Zen Filmmaking Be Positive

Character Study

By Scott Shaw
I, of course, am a practitioner of
Zen Filmmaking. Zen Filmmaking is all about embracing the naturalness of the moment—allowing your portrayed character to exist in the spontaneity and genuineness of the moment. Thus, the words you speak, while in character, and the actions your take are all guided by the response to what the other actor is saying and where you find the life understanding of your character naturally flowing towards.
Traditional acting is much different from that. A person is told what their character is to be—how they should look, act, feel, and behave. They are then provided with the words their character should say and the way their character should speak those words; all defined by the script.
In many ways, this is a much harder process. In many ways, it is much more unnatural. That is why I devised Zen Filmmaking—to embrace the true essence of the individual to let them be who they truly are while portraying the someone else.
But, there is a great art to actually becoming the someone else. It takes time. It takes practice.
I think we have all seen actors on the screen doing a very bad job in their portrayal. Sure, they are dressed appropriately. Sure, they have memorized their lines. But, they have not become the character they are playing. And, from this, there is something lost in the believability of the character and, thus, with the entire production.
As an actor, every now and then, I am asked to act in a traditional production. I am given my script and I must learn my lines. For me, it is a fun, enlightening experience because I must become that someone else. As I am running my lines, I try to emerge myself into the mindset of that character. I try to understand who that person truly is. I try to become that person.
More than simply a process used in acting, I believe this is a technique that people should bring into their life. Ask yourself, how often do you truly try to understand life from the perspective of the other person? How often do you put yourself in their shoes and take the time to try to understand life from the perspective that they are living it? Most people just judge. They just see others from their own perspective, never trying to see the life melodrama that the other person is living.
So, next time you are passing judgment on a person… Next time you think that you know what someone is feeling and why they are feeling it… Next time you believe that you know why a person is doing what they are doing, become that other person. Put yourself into their mind. Become them as a character you are playing on the silver screen. Put yourself into their shoes. If you do, I am sure that you will come away with a completely different perspective about who they truly are and why they are doing what they are doing. In fact, by mentally becoming them as a character you are portraying, you might even emerge with a better perspective about who you truly are.

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