Chapter 8 of 26 from Werner Herzog

Leading The Platoon

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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.

Topics include: Inspiring your crew • Becoming the guinea pig • Finding your anchors of safety

Werner Herzog

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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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. You’ll learn storytelling, cinematography, locations, self-financing, documentary interview techniques, and how to bring your ideas to life. By the end, you’ll make uncompromising films.

Watch, listen, and learn as Werner covers every aspect of filmmaking, from pre-production to distribution.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Werner will also critique select student work.

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Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking