Werner Herzog’s Rogue Rules for Life: Part Three

There is an economy of your soul. That’s the greatest takeaway from my time with Werner Herzog at his Rogue Film School, from which I deciphered his Rogue Rules for Life and/or Filmmaking. To get a glimpse inside the filmmaker’s mind and philosophy, read Part One: Your Habits & The Craft, and Part Two: Your Audience & The Industry before diving into the final Part Three: Your Soul, below.


Your Soul

1. Truth and Fact are not the same thing.
2. Be cautious naming Truth.
3. Abandoning your dreams is abandoning yourself.
4. Be prepared, but always be open to surprise.
5. The most important experience is life experience.
6. You have to live with rejection, and you will encounter it at every step. But you can’t let it stop you.
7. The film culture and discourse that used to exist is gone; we are orphaned. You must create your own film culture if you want to stand a chance at creating anything of depth.
8. The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot. If that now seems impossible, find ways to embody this philosophy.
9. You must at some point get acquainted with your own fate.
10. Be on the move; be going somewhere. Initiative is everything.
11. A filmmaker is inherently and utterly lonely. You must actively fill yourself with substance. Not even cinematographers and actors can keep you company. Accept this, but do not seek out loneliness; you are not a monk.
12. Have a companion and raise children. Never lose touch with them.
13. The capacity of your soul must remain intact. There is only so much you can bear before your soul is compromised. This is the “economy of the soul”.

Werner Herzog’s Rogue Rules for Life: Part Two

Unveiled below is our second installment of Werner Herzog’s Rogue Rules for Life and/or Filmmaking: Your Audience & The Industry. These “rules” were recorded mostly verbatim and interpreted by me, while attending the filmmaking master’s Rogue Film School in Munich this past March. Check out Part One: Your Habits & The Craft, and standby for next week’s third feature, Your Soul.


Your Audience & The Industry

  1. The industry is against you.
  2. Festivals are self-serving entities.
  3. Distribution systems are all dysfunctional.
  4. You can no longer look to the media for meaningful discourse.
  5. “Creative Directors” in advertising = “vile yuppies”.
  6. The industry will destroy you if you aren’t vigilant.
  7. Become more intelligent and imaginative than the system: It is cowardly and stupid.
  8. You will waste your life waiting for people to give you money and/or permission.
  9. People will only consider giving you money once you’ve built your own momentum.
  10. Content is King. If your content is good enough no one cares about the minor imperfections.
  11. Do not allow playback or video village; only the camera assistant should look at a monitor. Everyone else should be focused on the live action.
  12. During production, it is the director’s job to keep the discourse meaningful, even during the lunch break.
  13. Film budgets are typically overinflated and fraudulent. The two primary things that make a film expensive are A) shoots days and B) size of crew. A big crew makes you clumsy, while a small crew makes you efficient.
  14. Actors are deformed by the Lee Strasberg method. It is the worst.
  15. Avoid the disease of over-explaining things to actors, encourage them to enjoy it. In “Bad Lieutenant.” Herzog told Nic Cage to simply enjoy being bad
  16. Big stars aren’t sacred cows, they need to be corrected sometimes too.
  17. If your actors aren’t ready, stall for them. Don’t allow anyone in their eyeline other than cameraman. (Christian Bale was completely justified in freaking out.)
  18. As the director, you should do the slate and be the last person between your actors and the camera.
  19. In documentary, observe a real events then become imaginative with how to present them in the film.
  20. Audiences are always anonymous, but you must develop a rapport with them.
  21. Within the audience there is always a parallel, separate story that only happens for them. This is how a film is capable of becoming transcendent. Leave room for it.
  22. When all is said and done, what matters is what you see on the screen and what you bring out for the audience – especially in the way you dismiss them from the theater.
  23. Virtual reality is stupid; Zuckerberg will fail.