November 6, 2016

4 Pieces of Advice Werner Herzog Offers Young Aspiring Filmmakers

"The biggest challenge [in filmmaking] is always bureaucracy—that and stupidity."

Director Werner Herzog is certainly one of the greatest filmmakers of our time, not just because he tells stories that touch the lives of those who experience them, but because he's a rebel, a hacker, and an artist that plays by his own rules. BAFTA Guru sat down with the Oscar-nominated director to talk about his philosophy on filmmaking, as well as what kind of advice he'd give to young aspiring filmmakers. 

Here are four takeaways from Herzog's interview that we found particularly interesting, inspiring, and helpful:

Be self-reliant

In high school, Herzog worked nights as a welder in a steel factory in order to fund his own film projects. The lesson here: don't just up and quit your day job once you want to be a serious filmmaker. Your best benefactor is your own paycheck; very rarely is someone going to step up and fund your films in the beginning, so having a steady income from a 9-to5 could mean the difference between making a film and not.

Filmmakers don't find stories, stories find filmmakers

Creativity works differently for everyone, but Herzog says that often times his projects somehow "stumble into" him. And that's a beautiful thing, especially considering how a lot of us are out there trying to find inspiration like lonely singles looking for Tinder dates. Many times we don't allow our creativity to spark on its own, and pretty soon you find yourself in a year-long relationship with an idea you don't even really love anymore. Try letting the story come to you.

There is no training ground for filmmaking

Learning filmmaking isn't as simple as taking some classes and learning some skills. In other words, there is no training ground. Maybe some of you say the training ground is the act of making films, but I would actually argue that you need more than sheer filmmaking experience to be a great, effective, well-rounded filmmaker. You also need some life experience, which is why so many directors advice young filmmakers to travel the world, and why, later on in the video, Herzog says to do the important stuff in your life "on foot."

A diploma doesn't give you the "criminal energy" needed to make films

Herzog makes a great point about film school when he talks about how earning a degree can be a little deceptive because, well, a piece of paper doesn't make someone a filmmaker. It can certainly be a frustrating and scary time for many students who go to film school, especially when the time comes to have that paralyzing moment after graduation when you say, "What now?" Herzog's answer to this issue is his Rogue Film School, which doesn't focus on teaching its students the technical side of filmmaking, but instead teaches them a new way of life, a new way of thinking and being creative—that and lock picking and document forgery, which provide the "criminal energy" needed to be a filmmaker (according to Herzog).      

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