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Lesson Plan

  • 01


    Meet your new instructor, a self-taught filmmaker who’s made films on all seven continents. Are you ready to become a ‘soldier of cinema’?

  • 02

    Teach Yourself Storytelling: Watch Films

    Werner teaches you the importance of careful film analysis by deconstructing the opening scene of Viva Zapata, starring Marlon Brando.

  • 03

    Teach Yourself Storytelling: Read

    If you want to master storytelling, don’t just watch movies. Werner explains why reading is key to becoming a great filmmaker and shares passages from his mandatory reading list.

  • Show all 26 Lessons
    • 04

      Writing a Script

      Forget the three-act screenwriting structure. Werner reveals how he draws on poetry and Beethoven to inspire scripts that capture his vision in words.

    • 05

      Financing First Films

      You don’t need millions to make a movie. With $10,000 and an extraordinary idea you can start the journey toward bringing your project to the screen.

    • 06

      Negotiation Skills

      Film is an art—but it’s also a business. Werner shares his insights into the industry to help you learn how to protect your stories.

    • 07


      Jungles, oceans, and volcanic craters—Werner has shot movies in them all. Learn how to find spectacular locations and turn them into functional sets for your own films.

    • 08

      Leading The Platoon

      When Christian Bale had to eat real maggots in Rescue Dawn, Werner offered to eat them first. Here, he explains the power of leading by example to inspire your cast and crew.

    • 09

      Set Rules

      In filmmaking, if you’re on time, you’re late. Be professional: Organize your set to tell the story, not to impress anyone. Forget the director’s chair, turn off your cell phone, and stay close to your actors.

    • 10

      Camera: Shooting Strategy

      Keep it simple, focused, and efficient—don’t shoot coverage. Learn how to use one camera to make the best film possible.

    • 11

      Camera: Cinematography

      Learn how to paint with light, work with cinematographers, and bring your vision to life with extraordinary images.

    • 12

      Camera: Techniques

      Werner teaches the basic rules of cinematography—and how to break them—to maximize your creative vision.

    • 13

      Working With Actors: Creating the Character

      Through casting, wardrobe, and behavioral ticks, Werner shares both the subtle and bold techniques for developing characters with your actors.

    • 14

      Working With Actors: On-Set

      Werner breaks down how he directs actors on set and how to work with the best of the best, including Klaus Kinski.

    • 15


      Sound quality can make or break your film. Learn how to avoid lost footage and listen for the remarkable.

    • 16


      Learn how to communicate the mood you want for your music and how to work with composers to create amazing, memorable scores.

    • 17


      Editing begins on the set. Werner’s methods are unique, and will give you a practical way to cut through the footage to make a beautiful film.

    • 18

      Invaded by Images: Part 1

      Inspiration can come from anywhere, but you have to know how to recognize it—and seek it out. Learn where Werner got the ideas for many of his most famous films.

    • 19

      Invaded by Images: Part 2

      Amazing stories are often a combination of discoveries. Werner breaks down the genesis of Fitzcarraldo and the development of scenes in Stroszek.

    • 20

      Documentary: Making the Conversation

      Werner discusses his techniques to “crack a human being open.” Learn how to make your subjects comfortable, identify with them, and capture their humanity.

    • 21

      Documentary: Eliciting Difficult Stories

      Werner breaks down the need for narrative discipline and “knowing the heart of men.” Learn how to get to the heart of your subject and shape your story.

    • 22

      Documentary: Dealing with Human Beings

      There are lines you should not cross. Learn from Werner’s experiences filming Grizzly Man and Into the Abyss, and how to get to the heart of your subject quickly.

    • 23

      Documentary: Truth in Nonfiction

      Ditch the ‘fly-on-the-wall’ approach to documentary filmmaking. Shape the ‘ecstatic truth’ to tell a beautiful and brilliant story.

    • 24

      Career Strategy

      Be one of the ruthless ones who burst onto the scene. Learn how to deal with rejection and take control of your career.

    • 25

      Life as a Filmmaker

      The life of a filmmaker is fraught with doubt, rejection, and constant battles for survival. Learn how to survive in an impossible industry.

  • 26


    Werner leaves you with the words of a medieval mystic and wishes you luck on your journey.

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