“Always take the initiative. There is nothing wrong with spending a night in a jail cell if it means getting the shot you need. Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey. Beware of the cliché. Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief. Learn to live with your mistakes. Study the law and scrutinize contracts. Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern. Keep your eyes open. That roll of unexposed celluloid you have in your hand might be the last in existence, so do something impressive with it. There is never an excuse not to finish a film. Carry bolt cutters everywhere. Thwart institutional cowardice. Ask for forgiveness, not permission. Take your fate into your own hands. Don’t preach on deaf ears. Learn to read the inner essence of a landscape. Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory. Walk straight ahead, never detour. Learn on the job. Maneuver and mislead, but always deliver. Don’t be fearful of rejection. Develop your own voice. Day one is the point of no return. Know how to act alone and in a group. Guard your time carefully. A badge of honor is to fail a film-theory class. Chance is the lifeblood of cinema. Guerrilla tactics are best. Take revenge if need be. Get used to the bear behind you.”
—Werner Herzog, Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed: Conversations with Paul Cronin
“What I like about Los Angeles is that it allows everyone to live his or her own lifestyle. Drive around the hills and you find a Moorish castle next to a Swiss chalet sitting beside a house shaped like a UFO. There is a lot of creative energy in Los Angeles not channelled into the film business. Florence and Venice have great surface beauty, but as cities they feel like museums, whereas for me Los Angeles is the city in America with the most substance, even if it’s raw, uncouth and sometimes quite bizarre. Wherever you look is an immense depth, a tumult that resonates with me. New York is more concerned with finance than anything else. It doesn’t create culture, only consumes it; most of what you find in New York comes from elsewhere. Things actually get done in Los Angeles. Look beyond the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and a wild excitement of intense dreams opens up; it has more horizons than any other place. There is a great deal of industry in the city and a real working class; I also appreciate the vibrant presence of the Mexicans. In the last half century every significant cultural and technical trend has emerged from California, including the Free Speech Movement and the acceptance of gays and lesbians as an integral part of a dignified society, computers and the Internet, and—thanks to Hollywood—the collective dreams of the entire world. A fascinating density of things exists there like nowhere else in the world. Muslim fundamentalism is probably the only contemporary mass movement that wasn’t born there. One reason I’m so comfortable in Los Angeles is that Hollywood doesn’t need me and I don’t need Hollywood.”
Previously: Geoff Manaugh, Michael Maltzan, and Harlan Ellison on Los Angeles.
“I do not have and I do not need material things. My material world is extremely small and limited. I own one single suit that I’m wearing right now and in the last 25 years I’ve never had another suit. And the shoes that I’m wearing I’ve been wearing for 3 years and they are my only pair of shoes. I need to replace them because they are starting to come apart. I don’t need 20 pairs of shoes. I have a car that I’ve had for 12 years. It’s fine, I enjoy life and things are very basic. I don’t have social networks in the Internet for example. I don’t even have a cell phone. I’m probably the last to holdout. I just don’t want to be available all the time. I love to connect with people but in a more fundamental way. I never go to parties, but I invite friends and I cook for them.”
“Maybe the most important piece of advice I can give to those of you heading into the world of film is that as long as you are able-bodied, as long as you can make money yourself, do not go looking for office jobs to pay the rent. I would also be very wary of excruciatingly useless bottom-rung secretarial jobs in film-production companies. Go out to where the real world is, go work as a bouncer in a sex-club, a warden in a lunatic asylum or in a slaughterhouse. Walk on foot, learn languages, learn a craft or trade that has nothing to do with cinema. Filmmaking must have experience of life at its foundation.”
—Werner Herzog, Herzog on Herzog