Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Negotiation Skills

Werner Herzog

Lesson time 08:06 min

Film is an art—but it's also a business. Werner shares his insights into the industry to help you learn how to protect your stories.

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

Topics include: Learning legal terms • Negotiating yourself • Using your passion to lock the deal


When you're negotiating a budget with financiers or production companies, you really have to know what you are doing. And you really have to tell them what they're getting into. You have to be completely candid, otherwise the problems will accumulate massively. And I'm always trying to keep attorneys out of discussions. It was very interesting, the discourse I had with Avi Lerner, Millennium Films for the Bad Lieutenant. And I met him for the first time in my life and he was with an entourage at five. And I was alone. And I asked, is there an attorney here? And one said, yes, I am the legal counsel of the production company. And I said, could you please only listen in? I don't want to chase you out. Listen in, do your counseling afterwards. I do not want to have attorneys negotiate. That's the end of everything. I never, and I advise you, never ever, ever, ever let attorneys negotiate. You negotiate yourself, or an agent may negotiate if you're not feeling right to negotiate yourself. The attorneys are poison for negotiations, and everybody knows that. Sometimes, in my very last film, on the Internet, I only had a handshake. Like in the old days, a handshake. And those contracts more solid in all, every single case I've only functioned on a handshake. If you have a 140-page about your directing, you know this spells disaster. And it always, the longer the contract gets, the more you are prone of running into trouble. And everybody predicted to me, this will end in a failure. You cannot deal with such a beast of the industry. And I said, let the beasts come. They are human beings. And they also have some sort of vision. Deal with them. Be responsible. Make yourself familiar with the legal basic concepts. It's not that you have to learn every term. You have to understand the concepts. You have to understand legal terms. You have to know what you are getting into. You really have to know. I had a contract offered, where it said I'm here work for hire. And I said to the attorney, work for hire is unacceptable for me, because it means that I have absolutely no right. I can be fired at any moment and replaced by anyone at any moment. My footage can be used, because I have nice landscapes, they can be used in a perfume advertisement, for example. It can be butchered. It can be spliced into YouTube clips. You can do anything you want. And the attorney was sitting in front of me. And he just was cooked completely frozen. I said, can you at least nod? He did not even nod. But I knew if I signed worked for hire, it meant a lot of consequences, where you have no position at all. In my discussion with Millennium Film, I said to them, and it was already 6:00 PM. I said to them, those other things that I need to have in the contract. Who is my cinematographer? I h...

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.

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Werner Herzog

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

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