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Arts & Entertainment

Invaded by Images: Part 1

Werner Herzog

Lesson time 8:34 min

Inspiration can come from anywhere, but you have to know how to recognize it—and seek it out. Learn where Werner got the ideas for many of his most famous films.

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


Sometimes I keep saying, films are stumbling into me. Sometimes they are like home invaders. There's something in the kitchen. I've used this metaphor quite a few times. You wake up in the middle of the night and you hear something stirring. And in your kitchen, you see five burglars. Uninvited guests. How they crawled in, you don't know. Through the window, through the door, through the basement, you just don't know. But one of them come swinging wildly at you, so you better deal with that one first. [MUSIC PLAYING] Now, let's get serious. Choice of subjects. How do I choose subjects for a film? I can give you a few examples. My first feature film that I made was "Signs of Life". What happened was that as a 15-, 16-year-old I traveled to Greece in order to look into the life's work of my grandfather, who was an archaeologist. I arrived in the mountains to some sort of a ledge in the terrain. And I looked down and what I see is indelibly in my mind. There's a valley, completely flat. And in this valley there were 10,000 windmills. I didn't know that it existed, but actually it was called the Valley of 10,000 Windmills. It was like a field of flowers completely filled with flowers from horizon to horizon-- and all the flower spinning with a strange creaking sound. The moment I saw it, I knew this cannot be. I must be insane. It became the central image in my first long feature film. A German wounded soldier, who is put onto a fortress. He comes across these windmills and literally becomes insane-- lays siege on friend and enemy. And manages to burn a chair and to kill a donkey. And he is actually captured by his own men. This image was something I encountered, where I knew immediately this was big. This was so big that it had to become a center of the story. I didn't have the story yet, but it came later. It fell in place very easily. But it had nothing, originally nothing, to do with windmills. But in fact, it was something physical. Something where I stumbled-- literally stumbled into something. What helps is traveling on foot, for example. You will experience a world in stories stumble into you all the time. The world-- I say it is a dictum-- the world reveals itself to those who travel on foot. [MUSIC PLAYING] "Grizzly Man" is also a good example. A producer, Eric Nelson, visited him in his office in his work place in the valley. And I was showed around. And at the end, I sit down with him at his table-- lots of things on this table-- and at the end, when I took off, I was searching for my car keys. I was standing. And it was not in my pocket. I had misplaced it somewhere on the table. And I was not looking for a movie. I was looking for my car keys. I swear to God. And he thought I spotted something and shoves an article across to me and says read th...

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, I learned so much from this class. It also gave me the motivation to finish my movie and answered a lot of unanswerred questions I had.

I find a good way to succeed in filmmaking : gives you goagls SMART goals, précises

Musical drama, lighting and suspense - finely tuned.

The class forced me to look deep into my thoughts and put out of it the nuggets of gold for how to approach directing.


Eric G.

One of Werner's great values as a director is his constant awareness of what is around him, all the while his singularity is the film's creation. It is indeed important. I recently did a film with an Israeli director who was like Werner in his creative quest and holds a very high value in finding the most unique ideas which could make his film better. We improvised a great ending to one set of scenes I was in and when I saw the outtakes later after shooting, I was very impressed with his vision as the unplanned sequence fit so well into his vision of the irony within the film. That film is now screening its premiere at this year's Cannes in the Palm d'Or competition for Best Short Film.

Michael K.

Discovering the world, the nature, landscape or people and animals - that´s the essentilal we should learn from this classes! - Then we can grow as artists in film, literature, painting - or whatever... But we have to do the first step and get on our feet (or in my caese on our wheels) and start discovering that strange world we live in!

Greg S.

I detect what I think is a sort of universal constant with these great filmmakers, which is an insatiable curiosity about the world around them. That's where the limitless possibilities seem to emanate from for them.

Ray U.

Films keep stumbling into me. Like uninvited Burglars – you better deal with that one first. Valley of 10,000 windmills. The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot. Keep opened to the unplanned.


Amazing... You don't even need to cast anyone. He just showed up, sitting there and waiting for you to capture that moment. He actually had something GOOD to say, quite extraordinary.

Bob Z.

I guess I need to walk more! Herzog is very inspiring and has made me think about some different ways to make films. As a low budget filmmaker I have to.

Condor R.

In response to many who have written... actually, he said, "You're working for audiences, not for your own fascinations." It's the second part which I need to hear. His English is careful, precise. He knows the language. I am not a film maker. I am a novelist. The words apply. I am working for my audiences (plural), not my own fascinations (also plural). Writers, novelists, film makers may pull me into their fascinations, obsessions, special interests, but it will be temporary, and when I leave them, I forget them. Unless your fascination is mine, in which case I am not even reading you for you, or watching your film for any reason except that it's research. It adds to my shelf of knowledge about my interest. In my work, my fascinations in fact may have to be exactly what I need to cut if I want you as my audience. Tricky stuff.

Gippsland G.

My goodness, this man is astonishing, this Werner Herzog. Why has it taken me so long to discover this man? I could have saved myself a lot of time and anguish if I had. Not only so many images, but so many voices telling you this and that shortage of advice from LA and from well intentioned 'know alls'. THOSE make you stumble. So much better to have the ideas and stories stumbling into me, so much better to be alert for them when they come. I have a screenplay that I took to LA and pitched it twice. They were admiring even in awe of the story and the concept but immediately, I and they, realised this was not for them: it was too European and sat uneasily in an American setting. A bit like Werner's Director who said he was 'sort of' the Director for a film that Werner immediately recognised was made for him, fitted his skills and his vision and passion. The screenplay I presented in LA was very personal, but also as Werner rightly remarks, universal--it had taken me some time to transform a very personal and painful story into something that would speak to an audience. Those who have read it with me were immediately taken by it but that was in Australia, a different reading and listening and 'viewing' public. Now a good year after my father's death I am at liberty I think to take this screenplay and re-write it in five days, as Werner suggests. Or perhaps it will emerge in its original form to be 're-written' by its Director, its cast its Editor, its audience when it is made? Who can tell. All I know is that this Werner has given me the courage and the strength and the inspiration to pursue it once more. People tell me its a unique story that must be told. My first wife who died of cancer told me she could see it on the screen. This is the first time that I actually believe it might be so. What a Master Class. To all those who go through with me, you will agree this experience is amazing, and I wish you well in your enterprises as well. Hopefully we will emerge as selfless and generous as Werner with much to share with each other and the public at large whom we serve. Nikolai Blaskow

Drew V.

it seems far less inspiration and more perception. More building out a reality rather than waiting for some idea to come, which I love. I feel like inspiration is becoming too much of an excuse word. Inspiration isn't gonna come. You gotta work.

Christian H.

Great lesson! I'm looking forward to hearing more about his techniques of translating his inspiration into reality!