Arts & Entertainment, Writing


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.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Location scouting • Permits • Getting away with film


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 ...

About the Instructor

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.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Werner Herzog

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

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