From Werner Herzog's MasterClass

Financing First Films

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.

Topics include: Managing budgets • Becoming your own producer • Becoming self-reliant


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.

Topics include: Managing budgets • Becoming your own producer • Becoming self-reliant

Werner Herzog

Teaches Filmmaking

Learn More


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.

Werner has given a depth of knowledge that no school would’ve been able to teach!

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.

Location, location, location! Where you are is what you are! Terribly important advice regarding preproduction and how to be flexible on location.

Werner is just a wonderful person. You can tell it just by looking at his eyes. They're filled with light. Can't wait to share it with him,


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.

Ross K.

"If you are able, you can do $10 000 within a year" Well, with all the respect to Werner Hertzog, but he is talking about the Western economy countries. If you live in Haiti, Nicaragua or almost anywhere in Africa, there is a higher chance you will get old and die before you save that amount. I also confirm, that it will probably take less money to shoot there, but yet the equipment is very expensive, even an I-phone for those people. And I'm not complaining here - I, myself, will be fine


The Exchange was really good. I liked the audio even the story, what I would have done differently is not show the people walking in the background. When she shot him, and killed him, and I saw the people walking you know in real life the people would be running, that is what thew the film off. In the film The SuperNinjaz Club I really liked the editing, the story was good, though it was hard to hear the audio and make clear on what was being said at the end. The guy and the bird was really good. I understood the concept, I would have put more detail in the bird while the guy was away. Lone time traveler. I liked the editing, however it was a little hard to understand the story and on why he went back in time. Really liked how he made seem how he went back in time and what the time machine was. The last slice was I think my favorite it did remind me of what me and my brothers did. Great editing, great story, the kids did a great performance.