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‘Get used to the bear behind you’: 24 Life Lessons from Werner Herzog

‘Get used to the bear behind you’: 24 Life Lessons from Werner Herzog


Werner Herzog once said in Grizzly Man, “I believe the common denominator of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder.”

Always the optimistic sort, Herzog is not without his guiding philosophies that have helped him become one of the greatest living filmmakers of all time. He has taken filmmakers like Harmony Korine and Joshua Oppenheimer under his wing at his Rogue Film School. And for those aspiring filmmakers wondering what life lessons he offers there, Paul Cronin, author of the book of conversations Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed, shared on the back book jacket 24 of Herzog’s pieces of advice for aspiring filmmakers. Here they are in all their profound, German glory:

1. Always take the initiative.
2. There is nothing wrong with spending a night in jail if it means getting the shot you need.
3. Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey.
4. Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief.
5. Learn to live with your mistakes.
6. Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern.
7. That roll of unexposed celluloid you have in your hand might be the last in existence, so do something impressive with it.
8. There is never an excuse not to finish a film.
9. Carry bolt cutters everywhere.
10. Thwart institutional cowardice.
11. Ask for forgiveness, not permission.
12. Take your fate into your own hands.
13. Learn to read the inner essence of a landscape.
14. Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory.
15. Walk straight ahead, never detour.
16. Manoeuvre and mislead, but always deliver.
17. Don’t be fearful of rejection.
18. Develop your own voice.
19. Day one is the point of no return.
20. A badge of honor is to fail a film theory class.
21. Chance is the lifeblood of cinema.
22. Guerrilla tactics are best.
23. Take revenge if need be.
24. Get used to the bear behind you.