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Arts & Entertainment


Werner Herzog

Lesson time 18:15 min

Jungles, oceans, and volcanic craters—Werner has shot movies in them all. Learn how to find spectacular locations and turn them into functional sets for your own films.

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


Not only would I direct actors or human beings, I would also direct landscapes. In a way, opening of Aguirre is directed landscape. It's somehow understanding the essence and doing the right thing in this landscape and incorporate it into a dynamic that you do not normally see in a movie. [MUSIC PLAYING] Sometimes I have spent many weeks scouting like Aguirre rafting down on Amazon tributaries. [MUSIC PLAYING] Yes, this is near Machu Piccu near Urubamba. And here you see this zigzag path. It's almost vertical and slippery. And many of the native people who come from the highlands came from very high up, were frightened. Some of them altitude sick. Some of them had vertigo, vertigo, more than anything. And I would run up and down the zigzag path to exhaustion and tie some of them onto bushes so they wouldn't slip down, and I said stay where you are. We'll get you out later. [MUSIC PLAYING] It was filmed only once. and those are moments where I had the feeling I was blessed. Something fell into my lap. That in a way, I knew I deserved it, but you have to be lucky as well. And it's a really wonderful moment when you see how stupid is this chick in the llamas. Everything. It really was a location that I loved and I had great disputes with Kinski about it. He wanted the entire ensemble because you see the ruins of Machu Picchu, one of the most photographed sites on our planet. And I said no, this is postcard kitsch. I want a detail of it, and he started to scream and yell and kick at the camera and so I took him out of the shot. [MUSIC PLAYING] So of course, the quality of pre-production location scouting made the quality of what you see on screen. And it's not that you can organize it quickly and you say ah, let's go there. You just can't go there and start shooting. [MUSIC PLAYING] When it comes to location, it is not only the location that you see on screen. Yes that's the key to all. That overwhelms every other consideration. But at the same time, you have to consider logistics. Where M you have there were no hotels at that time. There was a tiny hotel eight rooms. Up near Machu Piccu. Nothing else at that time. So where do you house your 450 extras? Where does the crew stay? Crew was very small, but still. So we went into a tea plantation down at the river which had a huge barn, which we emptied out and filled it with sort of hammocks and beds on top of each other for 450 people. So we had to organize that. At the same time, where the crew stay. We were very provisionally housed. I stayed in a mud hut of a woman who was actually-- she had a hunchback. A very, very sweet woman, and she had six children and something like over 200 Guinea pigs. And at night, the Guinea pigs would run around and run over me. I had to learn how to sleep with Guinea pigs running over me. There's ...

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.

So much to learn, not by knowing. çjust by doing - Werner Herzog. Of course he didn't say that it was me (learned that from him)

It's a philosophy of filmmaking from a very humanistic, deep level of thinking, of simply being a human- not only for filmmakers :)

I learned a lot more about the process of filmmaking, in particular Werner's perspective of the industry, techniques and sense of "urgency". Loved all of it.

A bit more confidence in following my vision, pointers to reference in the process, and a new hero thou an established veteran to point to for that journey. Thanks Werner!


Emad E.

I enjoyed the details of this lesson, it made me feel that I'm their, I felt everything, I've learned and related to very impotent moments and facts!

Diana M.

Hmmm. The Navy SEAL of film makers? Herzog has strong words for softies -- presumably USC film school students? -- who don't read books and whine about financing their films: READ READ READ, and finance it yourself for under $10,000 with money you make yourself working in a factory if need be. I like this guy! But at first I didn't. And then I said to myself, I would have the same grim atheistic world view that he does if I had also started life escaping as an infant in his mother's arms from bombed out Munich Germany to live in a remote shack in the Bavarian woods. All of his advice is hard earned and designed for survival in worst case scenarios. There's a reason he's a legendary film maker. Although his film themes are too dark for my taste, he is a worthy masterclass instructor whose business and aesthetic advice will give spine to those raised in softer circumstances. Elevate, people!

Daniel D.

I realize it, when you go for a location to shoot your project you need to know how deal with environment, how friendly or how accessible it depends on how you as director deal with it, all this are lessons learned by experience, how to deal with the daily and uncertain things as they come...Nice Lesson!

Rob D.

If you're not prepared to eat live maggots then can you truly call yourself a filmmaker? I've started eating various live grubs, insects and maggots in anticipation of my next project, the filming of a dance recital at a local school.

A fellow student

I am so amazed by his tenderness. He may be uncompromising, and to some a maniac, but he has an incredible human touch.

Jesse Y.

How have you balanced family obligations with you're shooting schedules? Have you made personal relationship scarifies to make films?

Reggie L.

This lesson was great! I have always been told to have an attorney negotiate for you, but Werner makes perfect sense. I will differently follow his rule.

Billie C.

Always scout all your own locations. Don't hire a location scout as only you know your vision. You do not have to pay for any locations. I have used over 1,000 locations and have never paid for one as the majority of them were donated. Exciting to find the right location for your vision

Michael R.

As I watch Werner describe his work, I resonate with the sense that I am listening to an artist. The immersion in the medium, the living in the moment, the saying/doing what needs to be done. The stories themselves are entertaining, but I feel the overall message is "play all out" or the results will be mediocre. I especially like his principle to "speak the language of the locals" – this seems to be sound advice on multiple levels.

Kevin B.

"I ate live maggots, I mean big white crawling maggots" I think what he is calling "maggots" are large grubs. Maggots are fly offspring. :D