Werner Herzog, in case you haven’t heard of him, is a legendary German film director known for his unique outlook on the world. He’s a man of many talents who is considered one of the great living filmmakers (certainly one of the most eccentric), and he’s also an accomplished producer, screenwriter, author, actor, and opera director.
A common theme in Herzog’s films is the “Crazy Dreamer” hero who pursues his Big Dream against insurmountable odds. For example, the title character of his film, Fitzcarraldo, has a dream – building an opera house in the Amazon jungle – so to raise the funds to build his opera house, he devises a plan to drag a riverboat over a mountain.
The late, great Roger Ebert once said that Herzog “has never created a single film that is compromised, shameful, made for pragmatic reasons or uninteresting. Even his failures are spectacular.” And like Herzog himself, his heroes also achieve something magnificent, even when they fail.
On the back cover of Paul Cronin’s Werner Herzog – A Guide for the Perplexed (2014), the director offers 24 pieces of advice for filmmakers. As general life lessons, however, they’re valuable for everyone, especially for entrepreneurs and artists.
- 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.
- Maneuver 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.