Werner Herzog

23 Mar

Sunday night, I had the immense honor of meeting filmmaker Werner Herzog at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.  Not only was he a true gentleman, but an immense inspiration as well. During the Q&A that followed the screening of his film Stroszek (1977), he discussed his script writing technique .

The conventional method of writing a script demands countless hours of character development, research, plotting, and rewriting.  Ultimately, the goal is to create an entertaining story with multi-layered characters who evolve.  Mr. Herzog often abandons this convention and writes from instinct and personal experience.  Rather than spend countless hours following convention, he simply writes whatever he wants.  The result is a highly original script written in a relatively short period of time.

Whereas traditional script writers are analogous to naturalistic painters, bound by rules, tradition and realism, Mr. Herzog resembles the expressionists, like Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh.  Though based in reality, expressionistic art let’s loose and allows the artist to interpret reality in a personal, emotive way.  Neither method is better; the point is simply that another approach to script writing exists.

I’m excited to let loose and allow my instinct and experience guide me!  My script is about a young woman trapped in an on-and-off relationship with a man.  I’ve personally had hundreds of conversations with women in such circumstances.  That is my source of inspiration, my so-called research.  I’m going to write instinctively, from what I know.  I’m going to paint my main character’s portrait like an expressionist would, from the gut, emotive, and deeply personal.

Below are some expressionistic paintings and a must-see TV interview with Mr. Herzog.

Vincent van Gogh, Landscape with House and Laborer, 1889

Vincent van Gogh, The White House at Night, 1890

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893

Edvard Munch, Golgotha, 1900

For more on Werner Herzog, check out this great DGA Quarterly Magazine interview.



6 Responses to “Werner Herzog”

  1. Melissa March 27, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    i’m hoping that YOU don’t get shot at, unless of course the gunman is unsuccessful and you are exhilerated by the whole thing.that’s SO crazy!

  2. Graham March 23, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    I’ll add that with that other writing method, I knew EXACTLY the way the films were supposed to be made. In every detail.

    • Christopher March 23, 2010 at 11:50 pm #

      Thanks for sharing, Graham. I guess you’re going to have to go back to that other method!!!

  3. Graham March 23, 2010 at 10:21 pm #

    Very cool. Need to see more of Werner Herzog’s work. This sounds very similar to the writing process of Wings of Desire – a great film. And somewhat similar to some writing I did before going through screenwriting training. And, oddly enough, during a much more productive time. Thanks for sharing this description of an alternative approach.

  4. Miguel N. March 23, 2010 at 5:53 pm #

    Werner Herzog is a great inspiration, as a filmmaker and as a human being. Thanks for your comments on my upcoming script. I’m reconsidering many things. But most important, it is to focus on the goal of being creative and make an effective film with limited resources.
    I’m glad that you mentioned something about your research. You should post more about it.

    • Christopher March 23, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

      Thanks, Miguel. That’s a good idea: I will definitely share my personal experience in a post soon! BTW, once again, I started coming up with more complicated elements to add to my film (e.g., flashbacks), but today I realized I was doing that to avoid the challenge of staying within my means, i.e., one location. It’s funny how we complicate things to avoid basic challenges.

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