If you want to learn filmmaking online, then you should look no further than the Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking MasterClass. In this guide, we will provide you with an in-depth Werner Herzog MasterClass review.
At the end of our review, you will know what this course is able to offer and you can make an informed decision whether the Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking MasterClass is the right course for you.
Before we take you through the Werner Herzog MasterClass review, we thought it would be great for you to get to know Werner Herzog a little more, especially if you don’t know who he is. In addition, we will also provide you with a brief description of what MasterClass is, so you can see for yourself if MasterClass is the right platform for you to learn filmmaking.
About Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog is a self-taught German film director with more than 70 films to date. He is known for his obscure feature films and documentaries like the Grizzly Man, Fitzcarraldo, and Nosferatu the Vampyre. François Trufault also described him as “the most important film director alive.”
This amazing filmmaker also won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival for his 1982 film, Fitzcarraldo. After that, he won the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in 2006 for the Grizzly Man. With such an incredible background, it is safe to say that Werner Herzog is the filmmaker to learn from.
If you have been taking online courses then you might’ve heard of MasterClass. This platform became live in 2015 and has since gained immense popularity for having famous people who are the best in their field to teach people about what made them so good.
MasterClass is unlike other online platforms because most of the instructors on MasterClass have reached celebrity status. As such, you can expect them to provide you with valuable knowledge.
Besides the Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking MasterClass, you will also find courses for other fields like chef Gordon Ramsay’s culinary course and Samuel L. Jackson’s acting course. MasterClass definitely has its own pros and cons, so you should still consider them first before deciding if this is the best platform for you to learn filmmaking.
Werner Herzog MasterClass Review
That said, let’s dive right into the Werner Herzog MasterClass review where we will be looking at the content included in this course and what you’ll learn from it. After that, we’ll discuss the things we liked about the Werner Herzog MasterClass as well as the things that can be improved on.
What’s Included in the Course
The Werner Herzog MasterClass comes with 26 video lessons lasting for 5 hours and 50 minutes in total, giving you an average of 10 minutes of viewing time for each lesson. In addition, there are also some extra resources provided by MasterClass like a Community Hub, a 53-page Workbook, and a Q&A document.
The lessons included in this online course are as follows:
- Teach Yourself Storytelling: Watch Films
- Teach Yourself Storytelling: Read
- Writing a Script
- Financing First Films
- Negotiation Skills
- Leading The Platoon
- Rules on the Set
- Camera: Shooting Strategy
- Camera: Cinematography
- Camera: Techniques
- Working with Actors: Creating the character
- Working with Actors: On-Set
- Invaded by Images: Part 1
- Invaded by Images: Part 2
- Documentary: Making Conversation
- Documentary: Eliciting Difficult Stories
- Documentary: Dealing with Human Beings
- Documentary: Truth in Non-Fiction
- Career Strategy
- Life as a Filmmaker
The lessons listed above give you a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into, but this isn’t a comprehensive Werner Herzog MasterClass review if we don’t break it down further. In the following part of our Werner Herzog MasterClass review, we’ll look at what you will learn from Werner Herzog’s MasterClass so you can have a better understanding of the course content.
You can also have a look at Wener Herzog’s MasterClass trailer other than just reading our Werner Herzog MasterClass review to get a feel of what it’s like attending Wener Herzog’s MasterClass.
What You’ll Learn in the Werner Herzog Film MasterClass
Without any more delays, let’s have a look at our in-depth Werner Herzog MasterClass review first before putting your money into this.
Lessons 1 to 3 – Introduction and Teach Yourself Storytelling
At the beginning of Werner Herzog’s MasterClass, Werner Herzog introduces himself and asks the question, “How do you survive in this industry?” When it comes to surviving in this industry, he’s the person to learn from and the success of his work proves that. His goal is to be a good soldier of cinema and he wants the same for his fellow students too.
This section of Werner Herzog’s MasterClass also includes his own experiences in first seeing, then analyzing movies from the eyes of the audiences and how they watch them. Werner also teaches aspiring filmmakers to not only analyze films once but multiple times and look at them from different perspectives.
After talking about teaching yourself the basics of storytelling, Werner goes on to teach storytelling by reading along with some great examples. He focuses a lot on reading because he believes that it helps you strengthen your understanding of the flow of storytelling.
At the end of the day, a great film cannot be delivered unless you are able to figure out how each aspect, whether it’s technical, internal, or the characters, is fused into the film.
Lesson 4 – Writing a Script
The next lesson in Werner Herzog’s MasterClass is about scriptwriting. However, unlike other filmmakers such as David Mamet, Werner doesn’t use the three-act structure that is commonly taught. For those who have been a fan of Werner’s movies, this would be unsurprising because to Werner, the three-act structure is restrictive and makes your work ordinary and predictable.
Instead, Werner Herzog teaches you how to psych yourself up to write, how you can find inspiration from poetry, music or reading, find your own style of writing, write with a sense of urgency, and set the tone of your film using the screenplay. Werner also uses a snippet from Cobra Verde, one of his screenplays, to give a better impression.
The methods mentioned earlier are used by Werner and it’s his unique way of scriptwriting. You may follow in his footsteps, but he believes that it is important that you explore your own way to write. This can be achieved by breaking down mainstream theories to how long the work should be and when action should take place.
One interesting thing that Werner discusses is the reality of rewrites that happen on set and he teaches you the preparation for that and translating your work to a cinematographer.
Lessons 5 to 6 – Financing First Films and Negotiation Skills
It might sound amazing to make a film, but it can be quite a challenge to start. Werner is one of the best teachers for teaching how to finance a film with his first movie filmed at the age of 17 only. Apart from the other factors such as story and scriptwriting, finances play a major role.
One of the key takeaways from this lesson is that in order for money to start coming in, you need to prove that you are worthy of it. Most producers have nothing against first-timers, but the judging of dynamics and the story are often challenging.
If nothing goes your way, don’t give up just yet because you can be your own financier by raising your own money and managing the budget. When you manage your budget well, you will start to see the cash flow.
In Werner Herzog’s MasterClass, he shares with you some excellent advice on how you can get the producer or financier to work with you. These negotiation skills are crucial after the introduction of your project to the producers. A useful tip that Werner shared is to make yourself familiar with the basic legal concepts and contract terms so you can leave attorneys out of the negotiation.
What you’ll be learning in lessons 5 and 6 are essentially ways to reduce costs when filming, making a feature film, understanding basic laws, negotiating with conviction, and dealing with attorneys. Werner also ended this chapter with an insightful quote: “If you don’t have the deal within 2 days, you will not have it in 2 years either.”
Lessons 7 to 9 – Locations, Leading the Platoon & Set Rules
A scene from Aguire, the Wrath of God is used as an example for teaching you about location. The place shown in the clip is in Machu Picchu where Werner familiarized himself with the essence of the location so that the scene only needed to be filmed once.
This section of Werner Herzog’s MasterClass also discusses how you can be the leader of your platoon. He mentioned that no one knows the project better than you so if your vision is intense enough, the authoritativeness comes instinctively. With your vision and authority, the production team will stay by your side.
According to Werner, authority doesn’t have to come from being the loudest, instead, it comes from loyalty, decision making, understanding, and competence. In addition, you will learn from Werner the importance of rules onset in order to avoid a chaotic production.
Werner shares some of the unique rules he set and they usually surprise everyone. The examples provided by Werner teach you that tantrums can happen on a set and sometimes it depends on you to resolve disputes for smooth production.
Werner emphasizes preparing yourself for the unexpected where he went on to discuss the tantrums of Klaus Kinski, his collaborator, and how he resolves the situation. In the opinion of Werner, a successful shoot day comes from the development of a dynamic of a good working environment.
Lessons 10 to 12 – Camera: Shooting Strategy, Cinematography, and Techniques
Up next in Werner Herzog’s MasterClass are the lessons regarding cameras. In Werner’s class, he mentioned that he wants the camera to be so curious that they physically move in. He is specific about the things he likes and dislikes, for example, he only uses one camera.
From this section of the MasterClass, you will be learning to plan on-set (especially for continuity), save time while shooting, use your body to work the camera, choose shots cleverly to avoid post-production problems, create a visual mood with light, and use Werner’s favorite techniques, which we will let you explore on your own.
Shooting is a strategic process and it isn’t just about moving the camera around, which is where a good understanding of positioning comes into play. When it comes to cinematography, Werner’s belief is that it is unnecessary to swap your equipment according to the change of times. In his opinion, there are some unspoken rules that cinematographers should be mindful of.
Your understanding can be greatly improved from this section of Werner’s class because he uses practical clips to demonstrate the concepts he talks about. He also includes some tips of his own to help cinematographers avoid problems of disorientation.
The goal is to ensure the audience isn’t lost and left to wonder where they are when the scenes are shifting. This can be achieved with the proper orientation and camera techniques.
Lessons 13 to 14 – Working with Actors: Creating the Character and On-Set
In lessons 13 and 14 of the Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking MasterClass, you will be learning how to work with actors.
Werner teaches you how to cast the right actors and have an eye for talent, use physicality, wardrobe, and props for creating characters, identify the character’s voice, build a relationship with actors, motivate and energize actors, and most importantly, direct and control actors with success.
Werner’s example for this section is Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant where he explains how a character can be created through wardrobe and props. He also demonstrates how he lifted Nicolas’s character by directing physical quirks.
The chemistry of your actors also carries significant importance for the scene as a whole and there are times when you are expected to display personal bias, but everyone has to have an equal chance in front of the camera.
From these two lessons in Werner Herzog’s MasterClass, you will learn that you do not have to be pressured to pick a star power, all you need to do is choose the right talent and have confidence in them. At the same time, motivate and energize your actors so they can always deliver their best.
Lessons 15 to 17 – Sound, Music, and Editing
In Werner’s point of view, understanding sound is a key aspect of filmmaking and you need to be able to handle sound and be aware of its issues, only then can you create something stunning. The sound recording in Even Dwarfs Started Small will be used by Werner to discuss how he dealt with the problems.
Out of all the lessons in the Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking MasterClass, the one regarding sound is probably the least detailed. Werner talks about learning the basics and training your ears to listen, but there aren’t many details as to how you can achieve that.
As for the music part, Werner provided an abundance of material and advice which is super helpful for every filmmaker attending this class. Werner also mentioned that he usually plans the music before filming like in the case of Bells from the Deep, a film about faith and superstition in Russia.
He also shares what he’s searching for when it comes to choosing a song and how he communicates it in the studio.
After that, he proceeds to the editing part of his class where he reminds you to always prioritize the audience and look at the film from their perspective. Normally during the edit of the film, you will notice that the structure of a scene you thought was good, gets adjusted. This is to ensure the nature of the scene synchronizes with the flow of the narration.
He also teaches the students to approach editing as a collaborative venture, understand the idiosyncrasies of audiences, get proper feedback for your film, and use the footage that you are unable to ignore in your final cut.
Lessons 18 to 19 – Invaded by Images
Lessons 18 and 19 are where Werner will share some examples of how he came across images and insert them into his movies regardless of whether the images have any narrative relevance or not. He assesses how you can search for ideas in unpredicted ways and decide which one to include.
In addition, Werner Herzog also shares some useful tips about staying open to discoveries and how to get a hold of a story in a quick manner. The need to integrate ideas in uncommon and unexpected ways is also emphasized in his lesson.
The example used in this section of the course is one of the scenes from his film, Stroszek, which shows a sequence of dancing animals. Some film students might find this part of Werner Herzog’s MasterClass a little too abstract, but considering the niche nature of Werner’s films, this isn’t too much of a surprise.
Lessons 20 to 23 – Documentary: Making Conversation, Eliciting Stories, Dealing with Human Beings and Truth in Non-Fiction
Most people know Werner Herzog for his documentary films and it is unsurprising to see MasterClass allocating 3 lessons to the genre that he’s famous for. From these sections, Werner will make clear the differences between interviews and conversations. He also teaches you to establish a connection with your subject when making documentaries.
You will also learn to develop a conversation with your subject and humanize them on screen. In order to have a favorable outcome, you should have more than one perspective and conduct a thorough case study before starting.
Additionally, students will learn from Werner how involved they should be with the story and the boundaries they need to set up. Professionalism is also extremely important and discipline must be kept to avoid crying or sobbing behind the camera.
The film that Werner uses for the documentary section to better demonstrate what he’s trying to teach is The White Diamond. He will show you the conversational strategies used that helped achieve naturalism on screen.
Some students might find this section of Werner Herzog’s MasterClass to be slightly opinionated because not everyone has the same approach for making documentary films. Regardless, you will gain useful insight from Werner and it can be helpful for your filmmaking career.
Lessons 24 to 26 – Career Strategy, Life as a Filmmaker, and Postscript
Towards the end of Werner Herzog’s MasterClass, he emphasizes teaching yourself and finding a platform of your own. In his words, the world of filmmaking doesn’t exist anymore, but you have to take the initiative to fully utilize what’s available.
Other than that, you will also learn about the preparation for rejection and how you can work through it. Werner also recommends using film festivals to gain exposure and to set specific filmmaking goals. In these final chapters of Werner Herzog’s MasterClass, you can feel the sincerity in his advice and it isn’t something a typical film school can give.
Werner is honest about how it’s like living as a filmmaker and also about the things we went through to get to where he is right now. He doesn’t sugarcoat things and says what every aspiring filmmaker has to hear. Overall, these are some inspirational and useful filmmaking classes where you will learn to be one step ahead in film production.
Things We Like About the Course
This wouldn’t be a comprehensive Werner Herzog MasterClass review if we didn’t talk about what’s nice about this course.
Learning from a Reputable Filmmaker
The person teaching this course is none other than famous German filmmaker, Werner Herzog. He is what some people refer to as one of the pioneers of “New German Cinema.” Werner is known to discover the uncommon and even though he was self-taught, he still rises to be a great director.
What the Werner Herzog MasterClass offers is Werner’s unique perspective and valuable insight into a special style of filmmaking. Unlike some courses that teach the typical Hollywood-centric filmmaking, Werner Herzog teaches filmmaking in a unique way.
Helpful Insight into the Creative Process
One of the biggest issues of MasterClass which is commonly criticized is that it is challenging to teach the creative process. However, we believe those courses are helpful when it comes to providing inspiration and assisting students to better observe the world around them.
In this MasterClass, Werner shares what inspires him and also the things he does on a daily basis. You will also learn how to make use of poetry and music to explore ideas and look at the world from a different point of view.
The practical knowledge taught is also supported by the need to find a spark which is what Werner’s filmmaking course is about and it can positively influence all aspects of production.
Good Use of Visual Examples and Suggested Viewing
Werner is consistent in providing plenty of case studies to explain the concepts in his videos and the Workbook. This is especially helpful for people who learn better through visual demonstrations. There are about 1 to 2 case studies in each chapter which is balanced enough to keep the course interesting.
Also, it is worth talking about the Workbook as well because it consists of an index of all films referenced in the course so every student can watch them to further understand what Werner taught. In addition, the readings that Werner suggests are also included as he finds them to have equal importance to watching films.
Consists of Workbook and Q&A Document
As we’ve mentioned earlier, a Workbook is included with this MasterClass course and the Workbook consists of more than just the index. It also comes with extra content and assignments which offers you an active learning opportunity because it encourages you to start filming. There are also embedded links that lead you beyond the course content if you wish to find out more about film production.
Besides the Workbook, there is also a Q&A document included where Werner Herzog answers the questions by the audience of this course. He provides an elaborated answer on some of the key points that were talked about in the course and this is extremely helpful for those with additional queries regarding the course.
High Engagement Community Hub
During the commencement of the class, it is recommended that you be involved in the Community Hub. It is a forum dedicated to Werner’s MasterClass and serves as a place for students to discuss the lessons. Online learning is usually remote and thanks to this, it gives you a seminar experience without actually being at a seminar.
Some people learn better by discussing and listening to feedback from others and if you’re one of them, then this is one of those additional resources that you will appreciate. Plus, this place allows you to read/view others’ works which means you can also learn a thing or two about the MasterClass.
Werner Herzog’s MasterClass is available in English only but comes with captions for those with hearing difficulties. MasterClass is planning to expand the languages, but it is still pointless if the subtitles aren’t carefully generated. Thankfully, MasterClass doesn’t use auto-generated subtitles and actually puts in the effort to create something easy for viewers to watch.
Things That The Course can Improve On
The next section of our Werner Herzog MasterClass review will be looking at some of the downsides of this MasterClass and how we think it can be improved.
Tone Down the Heavily Opinionated Point of View
As mentioned earlier during the breakdown of Werner Herzog’s lessons, some of his points of view are heavily opinionated like how he describes storyboards as “brainless” and “for losers.” While bias is bound to happen in MasterClass, we think it would be much more welcoming if he was less blunt when it comes to expressing his views.
Werner is also direct and unapologetic when he is criticizing the methods and approaches that he disagrees with. But then again, he might not have made it to the top if he wasn’t behaving the way he did. You should keep this in mind when you’re learning from this MasterClass course.
Reduce Documentary-Focused Chapters at the End
Werner disagrees that there is a difference between feature films and documentary films. As such, you will notice that about a quarter of the course is heavily-focused on documentary filmmaking. In those chapters, you will be learning the relevant documentary filmmaking techniques, but most of them are not likely to be helpful in feature film-making.
Even if you’re not interested in documentary-making, this would still be a great course for you to study the other aspects of filmmaking. After all, you are learning from someone who has made a name for himself in the filmmaking field and you will definitely gain some useful knowledge from this MasterClass.
Films Can be More Clearly Headed
While this isn’t a big issue about the Werner Herzog MasterClass, it is still something that this course can improve on to make it more enjoyable. Since there are many case studies used for demonstration, it would’ve been better if the movie titles were clearly signed.
The signposts aren’t exactly missing, but can definitely be made clearer for easier referencing. For instance, one of the clips in this MasterClass used The Wild Blue Yonder as a case study and it was clearly captioned which included the film’s release date.
Not Catered to Film Students
Werner Herzog’s MasterClass is comprehensive and can be of great assistance for anyone that intends to enrich their film career. However, this course is heavily-focused on self-teaching because Werner believes that anyone can learn the basics of film school in a short amount of time, without paying too much money.
You will find this course difficult to follow if you intend to go to a film school because Werner taught himself filmmaking and he thinks this should be applied to you as well. So if you don’t mind his approach, then you’re in for a treat.
The Werner Herzog MasterClass is Suitable For
This MasterClass by Werner Herzog is the perfect course for filmmakers who are just starting out or have little filmmaking experience. However, it would not be suitable for professional filmmakers because the content of this MasterClass is not made for professional filmmaking.
Since the Werner Herzog MasterClass covers topics such as casting, introducing characters, fundamentals of cinema, and developing filmmaking as a career, it can also be a great choice for aspiring movie directors.
Now that we’ve come to the end of this review of the MasterClass by Werner Herzog, it is safe to say that this is an interesting choice for you to learn the wide spectrum of filmmaking. It is certainly a great course for filmmakers out there that wants to up their game. You will also have a good time learning from Werner Herzog if you were already a fan of his movies.
How much does the Werner Herzog MasterClass cost?
If you are interested in the Werner Herzog MasterClass, you can purchase it from two different options. The first is a one-time payment for the course, while the other is the All-Access Pass by MasterClass.
The first payment choice is a one-time payment that will cost you $90, but you will be given lifetime access to this course. The Workbook is also available in a PDF format when you opt for the payment choice. The average cost works out to about $15 an hour, which is reasonable considering you are learning from Werner Herzog, one of the greatest filmmakers.
The other choice is the all-access pass, which is an annual subscription that will cost you $180. With the all-access pass, you will not only be allowed to access the Werner Herzog MasterClass, but you can also try out other classes offered by them. The all-access pass is undoubtedly the choice that gives you the best value for your money if you plan to attend more than one course.
What are the alternatives to Werner Herzog’s MasterClass?
Besides having Werner Herzog as your teacher, you can also try out other filmmaking courses on MasterClass too. Here are some of the alternatives that you can consider:
- Jodie Foster Teaches Filmmaking
- David Lynch Teaches Creativity and Film
- Spike Lee Teaches Independent Filmmaking
There are a few other choices available besides the ones mentioned and you can enjoy them all if you purchased the all-access pass.
What do I need for this course?
There isn’t a list of necessary equipment, so you don’t need much preparation for this course. As a matter of fact, Werner also mentions the importance of making use of what you have rather than buying tools. That said, the Workbook does recommend you get a recording device so you complete some of the filming assignments.