The Zen of Filmmaking: A Balance of Heart & Mind

by Xuan Vu © 2006

KoanInterviewRoom.jpgThis thesis project is an amalgamation of the education I have received, the experiences I have undergone, and the life lessons I have learned during my time as a student of the University Professors Program. It is a story of three years of personal and spiritual growth.

From a scientific-minded agnostic to a spiritually inclined practitioner, I have altered my lifestyle and worldview. I now live in a community of Zen laypeople and practice meditation everyday. I have realized the reason Buddhists place so much emphasis on the “Middle Way,” or the balance between two extremes. The journey that I took in the past three years involved a balancing act of theory and practice, intellectual knowledge and experiential wisdom, words and action. Without both sides of the equation, neither my studies nor my quality of life would have been nearly as complete or fulfilling as they have been.

From an academic-minded journalist to an independent narrative documentary filmmaker, I have altered my sense of purpose. I no longer feel the need to educate others in the formal, didactic manner characteristic of most broadcast quality documentaries. Instead, I have found that the most effective way to teach others something about life is by learning it firsthand for oneself through one’s own experience. It is through one’s own encounters with reality that one may convey any sort of truth, such as the relationship between filmmakers and subjects that emerges from the filmmaking process. By staying true to the character and integrity of the subjects and sequence of events, one may present the viewer with an honest, authentic account of the nature of a topic. By letting the subjects show, rather than tell, the audience what it’s like to live their life, one may give the audience the opportunity to see for themselves and draw their own conclusions about the subject matter.

In the following pages, you will find my own story unfold through the process of creation and development of both a film and a spiritual guiding force. Like the film, it is presented in as honest and straightforward a manner as possible to show my process of change. I invite the reader to come along for the ride and experience the journey with me as I relive the past three years.