"Get used to the bear behind you": 24 pieces of advice from Werner Herzog

Two-dozen maxims from the filmmaker

Published January 20, 2015 8:53PM (EST)

Werner Herzog       (IFC Films)
Werner Herzog (IFC Films)

Werner Herzog is a difficult man to categorize. In simplistic terms, he's an innovative film director, documentarian, actor, screenwriter, opera director, author, (libertarian?) -- an enigmatic, yet ever-creative artist.

Over many years, Paul Cronin interviewed Herzog. The result is the 2014 book "Werner Herzog -- A Guide for the PerplexedConversations with Paul Cronin." On the back of said book is a list of 24 maxims from the filmmaker, Open Culture reports. Some are specific to the art of making a film, while others are more broadly applicable to life. They are as follows (as typed out by Jason Kottke):

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.

By Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

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Advice Books Cool Culture Documentary Entertainment Film Maxims Werner Herzog