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How Werner Herzog Masters Storytelling

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Apr 23, 2017

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How Werner Herzog Masters Storytelling
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  • "It's not only my dreams. My belief is
  • that all these dreams are yours as well
  • and the only distinction between me and you
  • is that I can articulate them.
  • It's as simple as that."
  • To share a dream with an audience in
  • a way that it becomes their dream has
  • been the biggest challenge of filmmakers.
  • Fitzcarraldo is one of Herzog's most
  • ambitious films. But what fascinated me
  • most about it was a documentary about
  • the making of this insane project.
  • "This hill is no joke at all."
  • "Burden of Dreams" shows Herzog's unstoppable will
  • power to get this film finished.
  • "If I abandoned this project I would be a man
  • without dreams and I don't want to live
  • like that. I live my life, I end my life
  • with this project."
  • "I'm speaking to filmmakers or future filmmakers."
  • Revered by many, others are uncomfortable with
  • the extent Herzog's filmmaking is fetishized.
  • "For example I do not use a
  • storyboard; I think it's an instrument
  • of the cowards."
  • Herzog carries a persona of a deep, insightful, possibly insane and dangerous artist.
  • Herzog is a kind warrior,
  • a warrior nonetheless, which means he will do
  • what he must to make the film.
  • For me personally, it's his documentary
  • work I admire most.
  • "Oh, he's a big bear."
  • Surely there are bigger, more meaningful
  • documentaries made by others, but it's Herzog's
  • deliberate storytelling that
  • fascinates me because he is interested in
  • stylizing things to capture an
  • authenticity that is beyond what's real.
  • He's an artist first. Herzog: "The first creature
  • we encountered tried to communicate
  • something to us." So I want to take a look
  • at what I can learn from him and apply
  • to my own work. "That needle down there."
  • Is this yours? "Is that yours?"
  • Let him say what..."
  • "This is what?"
  • There's something so powerful about
  • documentaries. More powerful than drama.
  • "This is a bumblebee who expired as it
  • was working at doing the pollen thing."
  • Again and again, Herzog points out the
  • unexpected miracles that happen to a
  • documentary filmmaker. "The likes", and I
  • quote, "of which no studio directors
  • with union crews can ever dream of."
  • If you've seen "Grizzly Man" you probably
  • remember this iconic scene.
  • "This is Timothy's camera. During the fatal attack
  • there was no time to remove the lens cap.
  • Jewel Palovak allowed me to listen to
  • the audio." He listens in as Timothy
  • Treadwell and his girlfriend get mauled
  • by a bear. "I hear rain and I hear "Amie, get
  • away, get away, go away."
  • Instead of letting us hear the audio, the
  • horror of this painful death was put
  • into the audience's mind.
  • "You can turn it off."
  • *turns it off*
  • *Jewel starts crying*
  • But it's really the placement of the
  • scene in context with what led up to
  • this moment and what follows that makes
  • this, for me at least, emotionally one of
  • the most terrifying scenes I've ever
  • experienced in a film. "Timothy Treadwell
  • and Amie Huguenard's remains came in this
  • large metal can. Inside this metal can
  • was a plastic bag, one for Timothy and
  • one for Amie." The sequence starts with the
  • coroner expressing what it was like to
  • examine the remains. Herzog himself
  • reports that he actually did an
  • additional take on this interview and
  • asked the coroner to focus in on how this
  • would make him feel. "Just the visual
  • input of seeing a detached human being
  • before my eyes makes my heart race, makes
  • the hair stand up on the back of my head.
  • Particularly in combination with the
  • contents of a tape, an audio tape that is
  • the sound portion of a video tape."
  • This interview really humanizes what could
  • have been a very dry medical assessment
  • and gives us all the information we need
  • about what's on the tape, so we
  • understand and can later imagine what it
  • must have sounded like. "Yet the tape is
  • running so that we can hear the sounds
  • of Amie screaming and the sounds of
  • Timothy moaning, tells me that this event
  • occurred very, very quickly, suddenly and
  • unexpectedly. I clearly can hear her
  • screaming "Stop and go away!" Maybe "run
  • away", there's a lot of background noise.
  • Timothy is moaning and I hear Amie
  • beating on the top of this bears' head
  • with a frying pan." The interview
  • continues for a while longer, describing
  • in detail what he heard, and then finally
  • cutting to the scene we already know,
  • ending with Herzog advising her to
  • destroy the tape. "Jewel, you must never
  • listen to this."
  • "I know, Werner, I'm never going to."
  • "And you must never look at the photos that
  • I've seen at the coroner's office."
  • This is the only time that Herzog actually
  • appears in the documentary, and we only
  • really see his back. Herzog probably even
  • hesitated to go as far as showing the
  • scene. He talked about how he really
  • wanted to honor and protect the privacy
  • and the dignity of this death, yet he
  • wanted to bring us right to the edge of
  • making us imagine what it must have been
  • like at that moment. Ending this whole
  • sequence with a scene of two bears fighting.
  • It really emphasizes the
  • violence and force that Timothy and Amie experienced.
  • This moment is powerful in its own, but
  • in context, this scene is about a smaller
  • bear that is challenged and decides to
  • fight back, thinking that he might win
  • this. At the beginning, the bigger bear
  • backs off, but then, with full uninhibited force...
  • We now understand and feel how powerful
  • these animals are
  • "Well, here I am at the scene of the fight,
  • it looks as if tractors tore into..." The scene ends
  • with Timothy commenting on this fight
  • himself. "There's fur everywhere and in the camera
  • foreground, extruded waste in the middle
  • of the fight so violent..." He's almost
  • making fun of the smaller bear for even
  • daring to take on the challenge. "Mickey's
  • now the closest bear to Saturn, back in
  • like a horse..." The irony in that moment is
  • obvious. "You underestimated Sergeant Brown.
  • You went in for the head, he seemed to be
  • rope-a-doping you like he wasn't that
  • tough, and then once you banged into
  • him... man, he turned out to be one heck of
  • a rough bear." The small bear crossed the
  • boundary and paid the price, just as
  • Timothy does by choosing to live among
  • these creatures. "I kinda think he was over ten
  • feet high, don't you?" Even though much of
  • the footage was shot by Treadwell
  • himself, it is Herzog who has become
  • the storyteller in his place and he
  • deliberately put these scenes in sequence
  • in order for us to grasp this horrendous
  • death. And the overall premise of the film:
  • Nature is overwhelmingly indifferent
  • to men. Whenever I look at Herzog's
  • documentaries, I can't help but notice
  • that they're a look at ourselves, our
  • nature. When it comes to my own work, I
  • find Herzog's documentaries empowering.
  • They inspire me to look for meaning
  • beyond what's on screen.
  • "I mean I was expecting to find a body part here."
  • "If you walked down far enough down the streak I'm sure you'd find a dead body somewhere."
  • This is what I believe Herzog
  • refers to when he talks about ecstatic
  • truth, and I quote: "It's mysterious and
  • elusive and it can only be reached
  • through fabrication and imagination and
  • stylization." I hope you enjoyed this
  • episode, I know many of you want to see
  • me actually edit more, and one of the
  • next videos coming up is definitely
  • going to be about how I cut this scene.
  • I want to thank my Patreon subscribers
  • for supporting this channel, for helping
  • turn it sustainable. If you're interested
  • to find out what Patreon is all about,
  • click on the link in the video
  • description, and hopefully I'll see you
  • on the next video. Thanks for watching.

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Description

Filmmaker Werner Herzog's relentless pursuit of "ecstatic" truth.

Check out the Werner Herzog Masterclass: http://thisguyedits.com/wernerherzog

THIS GUY EDITS (TGE) is a youtube channel by film editor Sven Pape, an A.C.E. award nominee, whose credits include work for directors James Cameron, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and James Franco.

TGE is about how to tell stories creatively.
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