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Herzog Plumbs Guilt And Loss Wrought By Texting And Driving

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Herzog Plumbs Guilt And Loss Wrought By Texting And Driving

The Industry

Herzog Plumbs Guilt And Loss Wrought By Texting And Driving

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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."


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.


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 arthouse film as a public service announcement?

HERZOG: Well, it's not an arthouse 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.

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