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