Film & TV

Camera: Shooting Strategy

Werner Herzog

Lesson time 14:46 min

Keep it simple, focused, and efficient—don't shoot coverage. Learn how to use one camera to make the best film possible.

Werner Herzog
Teaches Filmmaking
In 6 hours of video lessons, Werner Herzog teaches his uncompromising approach to documentary and feature filmmaking.
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I do not use a story board. I think it's an instrument of the cowards. You need it when you're do a film with digital effects and part of the screen has to be live action and the other part of the screen has to be ancient Rome, for example. And yes, you have to know exactly about positioning and moving. Then it's fine. If I had, let's say, story boards for most of my films, it would have been lifeless days of shooting. And allowing real intense life, pura vida, as Mexicans say. Not purity of life, but the full scope of life, the exuberance of life, into the day of shooting. Into also the day of editing. Your films will become stale very quickly. And I'll be completely unprepared on the set. I come with the actors in makeup, or costume, or not. And I start to stage the scene with them and do the basic choreography. And with a cinematographer I decide-- normally I try to do it in one single shot. Of course, and continuity always comes to me and they ask me, in how many shots are you going to dissolve this sequence? And I say, how do I know? I cannot tell you. I work myself into it. And I work myself into a sort of high intensity sort of vision and working in poetic frenzy. Although I'm very calm. And I say, at least it will be one shot. And sometimes I try to do one single shot, where the camera actually weaves and then goes to some detail. It moves back and the camera is somehow doing a choreography in the middle of everyone. Of course and I see, no you cannot. It's too long a way until I reach this point. And I look at the wristwatch of someone. You better cut the fastest movement or the fastest pan is a cut in such a case. And I start to organize cuts. But I come unprepared and it keeps the team on edge. And it keeps the actors on edge. They don't know exactly what's coming at them. Yes, they know, let's try to do it in one single shot. You better know your dialogue. You better know your movements. You better know what we are doing here. And that has been very, very helpful for me. [MUSIC PLAYING] Do not shoot much coverage. I do not shoot coverage. That's one of the things on my set-- one camera and I shoot a scene 3, 4, or 5 times. And that's it. If it doesn't function after 5 times, there's something wrong with the dialogue or with a scene and you better quickly rewrite something. And it happened in New Orleans with Nicolas Cage. My crew was nervous after the first day of shooting, which ended at 3:30 PM instead of 6:00 or 7:00 without going into overtime. And somebody said in the crew, yeah, but coverage, coverage. Aren't you shooting coverage? And I ignored it. And next day again, coverage. Where's coverage? I finished at 2:00 PM. I had it all in the can. And I didn't know what coverage meant. I know what coverage means in my car policy, my...

Capture the spectacular

When the legendary director Werner Herzog was 19, he stole a camera and made his first movie. 70 films and 50 awards later, Werner is teaching documentary and feature filmmaking. In this film class, you’ll learn storytelling, cinematography, location scouting, self-financing, documentary interview techniques, and how to bring your ideas to life. By the end, you’ll make uncompromising movies.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

A hard lesson to swallow but extremely useful. The complete iconoclast, the man who is right because he says so, and yet he has made films his way.

Really enjoyed Werner Herzog and his independent look at filmmaking. Really inspiring and really cool to have him here doing this in contrast to the other filmmakers on the platform. Thanks for this.

It took me a while to get through this class, but it was worth it. I learned it can be difficult to come up with stories as well as finding locations, and directing actors on set. Maybe have a film directing or film producing masterclass.

One of my favourite moviemakers and a great inspirational and motivational instructor, i found these Masterclass very complete and full of rich and pratical details and insights not only for film making but for life in general.


Kacee D.

I am so happy I direct the same way many of the greats do. I never allow cell phones on my set, always have small crews, never use storyboards & I rarely shoot coverage. In addition, I scout my own locations and always involved in casting. Sometimes DPs dislike no coverage so have to make sure you interview DP specifically to what you need.

Deborah S.

Yes, remaining focused, with minimal time shooting is also a great way to begin your process by using this footage for a short film series. I worked on those for several years and found they were great teaching tools. There are film festivals in my home town that offer this opportunity.

Christa A.

I just love his straight forward style. It's really incredible to have someone of his caliber be so blunt and honest.


It would be nice if some of the situations he is describing can be accompanied by actual footage. Some of it is hard to imagine, however, it is interesting to hear him explain it.

Lorenzo C.

so nice this thing of not collecting garbage. I have the same kind of experience, I never collected so much coverage and never liked to gather all sorts of stuff. I prefer to be prepared on what I want and film it. Editing is already doable while shooting!

Ketzal M.

Hahahahaha! Storyboards are for cowards! Some of Werner's advice seems silly.

Janos V.

If all the cuts were Werner's idea, it was to prove his point. If the cuts were the editor's idea despite Werner's protestations, then that was highly disrespectful. Either way, I just found the constant cutting immensely annoying.

Eric G.

When I studied photography some time ago one of the first things I learned was the importance of having (or developing) an "eye" for a shot. I learned you cannot keep shooting and shooting and expect to find a pearl lying among the stones...or what is called "spraying and praying." Yes, you often hear of "shooting ratios" in professional still photography, which is part of what Werner is talking about cinematically in his previous lesson about "coverage" and continuity. I directed a short film a couple of years ago where the film was storyboarded and the producer-screenwriter had envisioned full continuity for the project. It was a nightmare first because of all the angles he had decided on getting and the fact it was one of his first films and on a very low budget...that meant "no-name" actors which only compounded the creative process due to a lack of talent and experience. There was a lot of "spraying and praying" on that film which ultimately remains unreleased and will most likely stay that way. Remember, Werner said you cannot undo bad acting in is also hard to create good scenes out of bad ones there, too.


Always worth having a 2nd camera angle when shooting interviews...just usually more interesting if its not on the same axis.

Colin B.

"I do not come prepared." I love WH facial expression when he talks about the excitement of creating the scene in the moment... there's really no feeling quite like that on a set as a director when the juices are flowing and anything is possible.... anything might happen... it's the perfect atmosphere for miracles.