24 Life Lessons for Filmmakers from Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog has dedicated his life not only to creating uncompromising films, but uncompromising filmmakers as well.
In a career that spans over half a century, the Munich-born director has made it his duty to help guide filmmakers as they navigate the wilderness of their creativity, from eating a shoe for a young Errol Morris to teaching students how to hack film at his Rogue Film School seminars.
Still, there's so more to glean from him; just take a look at author Paul Cronin's book Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed, which features new interviews discussing Herzog’s films. Of course, the pages in-between the covers offer incredible insight into a perplexing cinematic mind, but the back cover contains a wealth of knowledge all on its own. On it Herzog lists 24 pieces of advice for filmmakers that should probably immediately be printed out, blown up, and tacked to your wall. (Or bookmarked if you're just super digital.)
Thanks to Kottke, we have the list here to share with you:
- Always take the initiative.
- There is nothing wrong with spending a night in jail if it means getting the shot you need.
- Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey.
- Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief.
- Learn to live with your mistakes.
- Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern.
- That roll of unexposed celluloid you have in your hand might be the last in existence, so do something impressive with it.
- There is never an excuse not to finish a film.
- Carry bolt cutters everywhere.
- Thwart institutional cowardice.
- Ask for forgiveness, not permission.
- Take your fate into your own hands.
- Learn to read the inner essence of a landscape.
- Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory.
- Walk straight ahead, never detour.
- Manoeuvre and mislead, but always deliver.
- Don't be fearful of rejection.
- Develop your own voice.
- Day one is the point of no return.
- A badge of honor is to fail a film theory class.
- Chance is the lifeblood of cinema.
- Guerrilla tactics are best.
- Take revenge if need be.
- Get used to the bear behind you.
These lessons are applicable to pretty much everyone and offer some great advice not just for filmmaking, but for life as well. But for filmmakers they're more than that; they're a bit of light in the darkness. Personally, #20 hit me the hardest, because it reminds me that although becoming an "expert" in an area of film study might be beneficial in certain ways, it's not what will make me the best filmmaker I can be. We should always question. We should always refuse. We should always be pushing the boundaries instead of applying a thicker coat to the lines that have been drawn by those before us.