Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Career Strategy

Werner Herzog

Lesson time 18:43 min

Be one of the ruthless ones who burst onto the scene. Learn how to deal with rejection and take control of your career.

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

Topics include: Being your own film school • Taking initiative • Preparing for rejection


I would say, if you are not going to film school-- and my general advice is to be skeptical about them. You spend way too much time in the film school. It costs way too much money. And you can learn the essentials of filmmaking on your own within a week, or maybe two weeks. All the rest, film school cannot teach you anyway. For me, short films were my film school. And it could still be the film school for many aspiring filmmakers. However, there are subjects that are calling for a short format, like "Plastic Bag," where I gave my voice for the plastic bag, in friendship to a colleague filmmaker, Ramin Bahrani. At the time I started, there was a lot of sense for doing short forms, because cinemas would have to pay less taxes if they showed a short film ahead of the regular program. What today is commercials, it was a short film which had some sort of evaluations and was considered culturally valuable. And I would have a film like this, and I could sell it, because the theatres would show it. That doesn't exist anymore. The short forms, I don't think there is a space in theaters. There's not a real space in television. I think the real fertile ground today is the internet-- YouTube, for example, or whatever. There will be formats out there, and you can easily present a short film there. And sometimes, the shorter the better. If you have a crazy cat video, it shouldn't be longer than 60 seconds. So my advice is, of course, always read, read, read. Watch films. Travel on foot. Travel on foot, which opens your perspectives, which opens the world up to you. [MUSIC PLAYING] Initiative. I think, in a way, I'm a product of initiative. And the real genius of initiatives was Rainer Werner Fassbinder, a colleague of mine who passed away way too early. And this was something-- I was blessed enough to grow up in post-war Germany, where there were no real predecessors. Filmmakers, we didn't have any fathers to learn from or to be proud of, because either they were exiled, like Fritz Lang and others, or they sided with the Nazi barbarism. So we knew we were on our own. And all of us immediately founded our own production companies. We started our own festivals. You see it fairly often when you are speaking to film students in the United States. They would not think about founding their own labor union. They would hardly ever contemplate to found their own production companies, to found their own festivals, their own film subsidy law, their own system of support. I do not see it very often. [MUSIC PLAYING] It has happened to me quite often. It will happen to all of you who are making films. And you have to-- to fortify yourself, in a way. I do remember my first feature film, Signs of Life, which won the National Film Award, which won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. I was just a kid when I made this fi...

About the Instructor

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.

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Werner Herzog

In 6 hours of video lessons, Werner Herzog teaches his uncompromising approach to documentary and feature filmmaking.

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