Like millions of us out here in sunny Los Angeles, I’m still on the grind working towards a film career where I don’t have to take a day job. I’m no expert, but I can tell you something that has helped me become a better storyteller – go to a foreign country, get lost, navigate, and talk to as many locals as you can.
I came across a wonderful article that featured filmmaker Werner Herzog. He offers up advice to aspiring filmmakers and creative entrepreneurs. It isn’t what one would expect from a film director. But if you are familiar with Mr. Herzog’s general approach to life, it probably won’t come as a surprise. After all, this is the same man that pulled a huge boat up a hill, ate a shoe because he lost a bet, and saved Joaquin Phoenix from a car accident before vanishing.
In the article, Herzog states that all film schools are a titanic waste of time and money. I’d have to say I would agree with him. I’ve looked into many programs and conversed with many fellow filmmakers who attended some of the most prestigious film schools and all of them have a shared experience: film schools do not teach you how to become great story tellers.
Herzog sums up his advice best with these two quotes:
Walk on foot, learn languages and a craft or trade that has nothing to do with cinema. Filmmaking — like great literature — must have experience of life at its foundation.
Somebody who has been a boxer in Africa would be better trained as a filmmaker than if he had graduated from one of the “best” film schools in the world. All that counts is real life.
I have been really fortunate to travel. It is all about getting out of one’s comfort zone, being in a foreign country, and finding your way across a land you’ve never been before. The more language barriers there are, the better stories you will have. It is really hard to be inspired if you’ve never left your hometown. Often times, the stresses of travel as they occur are not funny at all. Such as my recent trip to Amsterdam where the mattress in my hostel was infested with bed bugs. Not a fun time by any stretch of the imagination. Looking back at it now, I realize that it could play for a small funny moment in a comedy sketch/film I have in mind. And when I eventually write that scene down, it will essentially write itself since I actually lived it. This is of course a small example. But I have many inspirations from my recent trip for all types of genres.
So if you are suffering from writer’s block, get out there and travel!