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."

Link: Werner Herzog Loses a Bet to Errol Morris, and Eats His Shoe (Literally) -- Open Culture

[via Filmslie]

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Your Comment


Nofilmschool, I hope you realize how important you have become in the education of a new generation of filmmakers. You have given a chance to everyone that is willing to learn; can learn. Money is not an obstacle anymore. Thank You!

June 15, 2014 at 12:46AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Yes!!!! But see also, 1 (or, if I don't get censored, 2) comment(s) on the passion of film making but 33 on a fucking digital camera some moron used on his moron movie (transformers).

June 15, 2014 at 6:22AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Thanks, Jorge. I'd eat my shoe for you all.

June 15, 2014 at 11:11AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

V Renée
Content Manager at Coverfly

I read everything that is posted on the site! and it really motivates us to make films and obviously not to have excuses about financing etc.. and I believe that if you love film making and you have a visual story to tell then you will find ways to make it..I am in film school right now (Cape town..South Africa) and my aim was to learn basic skills to make a professional film and network with people who have the same passion, and even though it's a 2 year diploma course "I'm making it a one year course for myself and after that get the right team and make what I love and that's feature film"

June 15, 2014 at 3:46PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


And Herzog is one to practice what he preaches...Not long after this Les Blank followed Herzog into the jungles of Peru to document the near-disastrous making of Fitzcarraldo. If you thought making your short film was difficult, go try making a feature deep in the remote jungles of South America with a mixed Western and indigenous cast/crew, a maniacal lead actor, with the aim of hoisting a steam ship up a mountain with sheer manpower...yeah...insane.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYOYi9WLLVU&w=420&h=315]

June 16, 2014 at 11:59PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM