Chapter 25 of 26 from Werner Herzog

Life as a Filmmaker


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

Topics include: Thinking long term • Keeping your curiosity awake • Experiencing the essential moments

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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Class Info


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. 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.


Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking