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Arts & Entertainment


Werner Herzog

Lesson time 19:16 min

Editing begins on the set. Werner's methods are unique, and will give you a practical way to cut through the footage to make a beautiful film.

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


It happens quite often that you come back with an impression from shooting, this was a great moment. But in context, in editing it doesn't really work out. It doesn't fit. So you have to be careful that you do not enforce your will and your structure on your material. It has happened to some films where you can tell that the footage was squeezed into a form and into a flow of narration that was not within the nature of the footage. You sense it as an audience. And what I'm doing is quite often I consider my footage as if I found it somewhere. Somebody made it. So let's be curious. What's there? What does material tell you? What does it have to offer? And all of a sudden you discover elements in the footage that you would never have discovered if you had had a very strong will to enforce upon the footage. [MUSIC PLAYING] What I do prepare during shooting is let's say creating long term, over full hour film, a climate which makes seemingly unobtrusive shot into something grandiose, Land of Silence and Darkness. If you see the scene at the end with deaf and blind man who touches and feels the branches of a tree. And by itself it is insignificant, but the film sensitizes you. More than an hour, an hour and a half almost, until you are there. Or, for example, in Aguirre, the Wrath of God, throughout the film you see the army or the troop of Spanish conquistadors. And they have a clear goal. They move from left to right. When they're floating in the water on the raft, somehow, imperceptibly, bit by bit, very carefully planned, we lose orientation because they are losing orientation. And at the end of the film, and we showed a clip, it seems to go in circles. In fact, the camera is circling around it. It's like a vicious circle which is going into infinity and having a movement throughout a movie, very, very elaborately planned until it ends in an infinite circle. That's something which was anticipated for editing. The 22nd of February. Most of the men are so weak and sick with fever that they cannot even stand. The soldier, Justo Gonzalez, has drunk my ink thinking it was medicine. I cannot write any more. We are drifting in circles. [MUSIC PLAYING] [MUSIC PLAYING] When we watch the footage, I write logbooks. And I love this very solid paper, like doing for artists. And I write down what I see and I give it some sort of time code. And when I come across something very, very strong I give it one exclamation mark. Sometimes you find two explanation marks. And sometimes you find three of them. And in these cases I know that this is footage, it is so intense, it is his so strong, if I do not use this in the film, I have lived in vain. I actually write down quite a bit you can see how much there is written down and how far I follow the footage of everyone. And sometimes I start to write commentar...

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.

Wow! My mind is completely blown! This was a fantastic class!!

This is such a refreshing and compelling rediscovery of the world of cinema and the filmmaking process.

To be able to look at things from may different views.

I have especially enjoyed reading his book "Conquest of the Useless" and his advice on reading as much as possible.


Tero-Juhani K.

This lesson helped me to understand the importance of organizing the time line properly... good method with documentaries as well.


It has to be extremely difficult to edit out something you spent so many hours or even days shooting. Unfortunately, it must be done. I remember seeing a special director's cut of the film "Sea of Love". Lorraine Bracco, who portrayed Pacino's ex-wife in the film was completed edited out of the final cut that was released in theaters. In the director's cut putting her character back in really slowed down the film. The final cut of "Sea of Love" was a huge hit for Pacino, after a series of flops.

Eric G.

Amazingly good session. Editing and screenwriting have a lot in common in the creative process. Business, yes, Werner, it is business even more than art at some points. I have two screenplays we are putting into production now and both are adaptations from top novels. That means editing began at the computer because the shorter of the two books was 300 pages, the other was 400...both had to go to under 120. As Werner said, sometimes you have to be "ruthless" with your material. My readers told me I had done an incredible job of preserving the authors' character development and integrity of the plotline. I can say, if film editing is on the same plane, and apparently it is, there may be hope for me....

Christopher C.

Great thought and inspiration. So many suggestions to influence my filmmaking.

Ronald S.

The lessons of filmmaking apply so clearly to coaching and leadership. Coaches are storytellers, directors, editors. Do we surround ourselves with "Yes Men" or find objectivity? Do it better, harder, with different actors, or does the scene just not work?

Zack K.

"All of the sudden the film changes with the audience. But's that power of cinema, that it completes, compliments itself with an audience"

Sabrina G.

On this editing class - I felt identified and do use a thick paper notebook that I am very fond of to write down sequences that cut my attention the most from the rough footage. I have always done it for editing as for other things such as looking into the best tea combinations for making kombucha... I like to checked one or two or three little marks depending on which one tastes the best, or for film, which sequences cuts my eye the most or sounds good. I was particularly paying attention when Herzog spoke of getting definetely rid of old footage even if this one was good, once after the film has been sent out to the world; however, I am finding myself in this situation now where I made this film ¨Salmon Poet¨ some years ago, and now having this old footage of the same poet, footage from before I was born, I have been playing with the idea of combining both to make a new film out of it, so that itself will be the opposite of what Herzog does, but I completely understand his point and at the same I am happy that I still have the rough unedited material I kept of Salmon poet. But that is something very punctual.. Also, he is wise in saying as I understand it, that playing too much with the editing can dismember the intention of the film.. and that original story cannot be succumbed under the cutting and pasting, etc.. of editing. I did a short film, ´the yellow bike` I only had the concept ¨the escape from the urban life and landscape`.. I filmed without a clear pathway or road to go and ended up building the story in the editing process.., not the best thing to do but it´s a little film that I have some kind of endearing feeling for it. Gracias!

David K.

"In the Blink of an Eye" mentioned in the pdf for this lesson is one of the most insightful and helpful material I've encountered relative to editing. The material from Werner in this lesson is outstanding. Thank you!

Peter B.

Great affirmation in the importance of the 2nd opinion! ;) It's always helpful having a 2nd eye, and from those who may not necessarily agree with you.

Adam H.

I am trying to post my homework for this lesson but I am having some technical issues and I have been unable to resolve them with the Masterclass team.