Chapter 10 of 26 from Werner Herzog

Camera: Shooting Strategy

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

Topics include: Storyboards • Shooting coverage • Collecting the remarkable

Werner Herzog

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. You’ll learn storytelling, cinematography, locations, self-financing, documentary interview techniques, and how to bring your ideas to life. By the end, you’ll make uncompromising films.

Watch, listen, and learn as Werner covers every aspect of filmmaking, from pre-production to distribution.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Werner will also critique select student work.

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Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking