Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for January 31st, 2015

Werner Herzog on editing

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Werner Herzog on the set of Rescue Dawn

I have always been very specific about what I film, and never shoot endless amounts of footage. Every second of celluloid costs money, so the impetus when shooting on film is to expose as little raw stock as possible. Even today, when I make a film on video I never end up with a lot of footage. If you let the tape run and run, you’ll have three hundred hours of mediocrity. Some filmmakers wear the fact they have so much material as a badge of honor, but attempting to be encyclopedic is a misguided strategy, practiced only by accountants. Most filmmakers with that much footage don’t know what they’re doing; I know I’m talking to a spendthrift when I meet a director who tells me they worked for years editing a film…

I can identify the strongest material at great speed, and rarely change my mind once I make a decision. Usually we can piece together a first assembly of what the final film will be in less than a fortnight. We never look at what we edited the previous day; every morning we start from the point where we finished the day before. Once we have worked through the entire film, we work backwards; this keeps the material fresh and ensures that only footage of the highest caliber remains. It isn’t that I have a particularly slovenly attitude to the editing process; I’m just ruthless with the decisions I make. I feel safe in my skills of navigation and never try out twenty different versions of the same sequence.

Werner Herzog, A Guide for the Perplexed

Written by nevalalee

January 31, 2015 at 8:50 am

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