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Arts & Entertainment

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.


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.

I will take much from this class, but more than anything else, I will leave here with a renewed sense of courage and purpose.

The unique insights provided are wonderful and invaluable. He inspires, breaks through his own illusions and inspires you to go for your vision despite the unreasonable challenges. This is what I loved about this class and the art of this man's singular vision.

Thank you so much for an inspirational masterclass. Werner Herzog is unconventional and a passionate man who teaches and shares everything he knows.

I have learned a great deal but the most helpful thing for me is contrasting my ideas with Werner’s, using his wisdom and growing through it. My goal is now to find a compelling idea and complete my first short.


Matt W.

Shoutout to the editor on this one for showing how useful coverage and being able to punch in are. I'm ROLLING

Dylan H.

"Shoot a Single Shot to Save Time"! I just learned this by accident only last year. This confirms my guy feeling about that learning moment. Thank you for keeping my thoughts lean and my enthusiasm high!

Robin F.

I love how the editor contradicts Werners statements on camera angles by doing what he criticises. Ironic to say the least.

Michael P.

The camera above him has a mic in its way. Smooth move Masterclass. Very funny though.

Alejandro H.

This is my main problem with cinematography today: shoot, cut, shoot, cut, shoot, cut...and then you see a lot of meaningless stuff on screen just because they could do it. Thanks, mr Herzog.

Billie C.

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!