This post is directed towards the people who are already in the film business and not to the new comers. I don’t think the rest of what I say will make any sense to them. But if it does then please be my guest and please read on.
Ok So there is this course on film direction that is offered by Masterclass.com and is taught by one of the greatest figures of the New German Cinema Mr ” Werner Herzog”.
The course has 26 video lectures along with some exercises for the students.
Excited to learn I joined the course and tried to make sense of his wired outlook on life. But eventually and sadly I lost my interest in Mr Herzog’s lessons after watching the 14th lesson. I found myself in a mental state that said “Oh this is a personality development course disguised as a film direction wisdom course”. For about one and a half months I didn’t visit the site and got busy with my work. A few weeks later I received an email from the sweet people at Masterclass stating that they miss me and would like me to re-join the classes. And so I did. But this time I took a different route. I got myself a crate of beer, switched off all the lights in my room, switched off my mobile phones etc…switched on the fan and dressed myself in my most comfortable clothes and started watching the lessons backwards. From the 26th till the 14th. And I started typing my thoughts as they came as I watched his lessons backwards.
Following is what I typed.
It makes more sense to me now. In fact, I can see clearly how true and valuable his words are. Something that I probably would have realised when I would have become 70 years old and would have looked back at what I learned from this profession and why did I do what I did. Mr Herzog’s wisdom can act like a time machine for you. You can travel back in time with him and learn what he did.
Everything we do as filmmakers will be etched in the memory of this human civilisation. Your films will fail. But they will outlive that failure and will be appreciated someday. But you must make sure that the films that you make are true to your dreams and not to the whims and tastes of the current phase of society.
With his lessons he has given me an insight to a world that I normally would have taken me 30-40 years to grasp. He has given me an idea about the tornado hiding in the background and how to deal with it. Convince your audience to pay to watch your films. Don’t make films for film festivals. Don’t make films to be shown for free. Earn from your films. If you don’t then figure it out. That is a successful way of filmmaking. You will not succeed all the time but that should be your goal. Filmmaking is your livelihood. It should both nourish and feed you and your soul and your family. Film making is like being a pirate. Society will love and hate you at the same time. But you must go out there into the wild unknown deep vast space of knowledge and experience and bring from that place whatever riches you can. The established paths will change. Don’t follow the established paths instead learn to create your own. Filmmaking is lying in its absolute sense. You lie but you do it to comfort yourself and the watchers of your film. And that is okay. They want you to lie. They will protest it but they absolutely, desperately want somebody to lie and tell them that they are beautiful. We are not entertainers. But liars. Always do the right thing. No Matter what. Do the right thing. Don’t be a thief. Be a pirate. There is a difference.
You know earlier I was watching the Louis C.K’s web series “Horace and Pete” and Alan Alda’s character reminded me of Mr Herzog. But I don’t think Mr Herzog is as rude as him. BTW you should watch this series, it’s absolutely awesome in so many levels.
I think Mr Herzog is giving us a survival course. Giving us the advice that we will need after we make our first film and the courage to make our first films and the films later on.
Among all the greats of his time, he is the one who has survived till now. Doing what he loves and still going strong. What I have learned from his classes is to respect and understand my profession and not get swayed away by the big MTV dreams that Hollywood and glossy magazine covers have created in my mind. He speaks the truth. The truth is as always a boring, frightening and an awakening thing. The only thing I will take from this class is that I should be more honest, respectful to everyone, selfish (not greedy, read Ayn Rand) and disciplined in my approach to film making. The rest are only myths.
Thank You Mr Herzog
You are my Obi Werner Kenobi