Werner Herzog Eating His Shoe is All the Inspiration You'll Ever Need to Make a Film
The number of reasons to not make a film are virtually infinite. You don't have enough time, money, experience, equipment, or professional connections. If you make a film, who's going to see it, and if no one sees it, will it even have value? I could go on, but instead, here's a piece of encouragement from one of the most iconic filmmakers of our time, German director Werner Herzog, who back in 1979 ate his shoe as a symbol of support for fellow filmmaker and friend Errol Morris to complete his film Gates of Heaven.
If Werner Herzog cooking and eating his own shoe sounds crazy -- it is. But so is filmmaking. This wasn't a publicity stunt either, as the video below explains (Herzog was initially going to eat it privately in a restaurant). It began as a friendly promise that if Morris finished making Gates of Heaven, Herzog would literally consume one of his shoes (the ones he was wearing when he promised Morris), which symbolized his support of not only his friend, but of independent cinema as a whole.
In fact, during the premiere of Gates of Heaven, where the whole shoe-eating event transpired, Herzog addresses the crowd and puts it all into perspective:
It should be an encouragement for all of you who want to make films and who are scared to just start, who haven’t got the guts, so you can follow a good example.
For an inside look into this "stunt" (I don't consider it a stunt), check out this short documentary by director Les Blank:
So, what's the big idea? Why would Herzog do this, and how is it supposed to be symbolic and inspirational for indie filmmakers? Because at the time of the wager, Herzog was already a successful filmmaker, and Morris wasn't. In fact, Morris was just like many of us -- wanting so badly to make a film (in his case, one about a pet cemetery) -- obsessing over it, but never going through with it. So, Herzog challenged him -- if he made the film, if he "had the guts," he'd eat his shoe. And Morris did -- and Herzog did.
The reason why this remains inspirational to me is because whenever I make excuses about not being able to make films, I have to remember that literally everyone who has made a film had the same roadblocks and challenges in front of them as I do now -- even bigger, wider, and more treacherous. Excuses are our way of silencing the screaming desire to make films that we have inside of us; to avoid and distract us from the call, because we're scared of failure, the unknown, or the toll it'll take on us physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The perfect way to rile me up enough to get me out of that comfortable delusion, that I'm too busy/tired/poor/etc., is having Herzog in the back of my head saying, "You don't have it in you. You don't have the guts," because I always reply with, "Hell yes I do."
"Prove it," he says, "And if you do, I'll eat my shoe."