Chapter 13 of 26 from Werner Herzog

Working With Actors: Creating the Character

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Through casting, wardrobe, and behavioral ticks, Werner shares both the subtle and bold techniques for developing characters with your actors.

Topics include: Casting the right actors • Using wardrobe and props • Finding the character's voice

Through casting, wardrobe, and behavioral ticks, Werner shares both the subtle and bold techniques for developing characters with your actors.

Topics include: Casting the right actors • Using wardrobe and props • Finding the character's voice

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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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.

Reviews

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

The most revealing, eye-opening listen I've had in my entire filming career. After watching Werner Herzog, I have learned my greatest lesson: I know nothing. Would recommend without hesitation.

What a great class. Listening to Werner is a true delight & has taught me so much about initiative & some technique. While I took this class to have some notions of filmmaking, it served to open my apetite to learn even more. Highly recommend this class.

As a screenwriter I have learned that it is okay to write differently than I was taught. That it is important to write visually, to think visually. To use all my senses in writing. As I read The Peregrine I could see it as a Werner Herzog film.

Werner has reignited my passion to make the films I want to make.

Comments

Eric G.

As a longtime Meisner technique actor, I can say Werner's professional insights regarding actors are superb...it is indeed the "chemistry" which must be there to make the scenes work...all of them, regardless of whether the actors are looking at each other or not. Good directors know this, and they use it to "cast their vision for the film" as Werner has done. I just did a film with another director who also understood this component and we worked together to achieve the vision he had for the role and the scenes. He even added an improvised scene for me which wasn't in the script. In the end, he thanked me for my insights and my work. Another good lesson from Werner. Looking forward to the next.

Greg S.

This man's mastery of the English language and vocabulary is really impressive. Certainly better than many native English speakers.

Curtis M.

At least he is actually instructing, unlike most of the MasterClass videos.

Michael K.

It´s also very interesting to watch Werner Herzog as an actor(!!!) in some films of other famous European directors in his earlier years!!! (not only the Hollywood- and Kinski-stuff we just saw) - (often just minor roles) For example: "Es ist nicht leicht ein Gott zu sein" by Peter Fleischmann (Germany, 1989) "Geschichten vom Kübelkind" and "Die andere Heimat" by Edgar Reitz (Germany, 1971 & 2013) "Gekauftes Glück" by Urs Odermatt (Switzerland, 1989) "Der Mann, der die Blumen liebte" by Paul Cox (Netherlands, 1983) or "Brennendes Herz" by Peter Patzak (Austria, 1995) If you watch these films (for example "Gekauftes Glück") you can understand more and more the way of Herzog´s actors conduct in his own work as director. (to merge into a role up to complete madness)

Jennifer C.

Interesting lesson. I found the point that Herzog raised about filmmakers having a general understanding of the world and the nature of human beings when making decisions on casting actors for their films of utmost importance. Choosing the right actors that will be able to embody the feelings, thoughts and behaviors of a particular character in a film in the most authentic way, will allow the film to appear more realistic to the audience and may reflect the beauty and complexities of life that are experienced by people on a day-to-day basis. If people are able to connect with and relate to the experiences and feelings of characters in a film that are conveyed on screen, then the film may have a deeper and lasting impact on the viewers.

mbrstudio

So much of what happens before the camera rolls is static or nearly static. The storyboard with just arrows for movement, for instance. The blocking and tapes on the floor. The precision of the placement of sound and lighting equipment. It surely flattens an actor's impulse to move in the quirky, impulsive way Kinsky does. (He actually leaves the frame at one point in the clip of Aguirre.) But giving the lead actor a "tell," a nervous tic, a scar--anything to suggest depth of interior life or a past--is a really useful tip to carry-away from this lesson.

Gippsland G.

Werner's is a body wisdom, coming deep down from inside the gut. Everything, as Nietzsche rightly divined is understood, determined by the body, visceral. We neglect the body to our detriment. When we despise our materiality and our corporeality, we diminish the person we play and the person we film and the person we photo. Each person, including ourselves is a mystery. We work from mystery to mystery and attraction of the flesh. There must be charisma. There must be electricity, strong enough to penetrate beyond the lens into the very core of the heart of of the bodies and minds and feelings of the collective mystery of the audience. The cumulative nature of that dynamic holds us in thrall: the Kinski effect, I suspect. I will search for it high and low, will pursue it to its lair. Or...I will imagine that it pursues me and stalks me to my lair. Nikolai Blaskow

Michelle Lynn I.

I'm glad Werner brought up physicality. I'm overly aware of it in everyday life and I'm attracted to it with an artists eye, but I fail to remember this when the camera is rolling. Casting isn't hard when I'm already writing in the direction of a person I have in mind for a part that already possesses the natural characteristics my story calls for. Something tells me this isn't a good way to go about things - projecting happens, but getting all excited over a selected protagonist is terrible when you realize you have to find someone else for the main character. Some pleasant surprises have happened where I figured out the protagonist position was much more exciting as the opposite gender - having only found that out after my first choice of actor fell through. I've had a crush on Kinski for years. Now, I know why.

Crystal B.

He was really good in Jack Reacher. I didn't know he was an actor too. But I really liked this lesson.

Drew V.

The physicality is something I tend to miss out on. Those little ticks that makes the actor feel more relatable and adds humanity. Awesome lesson

Transcript

Acting and working with actors, well, that's a key to what you do as a director. And I think the first of all keys is casting. You have to have an eye to do casting right. And the mistake, sometimes, and it happens to big studios, they put two of the greatest bestselling actors, the greatest stars, together in a love story and they don't have any chemistry. And the film somehow does not function with audiences. So, for me, it's chemistry. Understanding chemistry and understanding chemistries has a lot to do with understanding the world and understanding human beings. In a way, I keep saying you have to know the heart of men. You have to see very deep into the right decisions. It happens that no matter who is stepping in front of my little camera that records them, they all have the same chance. And, in one film not very long ago, the casting lady, who is a wonderful woman, she said to me, I'm so embarrassed. But there's somebody outside the door and she has come uninvited, but she's a girlfriend of the main producer. And I said to her, bring her in. Bring her in. When she's here she has the same chance like anyone else. And I had done screen tests with six or seven other young women and she was so good. I mean she was fantastic and I took her. And there's no embarrassment. There's no ritual. There's nothing. Everyone has the same chance when you do these kind of early selections. And, for the big roles, of course, I know that's going to be that person will be in the film and no tests. Nothing. You will be the protagonist. Enigma of Kaspar Hauser just had written the screenplay and I thought, who could play the leading part? Who has it in him? And, by coincidence, I watched on TV a short film by a Berlin student filmmaker about homeless people in Berlin and some street singers among them. And there was [INAUDIBLE] one of them in it. It hit me like lightning. I knew that someone. Am I lucky that someone, and I have to say of all actors with whom I have worked and they're some of the greatest, Kinski had something extraordinary about him. And Claudia Cardinale, Christian Bale, Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman, I've worked with the finest of the fine. Now Michael Shannon, who is certainly the best of his generation, but nobody, not one of them, all these great ones, had his steps. It was something that you never see on a screen again before or after. There's something unique. And I'm glad that I risked everything, my career, my money, my reputation, my everything, and I had Bruno and I do not regret it at all. You describe it, how you would notice it, how you spot it, is kind of mysterious. You cannot teach it. You cannot teach it to anyone. But it's essential and I've always tried to look at casting in that way. I've had some very, very fine moments in doing the right casting and you're not really...