Arts & Entertainment

Financing First Films

Werner Herzog

Lesson time 12:29 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.

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

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


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...

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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