Thursday, July 2, 2020

Avant-garde detachment on the rollers: the Zen film director Scott Shaw and Donald Jackson (Roller Blade Seven)

Here is an interestingly thoughtful article written about Zen Filmmaking, the Roller Blade Seven, Scott Shaw, and Donald G. Jackson. This article was written in Russian and is from a Russian website. The link is below. This is the Google Translation of the article. Nothing was changed or altered in any manner except the Roller Blade Seven photographs from the Russian website have been removed. 

Editor's note: We decided to take part in the action # avengarda month , which was launched by Moore (wonderful), calling all not indifferent "to give people anew to revel in the pleasure of the uncompromising and violent avant-garde of the last century, whether Dadaists, experimental cinema, difficult and unusual poetry, daring philosophy , crazy architecture, beauty of painting, outlandish fiction, shocking actionism or avant-garde music. "

Details of this wonderful action can be read on the site of Moor, and our first Chapaevsky blow in this direction will be a note of Dali Lama XXIII about such a phenomenon as a zen cinematograph (those who are already acquainted can start to whistle softly - but this is optional).

In the world there were many avant-garde movements that proclaimed a variety of ideologies - mainly, of course, declaring their main goal to change human nature, renewal of art and other such epic and pretentious things. But there are also a few creators who openly admit that they are engaged in art for entertainment, making it a priority to get pleasure from the process. Not particularly well-known in wide circles, but having its own face, the school of "Zen-Film Directing" is the brainchild of precisely such people.

The story of what was later christened "Zen Filmmaking" began in 1991, when Donald Jackson, an American producer and director who directed the continuation of his low-budget production films Roller Blade and Roller Blade Warriors, invited Scott Shaw, an actor, musician and script writer, engaged in martial arts, - to participate in the creation of this sequel, called the Roller Blade Seven.

Perhaps because the film's design can be briefly described as an action story about samurai and ninjas on roller skates, during the stage of putting into effect the script written by Shaw and Jackson, most of the actors hired by the authors completely failed to fulfill their hopes (and the author of these lines in something can understand them): in their acting out half-naked novices of the Order of Light there was no soul and fire, and the models of samurai swords dissected the air without sufficient enthusiasm.

After several days of shooting, Shaw and Jackson made a fateful decision, which instead of another boring exploit freak they came out two parts of a very unusual film, which on profile sites continue to receive almost exclusively, either as low or as high as possible.

Shaw and Jackson decided to abandon the script, replacing it with improvisation: they invented story collisions on the move, explaining the remaining actors the general outline of what is happening and the approximate content of what they should say, and then relying on their improvisational abilities. Soon Shaw, who had been fond of oriental mysticism all his life, realized that this was truly a Zen approach - so this method was given the name of Zen filmmaking; and so Shaw found a new occupation for himself, to which he continues to devote most of his life.

The principles of Zen-filmmaking, formulated by Shaw after working on many films, are as follows. First of all, the absence of a script is important. Shaw gives two main reasons for this approach. Clearly scripted scenario, in his opinion, deprives the creative process of freedom, restricts the creators of the film to make changes, guided by spontaneous glimpses of inspiration. In addition, when faced with the embodiment of his clear plan by other people, the author will almost inevitably be disappointed that his ideal plan can not come to life exactly as he wants. In the case of Zen-filmmaking, "what happens is what happens."

In addition, Shaw formulated six rules of Zen filmmaking:

+ Use any unexpected situation.

+ If you can not waste time, money and energy to create large-scale scenery - do not waste it. Instead, find picturesque places and shoot there.

+ Just act! In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred everything will pass without problems.

+ Let your creative vision always be more important than the plot. For many directors, the starting point is a "good script", which they are trying to turn into a film, but everything written in the script can not be realized if the budget is not particularly large.

+ Zen filmmaking is a spontaneous process. Zen teaches that the attainment of enlightenment, satori, is possible only when the ordinary mind stops its activity: it is just as impossible to achieve Film Enlightenment by building its film according to scenarios and clear plans - there will always be a gap between the desired and the real.

+ Zen-filmmaking assumes rejection of expectations and desires - so any result becomes perfect.

Another important feature of Zen movies is editing: in the era of video clips, any footage suits, if you apply imagery to it. Shaw warns, however, that the spontaneity of the Zen film process does not mean ease, and compares it to sit-down zazen meditation: just as it is difficult for people to truly realize that they are already enlightened and possess the nature of the Buddha, it's not easy even when shooting a film, just letting it take place. In general, the ideology of Zen filmmaking can be characterized as the elimination of the maximum possible number of obstacles in the filming of the film - and the author's expectations are among the obstacles; The film process should become free and natural.

Guided by these principles, Shaw and Jackson constructed two parts of the film from the footage, the Roller Blade Seven (for which there is not a very distinct translation from the nineties with the appropriate nasal dubbing) and Return of the Roller Blade Seven, which the author of these lines believes, perhaps , their most outstanding achievement.

How does Zen look from the outside? Of course, to some extent both parts of the film resemble something like the movies of the studio Asylum, where the emphasis is on the savagery, to some extent - the actor's cabbage or the LARP session. But thanks to many factors, the story of the travel of the unruffled action-hero Hock, played by Scott Shaw himself, into the Roller Zone and about battles with weird villains looks like an excellent example of surreal cinema.

Roller Blade Seven and Return of the Roller Blade Seven from ordinary low-budget thrash movies are distinguished by easy and unconstrained "dreaminess" and unpredictability of what is happening, which is strengthened by the hypnotic soundtrack (the author of which is again Shaw) and a very unusual montage: for example, some action - scenes are shown many times from multiple angles at different speeds with small variations, which makes the banal fights turn into a fascinating spectacle reminiscent of duels of wizards, where everything is not what it seems.

Roller Zone with its inhabitants, moving almost exclusively on rollers and skateboards, is perceived as a psychedelic limb, the land of the dead, who have not yet realized that they are dead - the old rocker who played himself asks a gentleman in a cylinder in the middle of the desert where he can find Buddy Holly. Here are representatives of the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness, starting negotiations with a polite exchange of courtesies, several minutes send each other three letters, sitting at the table. Here against the background of the American flag raves about the skateboard villain Pharaoh, chained to a wheelchair.

In addition to Jackson and Shaw, obviously enjoying filming in their own film, other actors, some of whom are very famous - like Frank Stallone, Sylvester Stallone's younger brother, or Karen Black, portraying a fortune teller who shares a mushroom trip with Hock and his mentor, "Father Donaldo." Return of the Roller Blade Seven is compositionally more meditative and more saturated with fan service: oh yeah, sometimes boobs are shown here, like in the co-operative cinema of the nineties, so that the viewer does not relax.

Try to believe the author of these lines, who watched a lot of bad and boring low-budget films: both parts of the Roller Blade Seven only formally belong to the "next thrash of the nineties", and (unlike some Samurai Cop, just made fantastically bad) thanks to the creators' love they blossom real art - and their example is able to inspire and teach something new. However, no, never believe anything on what is written "Zen", check everything yourself!

I focused on two of the most outstanding, in my opinion, Zen works of Shaw and Jackson. However, Shaw has shot many more films, both alone and in collaboration with the now deceased Jackson; many movies are not so easy to get, but you can order through his site. Also, this site is full of notes on many aspects of Zen philosophy - and as the Real Zen Master, Shaw appears as a figure that is difficult to say if he is serious when he is shooting films such as "Beverly Hills Vampires-Bikers" or "Guns El Chupacabras ", or maybe all this is a grandiose rally or trolling ... If you are interested in this figure, you can undertake further research yourself .

In the future, perhaps, the author of these lines will finish the Russian subtitles to both parts of the film; but due to the general dream of what is happening, the translation here is perhaps no more important than in films like Jarmusch's "Limits of Control". Due to the underground nature of both parts of the Roller Blade Seven, the existing rips in the network, unfortunately, do not have a high image quality; However, when was the situation different with Enlightenment?

Dali Lama XXIII

Roller, Bimbos and Bushido

Here's a fun/interesting review of Roller Blade Seven we discovered on SciFi Universe. This is the Google translation: Italian to English. 

Here's the link to the original: The Roller Blade Seven

Movie Review: The Roller Blade Seven # 1 [1991], by Nicolas L.

Review written by Nicolas L. on Thursday, November 26, 2009 at 12h21
Scifiuniverse


Donald G. Jackson left us six years ago. Almost completely unknown in our country (to my knowledge, none of his films were published in France), he was nevertheless one of the most glorious torchbearers of the American Z cinema. Many of his films - including the tetralogy Frogtown, remarkable for its wacky humor - are now considered cult, the kind of film that any fan of cinema bis US must have seen and own in his dvdthèque. 

In 1990, after the success of transmutations in the Indie US medium brought him a certain notoriety, Donald G. Jackson began producing a remake, that of Roller Blade, a film of action and martial arts completely broke where gangs of thugs in rollerblades clash. To do this, he manages to surround himself with a team of actors who will become his faithful fellow travelers. Indeed, if Donald G. Jackson loses a Roddy Piper (the star of Frogtown) having succumbed to the charms of the B series, he wins the friendship of big names of independent cinema like William Smith, Joe Estevez (the brother of Martin Sheen ), pornstar Jill Kelly, Frank Stallone (Sylvester Stallone's brother), the sexy Rhonda Shear and especially Scott Shaw, who will participate in writing the script and build with him the Zen Film Touch (a series of films shot without prior script writing).

If the scenario of Roller Blade Seven resumes the frame of the film released in 1986, it is quite different from its narrative style. Indeed, Donald G. Jackson and Scott Shaw surprise by giving birth to a script highlighting a strong psychedelic and experimental. The story is always set in a futuristic minimalist setting (in fact, this Wheelzone is only one of those immense channels of sewage evacuation of the American cities), which gives to the film an empty aspect rather disconcerting . We see Hawk Goodman (a character evoking a little MacLeod Highlander) fulfill a mission entrusted by the Reverend Donald (interpreted by the filmmaker in person!): Release the claws of the sect Master of Light Institute, led by Saint Offender, the beautiful Sister Sparrow. In his quest, he will have to face, armed with his katana and mounted on rollers (like almost everyone in this film) the terrible Pharaoh, the cruel Black Knight, ninja gangs and rogue gangs. He will also find allies along the way ... 

Far from the (very friendly) comics style displayed in Frogtown, Roller Blade Seven surprises by its atypical realization, made of repetitions of identical sequences, psychedelic passages followed by still silences, inserts tracks suprising (way video games), scenes slow motion and looping. In fact, beyond the simple action film, Roller Blade Seven is also a real trip without real logic, no rhythm, a dream awake without tail or head. This experimental approach is introduced (and justified?) By a sequence where Hawk Goodman, to become a roller warrior, must swallow hallucinogenic mushrooms under the eyes of his shaman, played by the star of the series B Karen Black, and supported by a Blurry photography and rollerblade outfits, ranging from clown gear to fitness bodysuits, to latex knight armor and banjo wear. In short, it's anything.

Directed with 300,000 unfortunate dollars, Roller Blade Seven may displease but certainly not leave indifferent. The vision of this film can be just as painful experience, a real torture, as a fascinating moment (well, I think). It is difficult to precisely define the work of Donald G. Jackson. Sometimes actors, for no reason, cross the screen from left to right, stop, take kung fu poses, before the story passes to something else via a simple cut. The music, absolutely cheesy, amplifies the sensation of nullity already well highlighted by the presence of ridiculous characters by their accoutrements and their attitudes. However, through this debauchery of flaws that could lead to the pestle, we can feel - it seems - the artistic approach and, foul dung, the film has managed to move to the status of cult film. 

Even more surprising. Roller Blade Seven wants to be an action movie, a martial arts movie. Out, the sequences featuring the martial choreography are empty of any rhythm and are only a series of plans linked by a fitting absolutely not opportune. The protagonists appear as soft and slouchy and the amateur of chambara will probably live a real nightmare to the vision of these passages. Note also that the footage is extremely wise, sex and gore are indeed completely absent.

Nicolas L.'s conclusion about the movie: The Roller Blade Seven # 1 [1991]

Roller Blade Seven puzzles me. After three screenings, I still do not know if this film is a real foutage of mouth realized by a hype or an avant-garde stroke of genius. I will therefore forget the artistic aspect to judge it essentially on my primary feeling; on the sensation of entertainment. Unfortunately for the film, considering only this aspect, my opinion is hardly laudatory. I was really bored in front of Roller Blade Seven. To be direct, I will even say that I have often royally pissed. And I'm not the only one, I even thought at one point that, stunned by boredom, my sleepy parrot would fall from his perch.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Roller Blade Seven: The Music Video


By Scott Shaw

Over the past several months there have been a couple of people who have taken footage from The Roller Blade Seven and used it to make music videos. This is not the first time this has happened. Back in the '90s there were a couple of bands that did this. One was an electronica group from Sweden (I believe). Their music was very good. This was back before YouTube became the massive force it has become and the video was uploaded to a different platform. I forget the name of the band and I never downloaded the video. I guess I thought it was going to be up there forever. Obviously, I was wrong. If you know who that band was and/or have a copy of the video, let me know.
More recently, a couple of people have followed suit. I’m not going to name band names here, just to keep this simple, but the first time this happened (recently) I thought it was done by the band themselves so I contacted them via their website as I always liked their music. The leader of the band got all pissy with me asking if I was trying to promote my movie by using his music. As I told him, Roller Blade Seven needs no publicity. I even told him how he could do a Copyright Take Down on YouTube if he wanted to. But, at least so far, he has not. So, I don’t actually know who combined their music with RB7 footage or why?
Overall, I have mixed feelings about this whole process. On one hand, it is kind of flattering, as the fact is we made RB7 over twenty-five years ago and there is still a lot of discussion surrounding it and a lot of footage being appropriated. On the other hand, it is all kind of weird because no one has ever contacted me asking me if it is okay to use footage from one of my films to make their music videos. And yes, I do own all rights, title, and interest to the film. So???
From a certain perspective, this is all fine, great, and interesting but it sets me to questioning, “Why.” One of the main issues is that I have moved on so far as a filmmaker since we made RB7. Everything about my filmmaking style has evolved. Yet, people are still looking to the past. They are not coming to me and asking me to make the kind of music video, for a specific song, that I would do today; they are just grabbing footage and running away with it. And certainly, no one is paying me any money for the use of my footage, which is one of the whole points of Copyright Laws, nor is anyone even asking me if I like the music that they are using Roller Blade Seven footage for—which I believe should be one of the elemental criteria. So again, I have mixed feelings.
For example, the most recent band that I have found using RB7 footage for their music video, I am not really about. I don't really like their music. Initially, I thought to do a Copyright Take Down on it but then I realized that would be a bit disingenuous as I am sure some people like their music.
For anyone who has read the story of Roller Blade Seven, they understand that the movie cost my life a lot. So, to not even ask me if it’s okay to use the footage is a bit discourteous. If you love the movie, great! If you like the footage, great! But, you should at least have the reverence for the filmmaker to ask him (me) if it’s okay to use the footage in association with your music video or any other visual project before you just grab it and run.
For the record, I don’t work cheap. But, I can be hired. So, if you want to do it right, you should contact me and maybe we can make a Scott Shaw Zen Film Music Video, twenty-first century style, for your song. Yeah, yeah, I get it… You want to grab RB7 publicity (as shoddy as that is) and you want your footage for free and you don’t want to have to work too hard to get your music video out there. But hey, if you like Roller Blade Seven, think about the filmmaker first!
This is all kind of like when you’re in a room and someone is talking about you and you know they’re talking about you and you want to say, “Hey, you realize I’m standing right here.” But, you don’t say anything and you just let them speak.  :-)

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Avant-garde detachment on the rollers: the Zen film director Scott Shaw and Donald Jackson (Roller Blade Seven)

Here is an interestingly thoughtful article written about Zen Filmmaking, the Roller Blade Seven, Scott Shaw, and Donald G. Jackson. This a...