envision, instigate, get the equipment, the cast and the crew together, film and then edit, soundtrack, M&E the feature, and then realize a final production. If they have never had this experience, how can they truly understand filmmaking and how can they provide a valid commentary about a film without personally understanding what it took to bring that film together? Moreover, if they were not on the specific set of the film they are discussing they have no firsthand knowledge about what actually took place or what was the motivations of the filmmaker or the experiences of the cast or the crew.

Since my early emersion in the film industry I have felt the same way as many a filmmaker has, “It’s easy to discuss what someone else has done. Let’s see what you can do.” Alas, most film critics never walk down the path of creative filmmaking, however, as it is so much easier to simply sit and type on their computer’s keyboard or get in front of their iMac or iPhone and discuss the productions of someone else.

Over the years I have watched as many a reviewer spoke about my Zen Films and myself. Many have actually attempted to tell their readers or listeners what I was feeling when I was creating a specific film. But, how can anyone know what another individual is feeling or why they do what they do? In virtually every case that a reviewer has spoken about my filmmaking motivations and the reasoning behind my end results, they were wrong. Wrong, but as a film critic in this day and age of self-publishing and internet forums, they encountered no checks and balances, so they could say whatever they want with no repercussions.

Some critics have even discussed how I felt about a specific review. I always found those statements immensely amusing. They never spoke to me—they never asked me how I felt… In fact, to this day, over all these many-many years and all of the films I have created, there has not been one film critic who actually spoke to me before they reviewed one of my movies. So, how could any of them have any idea about what I was feeling or why? The fact is, though a number of reviewers have discussed how I felt about a specific review, they were, in fact, wrong.

Do negative reviews bother me? I do not like negativity on any level for all it breeds is further negativity, nor do I appreciate reviewers who distort or twist the truth to their own ends in their reviews. This being said, if a review is well written, be it positive or negative, for the most part, I find them entertaining.

The thing I do not like, and I have spoken about this a lot over the years, is when a reviewer presents their opinion as fact but their opinion is, in fact, incorrect. What happens from this is that it provides a certain type of individual, who does not possess an investigative mind and does not scrutinize the supposed facts for themselves, to be exposed to falsehoods by believing the fabrications presented by the critic. This style of pseudo journalism gives birth to all kinds of misinformation and false facts being disseminated to the masses. Lies and falsehoods, based upon erroneous opinions, are a never a good thing.

I have long been an outspoken proponent of Intellectual Property Rights enforced by Copyright Law. In this digital age, most people don’t care about the rights of the creator, however, as they just want to watch movies for free on unauthorized websites and grab footage from films and do whatever they want with it. Like I always say, if they were the creator of that film, they would possess a very different frame of mind, but as they are not, they do not care about the consequences this style of behavior has on the filmmaker. In fact, some on-line reviewers have become very wealthy grabbing footage from films without authorization and using that footage to create presentations. Illegal, yes. But, prosecution is very expensive, so many get away with it.

As the FBI has proclaimed, “Internet Piracy is not a Victimless Crime.” The independent filmmaker is the one who is hurt. But, how many reviewers care as long as they are developing a following and making money off of discussing the creations of other people. And, how many viewers actually care as long as they are getting away with watching movies for free and/or being entertained by being allowed to watch or read provocative presentations based upon someone’s opinion about someone else’s creation?

Ever since I first created Zen Filmmaking it has always been about the lack of defined content. It is about freedom. It is about taking the viewer on a Mind Ride. It was never about story, story structure, or filming or acting in the traditional sense of the subject.

Since its inception, I have been very specific about what Zen Filmmaking was and what it was not. Yet, no matter how much information is out there about this cinematic art form, reviewers continue to get it wrong. They continue to attempt to define Zen Films within their own mental framework. They continue to attempt to put their own definition upon it and draw their own conclusion about it, comparing it to what it is not; traditional filmmaking.

Here lies the ultimate fault in the reviewer; they are attempting to put their own definition onto something that they can never truly understand. As they did not create it, they can never understand it. Thus, all they have to say about any film is solely based upon their own predetermined judgment about that film.

But remember, as it is proclaimed in Matthew 7:1-5, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

With all this as a basis, what I am presenting in this book are reviews about my films and my filmmaking taken from the Public Domain of the World Wide Web. As everybody seems to not care about the Copyright Infractions they have done to my films and my other creative works presented in their reviews, I will hereby return the favor.

What I am doing in this book is presenting you, the reader, with the reviews and the discourses, created by film critics that have been found and referred to me by friends, foes, and fans. They are presented in their entirety with no editing in any manner.

If any of you reviewers out there have a problem with this book, think about his, I am casting your reviews to the annals of history this one and only time. There will not be a second edition of this book. Plus, perhaps this will give you the opportunity to consider the affect your reviews have had on other filmmakers and myself. With that thought in mind, from this book, maybe all of us will become more conscious and invoke a more caring process of human interaction, realizing that everything everyone does has a wide spanning effect and the artist and the creative person can never truly be judged by anyone but themselves. Like I always say, “Think about the other person first before you do anything that may affect anyone.” Mostly, hopefully you, the reader, can have some fun reading these reviews. But remember, don’t take them too seriously.

As my motto always has been, “Be Positive.” Have fun with these reviews and see them for they are: the positive, the negative, the truthful, the distorted, and the lies. And remember, if you weren’t there, you weren’t there. Not being there means you have absolutely no firsthand knowledge about anything that took place.

Remember, what is the number one rule of Zen Filmmaking? “Having fun is what it is all about.”

Read on and have fun! Happy

Scott Shaw