Werner Herzog's Rogue Film School, the experience part I

The Rogue Film School: Meet and Greet

Whilst on the 16.27 train from Clapham Junction to Crawley many peculiar thoughts entered my head. First of all, why Crawley? Werner Herzog had chosen the furthest hotel from Gatwick Airport for his first European and third-in-all Rogue Film School, a hotel that happened to sit on the fringes of this town. Secondly I had to remember to breathe as I found myself reliving the moment the email fell into my inbox with the subject heading, 'Congratulations!!!'

I happen to recall that in the moment of receiving that email I had been in a pub, somewhere in Edinburgh, with, as a coincidence, the director of photography of the film that I entered The Great Flood, Scott Ward, and one of the editors of the film, Fiona Reid. Within that second all sound faded out of my cacophonous conscious state and all sight focused on the wording of the email, I looked to them pale as coconut milk and asked, ‘Should I go?’

On the train to the Friday evening’s Meet and Greet I found myself re-enacting that moment over and over. I looked around at my fellow train passengers, and in doing so a surge of euphoria entered my body recognizing the fact that I had been chosen as one of sixty others seemingly sufficiently rogue enough to be asked to attend this unique opportunity.

Arriving at the hotel I asked reception where the Rogue Film School was taking place. Anxious anticipation now provided a false state of bravado. I darted towards the desk where only two people sat still preparing and organizing our passes. To the right hand corner of my eye however, a figure lurked in a dark grey suit. He turned in a flash, Werner Herzog stood there and I almost bumped in to him head on. He smiled, extended his arm and asked ’Hello, who are you?’ in that ever so distinct voice. ‘Marcelo de Oliveira,’ I mumbled, shaking his hand. ‘We’ll be five minutes,’ said Bernie, the coordinator of the seminar. ‘Oh, sorry,’ I said before quickly turning around and rushing for the bar with other sheepish looking Rogues who had experienced a similar fate.

Expecting my fellow Rogues to be mostly British and European I was incredibly surprised to find a table by the bar filled with people from all over the world. A heavily tattooed denim clad guy from Los Angeles named Rich sat next to me and immediately asked, ‘Are you in a band?’ Things were becoming distinctly Herzogesque.

Finally Bernie announced the start of the proceedings and herded us into the secluded bar where canapés and drinks from the bar followed our registration. Werner individually introduced himself to each Rogue, his notes attached to him so that he could specifically talk to each individual about their submitted film, whilst also finding out a bit more about them.  ‘You are the one who went to Patagonia?’ he asked upon my turn whilst his eyes gazed at his notes. I nodded, wide eyed and in complete silence, ‘I really loved the photography of your film,’ he said to me as emotion in the form of elation, a quivering jaw and a general bodily shaking sensation took hold (as I’m sure it did to my DOP later upon hearing this compliment). ‘I am trying to make a film about dying peoples of the world but no one is interested in funding it at the moment,’ continued Herzog. A thousand thoughts raced through my head, should I leap into the abyss and go for a co-production? Should I see if he would like an assistant? Should I volunteer all my knowledge in order to help him and be a researcher? ‘Oh yes, I know, it’s tough,’ said I picking on a prawn canapé.

With the canapés almost devoured Werner made an announcement regarding the nature of the next three days, he instructed us that he would show clips from his films as well as some of the films we sent in. As Werner continued to introduce himself to the other candidates I would see his instantly recognizable face come into focus between my fellow Rogues from time to time. Surreal and strange were the feelings shared amongst us in between beers.

Marcelo de Oliveira is a filmmaker and sound designer who graduated with an MFA at eca. His graduation film, 'The Great Flood', granted him a place at Herzog's Rogue Film School, earlier this year.