Werner Herzog

Though we may be film school rejects, one person who definitely didn’t get turned away at admissions when he signed up for classes was Werner Herzog. The director has been an artist in residence at Dartmouth College for the past semester, working with film students on their projects and giving screenings and seminars on his own films.

Now, it seems that Herzog college-hopped over to the University of Vermont for a special exercise in student filmmaking  — as in he’s making his own student film. University of Vermont professor Peter Gruner Shellenberger, a visiting lecturer in film and photography, took some of his students up to Dartmouth to hear Herzog speak at one of his screenings. In a surprisingly bold move, Shellenberger brought with him a Super-8 camera preloaded with film and presented it to the director like some kind of holy offering (presumably down on one knee), and asked him to make a film for his class.

Oddly enough, Herzog said yes and took the camera back in to whatever cave of dreams Werner Herzog lives. Granted, he’s known for making strange films, but taking it back to Film 102 is a bit more different than usual. And two weeks after being presented with the camera, Herzog made good on his word and returned it to Shellenberger in the mail along with a roll of unexposed roll of film still sitting inside. He included a few instructions to go along with it, because life is mysterious and full of whimsy.

What should happen is the following: please develop the film and hand it over to your students. My demand is the following: they have to make films, collectively or individually, which should include my footage. Obviously, they do not need to take everything, nor in the order I filmed the material.

The title of their film/films has to be WHERE’S DA PARTY AT?

In my footage this appears in one of the graffiti, and at least this portion of the text should appear in the film, or all the films.

Can you imagine if Werner Herzog demanded to know from you where da party at? According to Shellenberger, the whole affair was a great success, a melding of the minds between the director and a bunch of college students who report that he’s a “really nice guy.” It’s a fascinating project that, as the professor points out, almost compares to Herzog’s own Grizzly Man — a film that largely used someone’s else’s footage (Timothy Treadwell) to make up a compelling new narrative. Now, these students have Herzog’s footage from Where’s Da Party At? to inspire an entire new crop of material.

Unfortunately, us normal people will never get to find out exactly where the party is located, because Herzog has stipulated that his footage only be shown in the context of the student films and not as a stand-alone movie. However, the students are “free to roam with their films that incorporate his footage,” and presumably compile a reel coming out of film school to make their peers green with envy.

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