I do not follow ideas, I stumble into stories or into people; and I know that this is so big, I have to make a film. Very often, films come like uninvited guests, like burglars in the middle of the night. They are in your kitchen; something is stirring, you wake up at 3 a.m. and all of a sudden they come wildly swinging at you.
When I write a screenplay, I write it as if I have the whole film in front of my eyes. Then it is very easy for me, and I can write very, very fast. It is almost like copying. But of course sometimes I push myself; I read myself into a frenzy of poetry, reading Chinese poets of the eighth and ninth century, reading old Icelandic poetry, reading some of the finest German poets like H lderlin. All of this has absolutely nothing to do with the idea of my film, but I work myself up into this kind of frenzy of high-caliber language and concepts and beauty.
And then sometimes I push myself by playing music, for example, a piano concerto by Beethoven, and I play it and write furiously. But none of this is an answer to the question of how you focus on a single idea for a film. And then, during shooting, you have to depart from it sometimes, while keeping it alive in its essence.
--Werner Herzog, on filmmaking
Werner Herzog doesn't write traditional screenplays. He writes fever dreams brimming with madness, greed, humor, and dark isolation that can shift dramatically during production--and have materialized into extraordinary masterpieces unlike anything in film today. Harnessing his vision and transcendent reality, these four pieces of long-form prose earmark a renowned filmmaker at the dawn of his career.