Scott Be Positive

Scott Shaw: The Making of a Samurai Vampire
This article originally appeared in Independent Video, Volume 7, 1993

“Film School is for sissies,” boldly states Producer/Director/Actor, Scott Shaw. “My film school was the streets of Hollywood.” Yes, this does in fact have a ring of truth to it, as Scott Shaw was born, grew up, and even attended Hollywood High School — where, instead of taking interest in the famous and the children of the ultra-famous he continued to train and teach the martial arts and live the life of a borderline delinquent. After high school Shaw spent many years in Asia perfecting his martial arts.

“I’m kinda one of these back door sort of people. I never aspired to be an actor or a filmmaker when I was young. Going to school with actors or going to the homes or sometimes even ending up on the sets with the children of famous actors or directors, all I saw was the down side of it all — all the insecurity, all the back stabbing. I told myself, “I would never be involved in all of that.”

Ironically, Shaw was pulled into the film industry through his twenty-eight years of martial arts experience, when he was offered a part in an action adventure film. And, though he reluctantly accepted it, the film bug bit him. He went on to star in numerous low-budget action adventures and co-star in many T.V. series episodes. He has also been featured in a number of ‘A’ films, most recently the film industry satire, The Player. Robert Altman, its director, a fan of Shaw’s acting and films, personally invited Scott’s appearance. All of this was not enough, however, Shaw preferred the creative control and the art of the low-budget film industry to all the politics of high budget features.

“Hey, you gotta get your hands dirty in this level of film making.” What he says is true for when you view the sets of his productions, it is not a regimented union crew all doing their very specific and often times undemanding job. What you do see is the director, the actors, the camera man all getting in there: constructing the sets, setting up the lights, and moving the equipment around. What comes from this type of production is some of the most outlandish, yet artistic efforts ever recorded on film.

“Sure my films are cult,” states Shaw, “Intentionally so! I’m not attempting to compete with the major budget films, making romantic, boring, love junk — that has all been seen before. What I am attempting to do, is produce films that have every inch, every element stuffed with artistic content.” If you consider titles such as
Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell and Surf Samurai from Atlantis, two of Shaw’s films, artful enough for you, then you are in the right place.

“What this type of filmmaking does is to give talented individuals who have either not yet broken into or do not desire to move into the main stream film industry a vehicle for their artistic expression. The only problem in this level of filmmaking comes from the control-freak film makers themselves. The problem with most film school graduates who try to go out and produce or direct low-budget is they go ego-maniac, and that is just not the way to get these type of films made. You hire a person because they have the look, the attitude, the whatever that you like — then you give them the part and let them run with their interpretation of it. You don’t try and control them.” On the sets of Shaw’s movies the attitude is a lot looser than most film companies. Everybody is having a good time expressing themselves. And, as Scott puts it, “Having fun is what it’s all about.”

Not necessarily determined to, but none the less causing controversy with every word he speaks, Shaw also believes, “People who study acting at an acting school are not actors. They’re are just fooling themselves. Actors act in films, not with the same few people on a weekly basis in some stupid class.” Shaw is opposed to the techniques of theatre actors, as well — believing that the acting styles and techniques are completely different. He exclaims, “There is no spontaneity in traditional theatre. And, it holds no posterity.”

Shaw also does not believe in extensive rehearsals and “Getting every word in the script right.” He prefers the spontaneous to the rehearsed. “If an actor changes the words around, who cares? Let them throw their own brand of seasoning in. Just so the point gets made. I mean hey, Stanaslofski is dead.”

Shaw came to this industry inadvertently but immediately dove in head first. “It has never been my strong suit to sit back and take a ride. I always want to get in the driver’s seat. Not satisfied with what he felt was going on, especially in the low budget action adventure venue, Shaw broke from his partnership with Donald G. Jackson, (Hell Comes to Frogtown), another famed cult filmmaker, and went out on his own. The team had produced two films together: Roller Blade Seven and Return of
the Roller Blade Seven through York Pictures; (both of which Shaw Co-wrote and Co-Produced with Jackson, as well as starred in). The two were scheduled to go on for five more films but Shaw decided it was time to move on.

“Mostly, what I have learned either by acting in low budget films, producing, or directing them, for other people, is what not to do.” With that in mind Shaw went off, founding his own company, No Mercy Productions, and has jumped into the arena of making cult action adventure films — as he puts it, “That have a purpose.”

“One of my main focuses in life, since a very young age, has been martial arts, so I just incorporated that into my films.” Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell was the first domestic feature to be completed and released through Shaw’s No Mercy Productions. The second was
Atomic Samurai. Recently completed is Surf Samurai from Atlantis.

Shaw is also not taking the traditional routes to sales in the very competitive film industry. “What the average low-budget film company does is pull some name actor who hasn’t worked in the ‘A’ market for several years into their film for a day, throw them a few thousand dollars, hand them a few scenes, and give them starring credit. Now, I’m not putting these actors down for I have worked with a lot of them, and they are for the most part, nice people. But, that is just not the necessary method to make a feature a worthy piece of work.”

Shaw has been at the forefront of integrating video production into his feature films. He states, “All the people who put down video productions are living in the dark ages. If you make an artistic project with zero money and a home camcorder, it is better than making a bad feature, with some ‘has-been’ actors and a several million dollar budget. Just do it! Making money is not what it is all about. The Zen experience of it all and the art is why one should make films.”

Well if breaking new ground stands for anything, Scott Shaw has the sledge hammer for it. His features received wide acceptance in numerous film festivals. And, if the road to making cult action adventure features, “With a purpose,” promises any rewards, Scott Shaw will be sure to receive them.

Copyright 1992 — All Rights Reserved