Perseverance has kept me going over the years. Things rarely happen overnight. Filmmakers should be prepared for many years of hard work. The sheer toil can be healthy and exhilarating. Although for many years I lived hand to mouth — sometimes in semi-poverty — I have lived like a rich man ever since I started making films.
Throughout my life I have been able to do what I truly love, which is more valuable than any cash you could throw at me. At a time when friends were establishing themselves by getting university degrees, going into business, building careers and buying houses, I was making films, investing everything back into my work.
Money lost, film gained. Ultimately, this notion of doing what you love is rooted in defining your own success , which often requires the bravery of not buying into the cultural template. Herzog captures this elegantly:. What makes me rich is that I am welcomed almost everywhere. I can show up with my films and am offered hospitality, something you could never achieve with money alone… For years I have struggled harder than you can imagine for true liberty, and today am privileged in the way the boss of a huge corporation never will be.
I try to give meaning to my existence through my work. I have always enjoyed my work. I am well aware of the many aspiring filmmakers out there with good ideas who never find a foothold. At the age of fourteen, once I realized filmmaking was an uninvited duty for me, I had no choice but to push on with my projects. Cinema has given me everything, but has also taken everything from me.
Werner Herzog - Wikipedia
Herzog describes his ideation process in almost violent terms, framing the creative act as an inherently ambivalent one, oscillating between creation, destruction, and purging:. My ideas are like uninvited guests. The one to be wrestled to the floor before all others is the one coming at me with the most vehemence. I have, over the years, developed methods to deal with the invaders as quickly and efficiently as possible, though the burglars never stop coming. You invite a handful of friends for dinner, but the door bursts open and a hundred people are pushing in.
You might manage to get rid of them, but from around the corner another fifty appear almost immediately… Finishing a film is like having a great weight lifted from my shoulders. Channeling T.
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My films come to me very much alive, like dreams, without explanation. I never think about what it all means. I think only about telling a story, and however illogical the images, I let them invade me. An idea comes to me, and then, over a period of time — perhaps while driving or walking — this blurred vision becomes clearer in my mind, pulling itself into focus. When I write, I sit in front of the computer and pound the keys. Something is wrong if it takes more than five days to finish a screenplay.
Werner Herzog on the art of narration, Gorbachev and cat videos
A story created this way will always be full of life. We live in an era when established values are no longer valid, when prodigious discoveries are being made every year, when catastrophes of unbelievable proportions occur weekly. And yet being preoccupied with form can be limiting — it should emerge from the story organically rather than seek to shape it:.
Of course, aesthetics do sometimes enter unconsciously through the back door, because whether we like it or not our preferences always somehow influence the decisions we make.
If I were to think about my handwriting while writing an important letter, the words would become meaningless. But if you concentrate on the words and emotions, your particular style of longhand — which has nothing to do with the letter per se — will somehow seep in of its own accord. Aesthetics, if they even exist, are to be discovered only once a film has been completed. We can never know what truth really is. The best we can do is approximate… Truth can never be definitively captured or described, though the quest to find answers is what gives meaning to our existence. In one of his most endearingly characteristic proclamations, Herzog tells Cronin why he has never taken vacation:.
It would never occur to me… I work steadily and methodically, with great focus. A holiday is a necessity for someone whose work is an unchanged daily routine, but for me everything is constantly fresh and always new. I love what I do, and my life feels like one long vacation. Above all, however, Herzog reveals himself as a rare master of prioritizing presence over productivity :. I work best under pressure, knee-deep in the mud. It helps me concentrate.
Herzog on Real-Life Experience
The truth is I have never been guided by the kind of strict discipline I see in some people, those who get up at five in the morning and jog for an hour. My priorities are elsewhere. In conversation with Cronin, Herzog gives some of his most valuable advice: understand that success in filmmaking may take time, and be prepared to stick to it. Filmmakers should be prepared for many years of hard work. The sheer toil can be healthy and exhilarating. Herzog also teaches courses through his Rogue Film School and, though no workshops are currently available, the reading and viewing list is public see 10 and Did you find what you were looking for?
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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. There is never an excuse not to finish a film.
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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.
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Manoeuvre and mislead, but always deliver. Develop your own voice. Day one is the point of no return.