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Arts & Entertainment

Life as a Filmmaker

Werner Herzog

Lesson time 17:08 min

The life of a filmmaker is fraught with doubt, rejection, and constant battles for survival. Learn how to survive in an impossible industry.

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


If you really want to make a film, you should not say I want to be a filmmaker. Be specific. I want to make this very project. So if you just want to have it for it's chic and it's cool to be a filmmaker, no, it's not cool. It's series of humiliation. It's a series of banalities every single day on a shoot. Many filmmakers are out there to gain inner growth. I just can't hear it. It's so stupid, so embarrassing. Or they want to test their boundaries. People quite often believe, yeah, I'm out there in the jungle and moving a ship over a mountain to test my boundaries. No, not so. It's stupid to think so. I want to move a ship over a mountain because it's a huge metaphor. It's a metaphor for something dormant inside of us. And there's images that I wake up-- I can wake them up, as if it were the dreams that others share. It's as if I had a dormant brother inside of me with whom I get acquainted. All of a sudden, there's a twin brother out there. And I haven't met him until I made this film. So there's something much bigger than your own quest for perfection, or your own quest for inner growth, and all these new age, crazed things that I just can't hear. I'm a disciplined worker. I'm a storyteller. I'm a filmmaker, and that's that. [MUSIC PLAYING] Long term survival. It's a profession where you're normally lost, I would say, 12, 15 years. And some of the strongest of the strong have not survived longer. David Wark Griffith, the greatest of all filmmakers of the early era. The Shakespeare of cinema. He had the most fantastic successes with Birth of a Nation, and some other films, and some failures, and he was out. And spent the rest of his days as a land surveyor. Or let me name Orson Welles. Strong like an animal. Powerful in his imagination, in his craft, in his acting, and everything. And he spends budgets, the entire budget, already halfway through pre-production traveling lavishly, spending money, and the studio would stop him in his tracks. And they would stop the project. So it hits the strongest of the strong. And the survival of, I would say, those people was fairly short lived. And of course, long term survival. How do you establish loyalties, loyalties of crews? I do not just hire a cinematographer for that project, and sound person, and costumes. Of course, quite often, it's a motley mix of people who have never seen each other before. And they disperse, and they never see each other. But I try to build up cinematographers, editors, composers, and some of the key people, and enter with them a long term relationship. When I am working with a production company, I'm not someone who wants to do just one film. If I like the company, I would say let's try, and let's develop a long term relationship. Let's try and continue. Think beyond what we are doing right now...

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.

Wonderful perspective from a master filmmaker. Thank you.

Spot on!!! Great class. With Kickstarter, Indiegogo etc, they are great resources to raise capital. It works.

It help me a lot to explore my self as a filmmaker and Werner got me interested documentaries as well.

Herzog is one of my favourite movie maker and I have listened to his interviews and talks, but his masterclass was an incredible experience and the egoless way he explain things was very helpful in understanding the way the mind of a true master works .



That thing about holding the babe in your arms and being present in the moment . . . yeah, women know this.

Jet T.

Life as a filmmaker is definitely a constant struggle but it's part of the process. Without it, I wouldn't have made my first indie feature here:

Chris N.

When I'm in the middle of productions, I'm going to come back to this one. Though he would completely reject this idea, but moving a ship over a mountain is literally the work of a magician.

Chad E.

His style is his own and not necessarily always my taste. None the less, there is a great deal to learn from this Man.

Jerry R.

Some profound thoughts, interesting on what not to film. I can see that taking photos sometimes destroys the moment. Does the moment not exist if you haven't filmed it. And who else will really experience it, event through a photograph or film. If it is important to others, or they might gain inspiration, or enjoy, that is different.

Michael O.

'Birth of a Nation.' SERIOUSLY? One of the most virulent racist films of all time. Griffith, the Shakespeare of Cinema? SERIOUSLY?! Why was the first aid kit with the snake poison antidote 20 minutes away, knowing full well the location was infested with snakes, at least one species of which was the most poisonous in the world? "You have to live in the moment." Except of course when it comes to those with skin color that does not match your own.


You have to know that you are the one that can move a ship over the mountain. I love that.

Jonathan S.

I've taken nearly a dozen of these courses, and all the instructors are clear that it takes obsession (and luck) to succeed in any of their endeavors. But none makes the case as powerfully as Werner. I disagree with him on more points than any other instructor, but when he says there is dignity in being a rancher, he's telling you how hard film making will be. Ron Howard said that every movie will break your heart in some way. Listen carefully. Are you really sure you want to do this? If you are, don't worry, you can always give it up. Ask Orson Wells. Ask David Wark Griffith.

Ray U.

You have to be able to say, ‘this is not for me’ about projects. Keep your esoteric interests: Mycenean Linear B script as a proto Greek dialect. Distribution of Primes – the Reimann Hypothesis. The very essential things in life – experience them firsthand. Venomous snakes in the jungle. Life possesses numerous unforeseeable things. That ship halfway up the mountain. You have to know you are the one who can move a ship over a mountain.


Oh my gosh, Werner you really have gone through a lot of adversities in your film making life -- moving a ship over a mountain, someone had to cut off his leg, and so on. I agree that we film makers are the DREAMERS who dare to do something different and significant to evoke some kind of human awakening or emotional response. That's the ultimate goal.