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Werner Herzog Leads Film Accelerator in Spain, Voice Acts in Bong Joon Ho’s Upcoming Animated Feature (EXCLUSIVE)

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In an exclusive interview with Variety, German maestro filmmaker Werner Herzog discussed his plans to lead the 3rd Film Accelerator program organized by Barcelona-based La Selva. Herzog and his long-time cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger will be on hand to guide the 25 directing and 25 cinematography aspirants who will pair up to create short films no longer than 10 mins in length.

On day one, he will give them a framework on which to base their project. “They’re not to come with a pre-formulated plan for their projects,” said Herzog, who revealed that he was lending his voice to “Parasite” director Bong Joon Ho’s upcoming hand-drawn animated feature about deep-sea creatures.

This would not be the first time for Herzog, who has lent his distinguished gravelly voice to many other parts in the past, most notably in episodes of “The Simpsons,” “The Boondocks” as well as Adult Swim’s “Rick and Morty” and “Metalocalypse.”

The immersive accelerator will take place over Sept. 21 – Oct. 1 on the La Palma island of Spain’s far-flung Canary Islands where a volcanic eruption occurred three years ago. Herzog and the workshop students will honor the resilience of the La Palma island residents, who endured 84 days of devastation wrought by the Cumbre Vieja volcano.

He cites a similar workshop he held in the Peruvian rainforest in 2018 where he guided students hailing from multiple countries. “In the first minute of the first meeting, I gave them the task to make a film within the frame of ‘fever dreams in the jungle,’” he related, adding that he helped them find locations and provided them with a video file of hundreds of local actors from which to choose.

The participants are free to select any format, whether it be fiction, documentary or even a poem or essay, he pointed out. “They will have to start filming and then edit on their own laptops,” he said, adding that this workshop differs from previous ones as they pair a DP with a director to make short films together, 25 in all. “In a maximum of nine days, they will have to deliver as we will watch them all on the 10th day,” he noted.

“It’s not for amateurs, we’ve selected people who have a shot at least a few short films before,” he pointed out. Out of these projects, some 10 to 12 of the best pieces will be singled out for a showcase. “We showed the last crop at the Locarno Film Festival, where some were even better than the ones shortlisted for the Oscars,” he said.

Always keen to pass on what he has learned, he founded his own Rogue Film School where it “teaches you how to pick safety locks and forge documents like shooting permits” and has written a 550-page guide on the tricks of guerilla filmmaking.

Herzog is also on the award-winning online education site, MasterClass, where his filmmaking course imparts “six hours of relentless instruction” that encompasses storytelling, cinematography, location scouting, self-financing, documentary interviewing techniques, etc.

At 81, the prolific filmmaker behind such seminal classics as “Fitzcarraldo,” “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” and “Grizzly Man” has no intention of slacking off. He just finished his documentary “Theater of Thought,” is in pre-production on another which he plans to shoot in May and has another slated to film by early next year. He’s published three books in a year and half and is writing another book at present.

Herzog asserts that in his decades-long career he has written all his screenplays with the exception of two, which he still modified quite a lot. “I work fast, I normally don’t go beyond a week to finish writing a screenplay, it’s as if I’m copying what I can already envision on the screen,” he told Variety.  

The methodology behind the Film Accelerator was first initiated by the late Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami (“Through the Olive Trees”) and further developed by Argentina’s Lucrecia Martel (“La Ciénaga,” “Zama”) and Herzog himself. Each edition explores the connection between the teacher’s cinematic oeuvre and its interplay with space, context, population and culture.

Courtesy of La Selva