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werner herzog
via MasterClass

Filmmaker Werner Herzog has launched an online masterclass

The legendary director spoke with unsurprising frankness in a recent Reddit AMA ahead of the course

Werner Herzog is the German filmmaker who, in his own words, is “the inventor of cinema”, and he's just launched his anticipated digital masterclass. Herzog is the brains behind classical cinematic masterpieces like Nosferatu the Vamypre and Aguirre, the Wrath of God in the 70s, as well as being at the forefront of producing meditative meta-documentaries like My Best Fiend, exploring his relationship with the troubled talent Klaus Kinski, and Little Dieter Needs to Fly which profiled a German-American pilot.

The director has just launched a series of online classes with MasterClass, where film students are taught how to analyse filmic structure, watch movies with a creative eye and work the industry. It’s a unique opportunity to probe one of the most intense, provocative filmmakers of our time, who’s previously given written and oral advice to young hopefuls like his list, “24 pieces of life advice”, and the painfully but unsurprisingly honest “no-nonsense advice” for filmmakers. 

This new course is devised to cover “story-telling, cinematography, locations, self-financing, documentary interview techniques and how to bring your ideas to life” among others. According to MasterClass, over twenty wisdom-filled videos will be available online to those involved, a workbook and possible office hours with Herzog himself.

Herzog was 19 when he stole a camera to make his first movie, and 70 films and 50 awards later, now’s a chance to get a little cinematic magic rubbed off on you via the small screen. Speaking in a recent Reddit AMA, he explained that he “didn’t even know that cinema existed until (he) was 11”.

“Since I came into contact with cinema fairly late in my youth, I always had the feeling I was sort of the inventor of cinema itself,” he explained on Reddit. “It sounds kind of crazy or not right, as if I was not right in my mind, but until today, I couldn't care less about the rules of anything since I developed it all on my own.”

And speaking about his huge roster of films, the 73-year-old refused to pick a favourite, comparing it to choosing your favourite child. He also responded to a Redditor about the advancement of filmmaking and technology in a digital age. Herzog said: “I don't believe that the art of photography has improved much. It's the same thing as its value in filmmaking. I do not believe that we have found the completely hidden unknowns who all of (a) sudden, who through cheap digital cameras, make their movies.

“They would emerge no matter what, whether they have a cell phone or a video camera. However, I must say, we have seen some good surprises, and sometimes you see them on YouTube of all places. But not really that it has advanced the art of filmmaking much.”

If you can’t make the digital masterclasses Herzog gave some sound advice to Redditors too. One of his biggest gripes was that people don’t read enough, and revealed that he makes those who attend his seminars at Rogue Film School read British novel The Peregrine. He details that the passion the protagonist shows towards watching animals go extinct is “how you should meet the world”. Herzog also recommended classical Greek and Roman literature, travelling the world by foot to experience it and learning guerilla filmmaking techniques like picking a lock to get where you need to shoot.