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Zen Filmmaking: It’s a Spiritual Process

Originally from The Scott Shaw Zen Blog

By Scott Shaw

I recently wrote a piece about one of those attack ads that a couple of content creators on YouTube did on a (kinda) Zen Film. Thankfully, after I contacted them, they pulled Zen Filmmaking out of their title, as they themselves had claimed it was used solely to get more followers. But, all this and all that brings us to the part and parcel of Zen Filmmaking and the essential essence of the craft that everybody either doesn’t understand or seems to forget. Zen Filmmaking is a spiritual process. It is not just some form of guerrilla filmmaking. Yes, Zen Filmmaking may, during some productions, exist in and on the level of microbudget filmmaking, but that is not its essence nor is it its core. It is all about the process of the creation of a film based in the purest sense of mysticism.
 
The entire reason Zen is referenced in the title of this style of filmmaking is that it evokes the essence of Zen. It is designed to emulate the space of Mushin, No Mind, the free-flowing nature of allowing all things to be as they are, following the path of least resistance, and the hope for anything to not be anything but what it is.
 
It’s easy to criticize. Anybody can look at Anything and easily find fault if that is what they are watching for. But, people who operate on that level of life are existing in a space defined by unenlightened negativity.  Sure, many people live their entire existence operating from this life-perspective. But, what does that give back to humanity? Does it make anything any better? No. All it does is to unleash hate. But, what is hate? It is one person casting their harsh judgment onto something else. Whether this is unleashed in a small or a large dose, the outcome is still the same: pain and suffering. The embracing of hurtful negativity, how does that make any level of life any better? It does not.
 
Whenever I see or hear Zen Filmmaking being discussed by people of this mindset, I always witness the same levels of criticism. But what these people never understand is the dome of magic that takes place for those of us on the set. The freedom of artistic spontaneity. The amazement at perfect situations presenting themselves to us. The cinematic art that is created simply by allowing ourselves to be free in our creative portrayals.
 
I’m not going to go into detail, spelling out the tenets of Zen Filmmaking, in this little ditty, for I have done that for decades in other places. It’s all out there if you feel like reading it. What I will reemphasis AGAIN is, Zen Filmmaking is a spiritual process. With Zen at its core, and art at its heart, it is a way of displaying an individual’s cinematic vision in the most spiritually-based, art-filled manner possible.
 
Sure, as a human being you may love or hate what has been produced. That’s human nature. Nobody likes all the art that they encounter. But, if the actual point of a Zen Film’s inception is missed or misrepresented, or simply placed in the realm of something to be judged, the spiritual essence of that Zen Film is lost. It is lost to the judgmental mind of one or more people and from this the cinematic enlightenment that could be found in that production is simply cast to the realms of the lower mind where Satori or Nirvana may never be embraced.

It’s like what Donald G. Jackson used to say in interviews and stuff, “I don’t think most people could do what Scott and I do. They need structure. We just get out there and create.” And, isn’t that what true art is based upon; instantaneous inspiration and creation? I mean, many people base their criticism of Zen Filmmaking on the fact that it does not use screenplays. But, think how many bad independent films you have seen that were based on a script.
 
So, next time you’re watching a Zen Film, (if you ever do), understand its foundation. In fact, next time you watch any film or look at any art, seek to step beyond your own lower mind of judgement, witness the piece for what it truly is, and experience the spirituality that goes into creating any piece of art.
 
Your mind, your judgement, should never be the definition of any piece of art. For that denies all that it truly is. It negates the artist’s vision.
 
Spiritually is everywhere if you simply open your eyes. I am sure in your deepest mind you too speak to God in your own way. Is the way of God based upon you judging all things that you see, all things that you like or don’t like? No. God is the pure light of the all-encompassing everything. A truly spiritual person never judges. Let that be your guide.
 
Remember, Zen Filmmaking, is a spiritual process. That is its essence. Never allow a Zen Film to be denigrated by the words of those who refused to understand its elemental foundations.

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