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Fri August 16, 2013

Herzog Plumbs Guilt And Loss Wrought By Texting And Driving

Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 2:31 pm

For decades, acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog has introduced audiences to subjects that stick in one's mind long after the credits have rolled, from a cave of artwork painted more than 30,000 years ago to the landscape of Antarctica to a man who believed he had a special relationship with grizzly bears.

His latest film is no less thought-provoking, but it's a bit of a departure for Herzog. It's a public service announcement. His haunting documentary From One Second to the Next was created after AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile approached him to make a film about the risks of texting and driving.

The PSA is part of AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign, urging young people to put their phones away while driving. The campaign encourages drivers to pledge that "no text message, email, website or video is worth the risk of endangering my life or the lives of others on the road." From One Second to the Next is available online, where it has logged more than 1.6 million views, and will be distributed to thousands of schools across the country.

Herzog joined NPR's David Greene to explain why he made the film and what he hopes viewers will take away from it.


On why he stressed emotion over graphic visuals

"What was proposed to me immediately made sense. It immediately gave me the feeling I'm the right person because I don't need to show blood and gore and wrecked cars. What I wanted to do was show the interior side of the catastrophes. ...

"It's a deep raw emotion — the kind of deep wounds that are in those who were victims of accidents and also in those who were the perpetrators. Their life has changed and they are suffering forever. They have this sense of guilt that pervades every single action, every single day, every single dream and nightmare."

On why he included people who have caused accidents while texting

"The real essential thing is we have to see what is happening — and it's not just an accident, not just the mechanics of an accident. It's a new form of culture coming at us and it's coming with great vehemence. ...

"You can tell, for example, when you look at schoolyards. Kids sit around but they don't talk. They're all texting. And accidents have happened at a staggering rate. I mean, it's skyrocketing. The statistics are incredible."

On why the PSA is so lengthy

"Originally I was supposed to do four spots, 30 seconds long, but I immediately said these deep emotions, this inner landscape can only be shown if you have more time. You have to know the persons. You have to allow silences, for example, deep silences of great suffering."

On why he made a PSA for mobile phone companies

"It's not an art house film, let's face it. It's a public service announcement film. And the message is very simple. Don't text and drive. It's as simple as that.

"And the reaction is coming in ... I mean, hundreds of emails coming in, parents writing to me. One teenage girl writes to me, 'I sat down my mother and I told her, 'You are texting when you're taking me to school; you are not going to do that again.' My mother doesn't even take her cellphone with her [in the car] anymore.'

"So there is an effect, and that's the only thing that counts."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Werner Herzog has introduced audiences to subjects that stick in one's mind long after the credits have rolled, from a cave of artwork painted more than 30,000 years ago to the landscape of Antarctica, or a man who believed he had a special relationship with grizzly bears. The acclaimed filmmaker has done it again with his latest project, a haunting documentary with an unexpected beginning.

Herzog was approached by AT&T and other major mobile carriers to make a film about the dangers of texting and driving. It's called "From One Second to the Next."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "FROM ONE SECOND TO THE NEXT")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's just not right. My sister's life has been changed forever.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: She went from being active to inactive in a stroke of a second, and it's over. Her life as she knew it is over.

GREENE: This 35 minute film is essentially a public service announcement, though unlike any other. It's online and will be distributed to tens of thousands of schools across the country. We reached Werner Herzog by Skype in Switzerland to talk about the film. Thanks so much for joining us.

WERNER HERZOG: Thank you for having me.

GREENE: Safe to say, you can make a film at this point about anything you want. Why did you say yes to this?

HERZOG: What was proposed to me immediately made sense. It immediately gave me the feeling I'm the right person because I don't need to show blood and gore and wrecked cars. What I wanted to do was show the interior side of the catastrophes.

GREENE: The interior side of things. I'm curious to know what exactly you mean by that.

HERZOG: It's the deep, raw emotions, the kind of deep wounds that are in those who were victims of accidents and also in those who are the perpetrators. Their life has changed, they are suffering forever, and they have this sense of guilt that pervades every single action, every single day, every single dream and nightmare.

And there's a young man who killed two wonderful engineers, scientists, in an accident while he was texting, and he says look at me. Just look at me. Nobody should be like me. Nobody should have this on his shoulders.

GREENE: Yeah, I think we actually have some tape of the very young man you're talking about, Reggie...

HERZOG: Reggie Shaw, yes. A wonderful young man.

GREENE: Let's listen to a clip from him.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "FROM ONE SECOND TO THE NEXT")

REGGIE SHAW: On the way to work I'm texting. I'm reading messages and I go across the center line and I hit another car. I don't remember what I was texting. I don't remember what the message said. That's how important it was.

GREENE: What did you want people to know about the perpetrators?

HERZOG: Well, the real essential thing is we have to see what is happening, and it's not just an accident, not just the mechanics of an accident. It's a new form of culture coming at us and it's coming with great vehemence. And you can tell, for example, when you look at school yards, kids sit around but they don't talk. They're all texting. And accidents have happened at a staggering rate. I mean it's skyrocketing. The statistics are incredible.

GREENE: The companies that were involved in this, Mr. Herzog, did they dictate the message at all or tell you how to do this film?

HERZOG: No. But originally I was supposed to do four spots, 30 seconds long, but I immediately said this deep emotion, this inner landscape can only be shown if you have more time. You have to know the person. You have to allow silences, for example, deep silences of great suffering.

GREENE: Is this just a unique set of circumstance coming together or have you really found kind of a new concept here for using an art house film as a public service announcement?

HERZOG: Well, it's not an art house film, let's face it. It's a public announcement film. And the message is very, very simple. Don't text and drive. It's as simple as that. And the reaction is coming in, I mean hundreds of emails coming in, young people, parents writing to me.

One teenage girl writes to me: I sat down my mother and I told her, you are texting when you're taking me to school, you are not going to do that again, and my mother doesn't even take her cellphone with her anymore. So there is an effect, and that's the only thing that counts.

GREENE: We have been speaking to filmmaker Werner Herzog. His latest film, "From One Second To the Next," is a documentary about texting and driving. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us.

HERZOG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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