Werner Herzog’s Rogue Rules for Life: Part One

When I attended Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School in Munich this past March, I had no idea he would be offering a $90 virtual version of his wisdom through MasterClass shortly after. The honor of being “chosen” for his in-real-life seminar may be a nice ego boost and a great way to meet filmmakers from all over the world, but it’s also a significantly heavier blow to the wallet.

While I believe any form of Herzog learning is valuable, being told directly to my face that attending the most prestigious graduate film school in America would be a waste of my time and money was priceless after a few weeks prior having to defend my values in the face of blatant sexism during my interview at said institution. In that vein, I am compelled to share a dissemination of his expensive knowledge here. It certainly can’t hurt the state of cinema or of our collective souls.

Most great advice is useless until some real life experience makes it click. So let these marinate a bit. One of the most notable things about Herzog is that his approach to filmmaking and life are the same. It’s what gives his films and his presence their stinging charm.

And with that, here is the first of three lists outlining Herzog’s Rogue Rules for Life and/or Filmmaking, as interpreted by me (mostly verbatim). I’ve broken the lists into Your Habits & The Craft, Your Audience & The Industry, and Your Soul.


Your Habits & The Craft

1. Read constantly.
2. Do what is doable.
3. Complaining is not allowed.
4. It is rewarding to take revenge.
5. Break the rules but don’t get caught (when it’s also breaking the law).
6. You must learn the heart of man/woman and you cannot do that in film school.
7. Do not go to film school.
8. Read poetry before you write a script.
9. Don’t be a fly on the wall; be a hornet that stings.
10. Three-Act structure should die.
11. Do not overcomplicate the camera.
12. Facts inform; truth illuminates.
13. Keep the flow of long takes.
14. Ask unusual questions, and ask them spontaneously.
15. Don’t waste footage; know what you’re doing.
16. Avoid sentimentality.
17. Go into the forrest and record all night to understand sound.
18. You should be able to step in for your cinematographer or sound operator.
19. You must know the heart of men by looking at their faces. This is how you break the ice. Be courageous in making introductory statements; your subjects need to bond with you so that they trust you and follow your vision.
20. We must alway strive to improve our filmmaking. The “why” is irrelevant.
21. Too many questions and too much research can be paralyzing; you must be spontaneous too and go after things “like a wild beast.”
22. If something is fascinating, film it. Don’t get stuck asking why.
23. If people aren’t giving honest interviews or performances, stop.
24. Introduce your leading character so that the audience is immediately on their side.
25. You must cultivate an incredible passion for your object of observation; and with that observation must be a level of depth.
26. Always leave space for pondering the meaning of our world; the audience needs time to step outside the timeline and reach forward and backward in their own minds.

Clive Owen Opens Up About His Surprising New Thriller, ‘Shadow Dancer’

In director James Marsh’s latest film, Shadow Dancer, Clive Owen plays Mac, an MI5 agent who is in charge of interrogating Collette McVeigh, (played by a fiercely luminous Andrea Riseborough) the daughter of a tightly-knit IRA family from civil war-torn Belfast. While traveling to England, she places a bomb in a London tube station. What ensues is a tense, quietly resonant political thriller, and Owen’s Mac is someone whose word is all he has left in the world. It’s a terrific, taut performance, and co-stars Riseborough and Gillian Anderson, and the largely Irish supporting cast round out this slow-burning thriller. Here, Clive Owen–a real movie star by any definition–discusses what it was like working with  Marsh, (known for his award-winning documentaries Man on Wire and Project Nim), his own dedication to the project, and the delicate politics portrayed in Shadow Dancer.

What preparation did you do for the role of Mac in Shadow Dancer, and how aware were you of the IRA conflict’s history?
I didn’t get a chance to do that much research, because I was coming off the Hemingway project (HBO’s Hemingway and Gellhorn, starring Nicole Kidman) and I was really tired, and I wasn’t going to work at all for awhile.

And then I was sent the script, and James Marsh’s name came attached with it. I loved Man on Wire. And I really fell in love with this script.  It’s one of those rare scripts that was really ready to go.

 So, I went straight from that set onto to his set. In terms of the IRA, yes, I do remember it. If you grow up in the UK, the whole threat of the IRA was ever-present, really. It was always on the news. It was always in the air. It was the danger of it.

How did James Marsh’s experience as a documentary filmmaker affect his directing process?
Oh, it was a big plus for me. Documentary filmmakers are always after something truthful. It’s a huge reason for me doing it. He’s not interested in manipulating an audience, or doing anything fake.

Is there a particular type of character you enjoy playing? 
I remember way back when I first got to LA, people asking me if I played “goodies” or “baddies” And I remember saying, “I really don’t look at it like that!” I meant it. I’ve never played any character that I pre-judged. One of the strengths of this script is that it wasn’t judgmental; it wasn’t clear cut. People are not just good or just bad. It was a complex time, and these characters are complex people.

When I look at my career, it’s just been led by material and by director. I’m sure it’s the fact that I started out in the theater, and I wanted to play different parts. That’s why you go into the theater in the first place, not to keep repeating the same thing. And for me, that’s one of the joys of doing it.

Does your character actually fall in love with Collette, his informant, during the course of the film?
I don’t think he falls in love with her, no…I think he has empathy for her. Every character in the movie is struggling.  The scene with that strange, furtive kiss, surprised me…And it’s rare when you read a script like that, where you get to a scene and go, “gosh, that’s really….” It was a furtive, kind of lunge from her for some kind of contact.  I think it surprises them both, and confuses them both. And I love that it sort of rears up. It’s not dealt with in a corny way.  It’s very real, human. Surprising.

[More by Francesca McCaffery; Follow Francesca on Twitter

Berlin Opening: Waldorf Astoria

The Waldorf Astoria Berlin, the gleaming new tower on the Ku’damm, is unapologetically luxurious, particularly with the opening of Les Dolites: French culinary god Pierre Gagnaire’s first gastronomic temple on German soil, located within the hotel. The lushness of the space, awash in Italian silks and floral displays, extends to Germany’s only Guerlain Spa.

But this exceedingly posh Waldorf Astoria also pays tribute to the city’s more bohemian history; the Lang Bar is an encomium to Metropolis and M director Fritz, and the Romanisches Cafe (once a hang-out of Brecht and Grosz), has been revived as a chic new all-day dining spot, complete with a terrace overlooking the Breitscheidplatz. Book a room on a higher floor for views that stretch all the way to…Dresden? Perhaps.