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Arts & Entertainment

Leading The Platoon

Werner Herzog

Lesson time 18:10 min

When Christian Bale had to eat real maggots in Rescue Dawn, Werner offered to eat them first. Here, he explains the power of leading by example to inspire your cast and crew.

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


My doubts always come on the very first hour of shooting. I am scared. Oh my goodness. There is the whole crew. There are the cameras. And I try to look behind and around. And I really the one to do this film? What qualifies me? So I have a ritual to overcome it. The assistant cameramen has to glue a yellow stripe of gaffer tape here on my chest and one longer on my back between the shoulder blades. And they-- I have the feeling, oh yeah, it's me now, and you better step out, and you do it. And it's a simple ritual. And after 10 minutes into working myself into a film, every sort of question-- am I the one who is going to do it-- has dissipated. I think a few things are necessary. They are, number 1, your project has to have a real big, clear vision that keeps people going with you. You have to have something like authority, but it has to be natural authority. Or rather, you have to earn the authority every single day on the shoot. You have to be competent. You have to be loyal with your people. You have to be quick in your decisions. You should know what sound can do. You should know what a camera does. You should know what you can do with costumes, and many other skills. And only because of that, you have an automatic authority. It's not by yelling around. You have to-- authority has to be something natural. It comes partly because of your understanding of the single parts that are going on in the shooting, during the shooting of a film. And of course, authority comes because of the intensity of your vision. On the set, for example, I listened to suggestions of the cinematographer. I listened to what the actor is remarking. And it's interesting how far I would give them space for creating their own architecture of things. And I give them a very short instruction, and then I can leave them alone and know they have it all in them, and do not direct every single detail. And what really keeps this diverse group of people together, which always holds them together on a set, is at the end of the day-- during shooting already, you know, man, this was great. Was this a performance? And we captured it. And this was incredible. And everybody walks away, and it was a tough day. Torrential rains-- we are soaked. We are hungry. And everybody walks back, somehow glowing in this knowledge that we have done something exceptional that others have not been capable of doing. But it means a day-to-day grinding on of filming, which is completely unspectacular. It's a grinding on of banalities. It's an endless chain of banalities that you are doing, time-consuming things that do not seem to ever come to anything. You have to enforce something that is so wonderful that everybody loves what they are doing. They don't need to love me. They have to love what they're doing. I was more formal. ...

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.

I loved this class. I learned so much from Mr. Herzog. He made the class fun to learn and his passion is infectious

Werner really helped me enhance my cinematographer's eye and my vision as a director and as an editor. The seminar is worth every penny! I learn something valuable every lesson. Also, I learnt how to stalk peregrines.

I was pretty certain I would like this class a lot, seeing I am a great fan of Mr. Herzog's work. However, I must confess that it was far better than I could ever've imagined! Herzog mixes humor, experiences and philosophy in a perfect balance. Loved it!

It was the one of the most important classes on life entangled with film I ever had.


William R.

Catastrophes as Story. So true especially in documentary. We write ourselves as a character victimized by our own device.

Daniel D.

Passion is one of the ingredient to do something great, but we need to transmit that passion, not just have it, when you share with others that they have same passion this commune element is a key factor to run a project successfully.


Mr. Herzog explains many concerns of mine in his discussions. Especially about his method of obtaining a contract.

Dylan H.

"I wouldn't ask anyone to do anything that I wouldn't do myself." I have been saying this to my casts for years! Glad we are on the same page. Thank you!

Robin F.

Amazing and fascinating stories that are full of truth and honesty. I love this and I am learning so much from this.

Graeme R.

So brilliant! It could be advice to any leader. The egg on Nicholas Cage's chin.

Product D.

Is it good only because you, Werner, thinks it’s good and very few others ? Some of the things u do Werner add no real value to anything, including the final product. Sometimes you are far too close to the trees to realize the landscape of the forest.


I had a really good lauhg about Werner threatening to kill Kinski.. the classes are getting more and more amusing :D


"They don't need to love me, they have to love what they are doing." Going first in the mine field is courageous but it makes me wonder if it was needed that bad. Werner is an inspiration for sure and his passion for film making is palpable.

Eric G.

Good lesson: Conflicts of creativity...a filmmaking analogy at times. Well done.