Film & TV

Financing First Films

Werner Herzog

Lesson time 12:30 min

You don't need millions to make a movie. With $10,000 and an extraordinary idea you can start the journey toward bringing your project to the screen.

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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We are entering into one of the real complicated questions for young filmmakers, how do you get the finances for a film. Rule of thumb, in my case is, if you have an extraordinary project with incredible dynamic and a very strong story, money will follow you like the common cur in the street with its tail between its legs. And the quality of money is awful, it's abysmal. It is cowardly. It is stupid. And money is also slow. So how do you do it? You have to have a project that has a real dynamic, otherwise you will never get anywhere. I'm somebody, and you should know that, because its so bizarre. I am somebody who made his first phone call at age 17. That was actually to contact producers who were, in a way, inclined to produce a feature film that I had scripted. And they were not completely against me being the first time director. So I made phone calls, because I was still a school kid. And looked like, I mean, like a boy. I was not even fully grown up yet. When they saw me, it was immediately clear this was not going to happen. They laughed, and I turned around. Important in this encounter was that I got angry, and I knew I would never become a filmmaker unless I became a producer myself. My advice is, do it as I did it at the beginning. Nobody, when I was 15, when I was 16, 17, 18, nobody wanted to produce or finance any of my films. It made me angry, and it made me understand, ultimately, you have to become your own producer, your own financier. And it means I earned money in a steel factory during the night shift as a welder. And I earned enough, within two years of work, I earned enough to do my first featurettes. When it comes to balancing your own vision and the cash, small amounts of it that you have available, earned yourself, I think you have to be prudent, and choose a subject that does not require extravaganzas of building sets or extravaganzas of having a big name actor in it and all these things. And you have to do it like somebody like, I think his name is Rodriguez, who did his first feature film on celluloid for, I think, under $10,000. And he published his budget. I struggle every single film to stay on budget. I've never been over budget, not once, not a single time over budget, but six times under budget. Bad Lieutenant a good example. And I was prudent enough to have in my contract, if I were under budget, I would earn myself a bonus. So I earned a very good bonus. And I really looked, and I have to right in my contracts to look into the daily cashflow with the accountant, me the director. I'm sitting with the accountant in the evening, and I'm checking into cashflow. And all of a sudden, I see where the money flows there, you spot where the problems are emerging. I see costumes, all of a sudden, 120% in the first week of shooting. What happened is that they had a second set of suit of...

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.

Brilliant. Finally someone who tells it like it is...doesn't hold back...and rooted in the classics. This is a principle-based and pragmatic.

Herzog ably teaches the essentials of filmmaking and more with unparalleled wisdom and passion. A must-watch for auteurs.

Thanks to Werner, I got an insight into what it is like -and how- to be a filmmaker.

It's a philosophy of filmmaking from a very humanistic, deep level of thinking, of simply being a human- not only for filmmakers :)


Glen P.

Mr. Herzog has a lot of wisdom to impart on his students. I'm glad that he decided to share his knowledge from years of experience as a storyteller. The fact that he is a self-taught filmmaker reassures me that his advice is consistently unique, authentic and refreshing. .

Iddo G.

A painful and a very important lesson :)) Thank you Herzog for being so upfront and sincere

Kerry K.

I love that he said that there is no excuse to do your film. This gives me confidence that I'm on the right path.

Eric G.

Werner certainly affords us all a lot of good advice which dispels the myth you cannot make a good film for small money. Of course, the most famous example of huge success in this is the "Blair Witch Project" which was shot with a mobile phone. I produced my first feature film with a medium sized cast, shot on several local locations without much set decoration or any special effects (expensive) and a seven-person crew including two make-up artists using an HD Canon 35mm digital camera. The realized screen production value was around $100K, but we did it for far less than half. Most all real expense was in post editing, color correction, sound and format rendering for theater. It was a REAL learning experience...shooting in 30C heat in summer to meet the production schedule of 10 days, working with different levels of actor skills...the end result was a good film, but most important a lifetime experience.

Colin B.

You speak the truth, Werner. I am almost finished with my third movie. It has been exactly as you have said it is. I fought for the money and I fought for the production down to the last penny. I am still fighting, but soon I will have finished my second feature movie. You truly are an inspiration to me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us here. Much appreciated.

Rhonda M.

I appreciate the practicality of Werner’s advice. I admit, I’ve often participated in the culture of complaint. There’s power in knowing how to do stuff yourself. I’m a reporter who works on a weekly public affairs show — and a lot of this advice hits home.

Chidera E.

"Become your own producer" APT! This is the highlight of the lesson for me. Very few producers set out the time to pay attention to newbies; some never get to read their scripts. If you challenge yourself enough to take the bull by the horn, excel in your craft, the same people will come knocking eventually. I particularly like this tutor. I think his approach is realistic and can be related to.

Tammi J.

This is really valuable information that Herzog shares. I wish other Madre classes where done so well. He gives and shares real insights and lessons learned. What a wealth of knowledge he shares. Great nuggets of gold. Thank you!!!

Pato C.

Werner is speaking to us, the vast majority who are NO Hollywood insiders. Precious, wise and realistic advise.

David H.

It reinforced my determination to nearly everything myself and gave me helpful tips on finance which is a problem for me.