One-to-one relationships do not exist between the medieval European Guild system and contemporary labor unions or protectionist rackets…. Nevertheless, guilds were very much like both those things in some ways. They were also vocational schools, where young aspiring artisans could, with the right skills and connections, apprentice themselves to master craftsmen, hope to receive decent training, and look forward to becoming guild masters themselves should they persist.
Few organizations like that exist today. But there is perhaps one industry in which—with the right connections, skill, and persistence—a lucky and talented few rise through the ranks to mastery: the film industry, where a video store clerk, Quentin Tarantino, can achieve lasting fame and fortune, as can former part-time projectionist, Wes Anderson. Many directors who came of age in the sixties and seventies went the traditional route of film school, but one, Werner Herzog, took a bandit’s way into the craft, stealing a camera from the Munich Film School, feeling that he “had some sort of natural right for a camera, a tool to work with.”
Herzog has created his own guild system, of a sort, with the Rogue Film School, a rough, informal course, among other things, in “guerrilla filmmaking.” Stealing cameras is not ruled out. But you’ll have to learn the technical stuff on your own. What matters, most, Herzog says, is that filmmakers “read, read, read, read, read.” These are directors who have borrowed from other directors and films, and also from books, music, painting, etc., driven by an obsessive and persistent desire to learn. And you’ll find them all in the supercut above, in which Tarantino, Anderson, Herzog, and other “master filmmakers” like Scorsese, Coppola, Fellini, Welles, and more offer short, yet profound pieces of advice to aspirants.
We begin with Tarantino, who argues that passion is all you need to make a great film. “You don’t need to go to school” or know any of the technical stuff, but you do need to apprentice yourself, with pure devotion and tenacity, to cinema. You won’t hear this from many of the others, but Terry Gilliam also recommends a secondary trade, maybe as a plumber, another profession that involves apprentices and journeymen working their way up. It’s certainly a trade that involves great skill, but to hear these directorial guild masters tell it, no other profession asks for as much drive and passion as the movies, and apparently you don’t even need to know what you’re doing at first. See the complete list of interviewees below.
QUENTIN TARANTINO: 00:00
JERRY LEWIS: 00:40
TERRY GILLIAM: 01:15
JOHN CARPENTER: 01:40
PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON: 02:30
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA: 03:54
FEDERICO FELLINI: 04:52
WERNER HERZOG: 05:56
WES ANDERSON: 07:22
SIDNEY LUMET: 07:50
JOHN LANDIS: 08:58
MARTIN SCORSESE: 10:15
GUILLERMO DEL TORO 11:38
ORSON WELLES 14:55
Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School: Apply & Learn the Art of Guerilla Filmmaking & Lock-Picking
Werner Herzog Offers 24 Pieces of Filmmaking & Life Advice
Andrei Tarkovsky’s Advice to Young Filmmakers: Sacrifice Yourself for Cinema
Akira Kurosawa’s Advice to Aspiring Filmmakers: Write, Write, Write and Read
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
Love what I’ve read and seen so far.