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Arts & Entertainment

Documentary: Dealing with Human Beings

Werner Herzog

Lesson time 11:31 min

There are lines you should not cross. Learn from Werner's experiences filming Grizzly Man and Into the Abyss, and how to get to the heart of your subject quickly.

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


There are no clear rules. Nobody has clear rules ever established. But of course, you have to find the borderlines yourself. And it has to do with your position in the world, and your ethical interior. And you have to really apply it. Maybe for some people, the boundaries are a little bit further back and more advanced in it. But however, I would really respect-- in "Grizzly Man," the person who had been eaten by a grizzly bear is not around anymore. He cannot defend his position. But the ethical boundary-- there's an interesting moment in the film, where I was somehow pushed by both a production company, and the network which was going to show it, and the distribution company to address what was known in public-- that there was a tape of the moment when he was attacked, and eaten, and mauled by the bear, together with his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard. And I said, I'm not so sure whether this should be in the film, but let me address it in the film myself. I filmed myself from behind. This is the moment where I'm listening, and you see me only halfway from behind. I did not want to shoot to be in the film. There should be only my voice. But here-- that's the only moment where I'm actually listening. And we are zeroing in on Jewel Palovak's face. And she reads from my face that this is horrifying. And what I heard is beyond any description. Can you turn it off? You cannot-- you cannot have this in public. [SOBBING QUIETLY] Jewel, you must never listen to this. I know, Werner. I'm never going to. And you must never look at the photos that I've seen at the coroner's office. You do not have in public, for example, people who jumped from the Twin Towers during the attack on 9/11. It was filmed by many amateurs, and you do not publish it. I've never seen it, and it should stay undercover. You do not need to see it. And what I do here-- in the shock of the moment, I advise her, you should rather destroy this. Never listen to it. And she slept over it. My advice was really stupid, and she was much more prudent. She just separated herself from that tape and put it in a bank safety deposit vault. There is such a thing as a dignity in the privacy of your own death. And there's certain things that are untouchable. You just don't even think about it. You have to have it in you. And if you don't have to have it in you, you shouldn't make films. [MUSIC PLAYING] If I can't turn around a person who is unwilling, of course, you have to accept it. But sometimes, in my films-- "Into the Abyss,"-- there's the father of one of the two murderers-- Delbert Burkett. And he's also incarcerated, and pretty much for life. And he knows it. And he steps in front of the camera. And I ask him very quickly, very painful questions. And he says, you know what? I can't really talk about it. I can't real...

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.

Illuminating as any of the Werner Herzog's movies. His masterclass helped me understand what it takes to be a filmmaker and most importantly a fellow human being. I am indebted and will definitely revisit the classes often.

I absolutely loved this class - Werner Herzog is both a genius and a maniac and always keeps it interesting.

Excellent class and a different take on directing from the others

I expected that the lessons would be more about how to structure the story and develop your idea just from the idea into a movie. And also how to build your character when writing. I was hoping to work on an assigntment and writing, framing an dealing with structure. Very impresive and excperienced teacher but I exspected something else.


Eric G.

"If you do not have these qualities, you should not be a film maker." ~ Werner, you're a diamond among gems...not only do I agree with you on this critical issue, but I hope all who watch your masterclass, and the masterclasses of other great film makers, understand this is critical quality which is all too lacking in Hollywood today. It has become more about diversity, political statements and social movements than the fine arts of the craft. Yes, it is indeed also about honesty, integrity, and ethical behaviors, something ALL of use should have to even simply be known as civilized. It does, however, behoove us to remember this is a fine arts craft, not a social studies class....just saying.

Kris S.

Wow! <3 I´m in tears and VERY moved. Werner ich liebe und schätze dich unfassbar!!!

Alla P.

Год назад смотрела курсы, тогда была возможность переводить титры на русский язык. Сегодня продлила курс и обнаружила, что теперь нет такой возможности. Или я не знаю как это сделать( Подскажите, пожалуйста

A fellow student

Werner speaks about interior ethical boundaries - probably one of the most important concepts of the entire course.

Carlos E.

It is so important to respect people’s feelings. This is really an important aspect of documentaries.

Carlos E.

I find that these detailed lessons can really make you look for the best, not simply get the story but to project the feeling as well.

Andre H.

It is very motivated the way to go to the people, to the humans. It is very important to understand especially when you are recording a documentary and you have an investigation about, just to feel the moment, to understand the person in front of the camera and to highlight your most sensible side.

Lois B.

I really liked the way Herzog interviews this person who, hearing about his crimes, we think he must be some kind of monster. I used to work treating juvenile sex offenders. Reading their files they sounded like monsters but meeting them they were just persons. Its a mystery, what causes one person to commit horrible crimes and another to try to prevent cruelty.


YES, films are all about different emotions, feelings and experiences of HUMAN BEINGS.

Ryan L.

That bit from Grizzly Man is so haunting. Even being unable to hear the tape, seeing such a famously crazy awesome guy as Werner Herzog nearly brought to tears by it, with his hands shaking as he takes off the earphones, tells you all you need to know.