Zen Filmmaking Be Positive

The 70s Were Great but They Ain’t Ever Comin’ Back AKA You Make What You Can With What You Have

Originally from the Scott Shaw Zen Blog

By Scott Shaw
I was kicking around in the late night, last night, flipping channels, and I noticed that the film, Jackie Brown was just beginning. I hadn’t watched the entire film in a number of years so I sat back with a couple bottles of the grape and settled into the cinema. Good movie.
As is the case with many a Tarantino film, the 70s are heavily referenced. The 70s were a great era for film and music. This was especially the case for independent cinema. There was some really revolutionary stuff accomplished. Tarantino, who is just a years or so younger than me, grew up in that same era and he often makes reference to the 70s in his films. Me too… Of course, due to budgetary constraints, certainly not on the level of his films. Jackie Brown is an ideal example.
And, that’s the thing; you do what you do with what you have…
Certainly, I have my share of fans of Zen Cinema. I also have my detractors, who always seem to be way more vocal. But, like I often say, “Let’s see you do what I have done. Make a film with the scope of my Zen Films for a budget of $300.00 (or less).” Because that was/is my formalized budget. Sure, it can be done. I did it. But, do you have what it takes to get it done?
As the years went on my focus in cinema changed. For those of you who know me or know about me, about ten years ago I stopped doing narrative films and shifted my focus to pure cinema. Cinema for the sake of cinema. No dialogue; characters but characters in their natural state. With visuals as the driving force.
Though many/most of the people who discuss my films speak of those I did before this point in my cinematic evolution, it is essential to note that they did not even start talking until I stopped making—making narrative films. So, what does what they have to say, say about anything?
This being said, it is essential to note that there was not a big, fast, and/or immediate break in my filmmaking style. I was doing non-narrative films long before that point in my cinematic evolution. It was simply that they were not as widely viewed as my other cinematic works.
All this being said, I am often asked what would cause me to do another traditional film? …Well, at least traditional in my sense of the word… :-)
I thought about this last night as I was watching Jackie Brown. One of the things would be to be able to make that 70s style film with actors from that era like Tarantino accomplished. But, the sad fact is, they are all so old now, if they are even still alive. So many of them are gone. Though the cinema of that era will live on forever. The people who created the cinematic art of that era are rapidly waning. Thus, the talent pool is forever diminishing and will soon be eternally lost.
I guess this is like life. There are those who do what they do, done in an era. There are those who rise up in that era and are forever defined by that era but then life is gone. We all get old. We all die. There are forever those who will discuss what others have done. But, they are not the doers. They are not the knowers. They are not the livers. They are not the creators. They are simply the talkers. But, once it is gone, it is gone. The life, the people, the era. So, all we can do is what we can do. All we can do is make what we make defined by what we have available to us in whatever era we live.

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