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Werner Herzog dispenses 24 pieces of filmmaking advice that implicitly seem to double as life advice:

  1. Always take the initiative.

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

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

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

  5. Learn to live with your mistakes.

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

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

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

  9. Carry bolt cutters everywhere.

  10. Thwart institutional cowardice.

  11. Ask for forgiveness, not permission.

  12. Take your fate into your own hands.

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

  14. Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory.

  15. Walk straight ahead, never detour.

  16. Maneuver and mislead, but always deliver.

  17. Don’t be fearful of rejection.

  18. Develop your own voice.

  19. Day one is the point of no return.

  20. A badge of honor is to fail a film theory class.

  21. Chance is the lifeblood of cinema.

  22. Guerrilla tactics are best.

  23. Take revenge if need be.

  24. Get used to the bear behind you.

Herzog, who was raised in poverty and survived a WWII bombing as a child, is a self-taught filmmaker. At one point, he noted that academic film school is the “…death of cinema.” He says that one doesn’t need to be schooled as to what the antagonist should do on page 6 and what the protagonist needs to do on page 14, and so forth. What Herzog is getting at is that film school can destroy the creative process of the aspiring filmmaker by instilling “shoulds” and “should nots.” Instead, he states that if you hold the story in your head, grab a camera and start filming. This suggests a learn by doing approach.

Werner Herzog Citation

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