31 Tips on Filmmaking and Life from Werner Herzog

By Robert Stefoski

With a career now spanning almost fifty-five years Werner Herzog has become an authoritative figure in film.



Francois Truffaut referred to him as the most important filmmaker alive so it's no surprise that when he speaks, us mere mortals in the land of the moving picture listen intently. His body of work is vast. From gripping epics like Aguirre - The Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo, to documentaries like Grizzly Man and Cave of Forgotten Dreams. 


On the subject of making films he says, 'It's about a way of life, about being bold enough to have the endurance to seize hold of your vision and the excitement that makes film possible, about giving courage to your dreams.'

His conversations with Paul Cronin presented in the book, WERNER HERZOG: A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED, are a treasure trove of anecdotes, lessons, and reflections on an unconventionaI life in film. On the subject of making films he says, 'It's about a way of life, about being bold enough to have the endurance to seize hold of your vision and the excitement that makes film possible, about giving courage to your dreams.' He then goes on to add the following 31 filmmaking tips or life lessons which I have listed below. They are truly invaluable

  1. Always take the initiative.

  2. There is nothing wrong with spending a night in a jail cell if it means getting the shot you need. 

  3. Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey.

  4. Beware of the cliche.

  5. Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief.

  6. Learn to live with your mistakes.

  7. Study the law and scrutinise contracts.

  8. Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern.

  9. Keep your eyes open.

  10. That roll of unexposed celluloid you have in your hand might be the last in existence, so do something impressive with it.

  11. There is never an excuse not to finish a film.

  12. Carry bolt cutters everywhere.

  13. Thwart institutional cowardice.

  14. Ask for forgiveness, not permission.

  15. Take your fate into your own hands.

  16. Don't preach on deaf ears.

  17. Learn to read the inner essence of a landscape.

  18. Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory.

  19. Walk straight ahead, never detour.

  20. Learn on the job.

  21. Manoeuvre and mislead, but always deliver.

  22. Don't be fearful of rejection.

  23. Develop your own voice.

  24. Day one is the point of no return.

  25. Know how to act alone and in a group.

  26. Guard your time carefully.

  27. A badge of honour is to fail a film-theory class.

  28. Chance is the lifeblood of cinema.

  29. Guerrilla tactics are best.

  30. Take revenge if need be.

  31. Get used to the bear behind you.


The book is available at Book Depository and Amazon.

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