The Scott Shaw Blog Be Positive

The Art of No Story

As I state, way too often, there is a rarely a week that goes by that I do not receive questions about (particularly) the Roller Blade Seven, in addition to Max Hell Frog Warrior, Armageddon Blvd., Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell, Vampire Blvd., Guns of El Chupacabra (which has just been licensed to RiffTrax), and the list goes on and on; you name the Zen Film, I get questions about it. All good! I’m happy to answer, whenever I can. I have had several really good chats about the truth and the realities of the movies and filmmaking in general with some of those people. I also get a lot of question about why don’t I/will I ever do another Roller Blade Seven or Max Hell. Plus, for and from some very astute studiers of the Zen Filmmaking legacy, I am often asked, will I ever do another story-driven film at all, as I haven’t made a narrative film in about fifteen years?  …And, why did I move away from that style of filmmaking onto the more freeform Non-Narrative Zen Films, that I currently create?
There are a million reasons, of course, all based in my own mind, as I am the artist and the creator of my products. Mostly, it has to do with an ever-evolving freedom of art.
To discuss… I’ve read and heard, ever since I got into the filmmaking game, that the storylines of some of my films don’t make a lot of sense. Whenever I hear or read such a statement, it invokes many amused emotions in me. First of all, if you are saying that, you are not looking too deeply into the story development of that film. But, more importantly, who cares? For those who make such a statement, have you ever even looked into my philosophy about filmmaking and the stories these Zen Films are based upon? If you have, you would have known that one of the primary tenets of Zen Filmmaking is that the stories have already all been told, (so why bother retelling them in a fake-coherent manner), and/or that a story has to be lived before it can be written down. So, allow it to evolve in a natural process, whether it makes sense or not. Look at any of the interviews or discourses I, or Donald G. Jackson, ever gave about Zen Filmmaking, and this premise is made very-very clear. I/we never cared about the story development. It is only used as means and method to create a cinematic work of art revolving around a projected premise. But, that storyline is not essential, in any manner, to the art of that film. Moreover, stop trying to compare a Zen Film to a traditional film. For it is not. It never was intended to be.
What am I saying here? If you are looking for concise story development, a Zen Film is intentionally the wrong place to seek that out. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a visual movement of time and space that peeks into a particular altered reality, this is what you may find in a Zen Film.
I mean really, what does a critic do? Answer: Looks for something to criticize. But, is that a conscious place to live your life from? You may love or hate a piece of art. That’s human nature. But, do your homework before you criticize it. Attempt to truly understand any form of art from the place where it was created, not simply defined by whether you like or dislike it, while seeking out the flaws you feel it possesses.

That’s the thing about Zen, seeking the perfection within the imperfection.
Each artist presents their own interpretation of art in their own unique manner. And, this goes across all genres of the spectrum of art. Once upon a time, abstract art was new and unique. When seeing it for the first time, it was something totally new and different. Sometimes, so different that even to this day, many people do not like or appreciate it as art. But, loved or hated, it is the expression of that artist’s vision of art. This is the same with film art. My cinematic presentations are defined by the fact that the story does not matter, so stop looking for one.
Therefore, in answer to the question(s), would I ever do another story-driven narrative film? Sure, if I found the inspiration and the people to surround the project with positive energy. But, till that time, it is currently my focus to make the undefined Non-Narrative Zen Film. A space where, obviously and intentionally, the story does not matter. 
You can’t criticize the storyline when there intentionally is no storyline. Happy