May 16, 2015

"How do you reconcile your avoidance of computers and iPads, when you signed on to create a TV series for Amazon’s streaming service?"

Deadline asked Woody Allen. He said:
I don’t even know what a streaming service is; that’s the interesting thing. When you said streaming service, it was the first time I’ve heard that term connected with the Amazon thing. I never knew what Amazon was. I’ve never seen any of those series, even on cable. I’ve never seen The Sopranos, or Mad Men. I’m out every night and when I come home, I watch the end of the baseball or basketball game, and there’s Charlie Rose and I go to sleep. Amazon kept coming to me and saying, please do this, whatever you want. I kept saying I have no ideas for it, that I never watch television. I don’t know the first thing about it. Well, this went on for a year and a half, and they kept making a better deal and a better deal. Finally they said look, we’ll do anything that you want, just give us six half hours. They can be black and white, they can take place in Paris, in New York and California, they can be about a family, they can be comedy, you can be in them, they can be tragic. We don’t have to know anything, just come in with six half hours. And they offered a lot of money and everybody around me was pressuring me, go ahead and do it, what do you have to lose?...
So he agreed.  "And I have regretted every second since I said OK."

It’s been so hard for me. I had the cocky confidence, well, I’ll do it like I do a movie…it’ll be a movie in six parts. Turns out, it’s not. For me, it has been very, very difficult. I’ve been struggling and struggling and struggling. I only hope that when I finally do it — I have until the end of 2016 — they’re not crushed with disappointment because they’re nice people and I don’t want to disappoint them. I am doing my best. I fit it in between films, so it’s not like, no film this year, I’m doing Amazon. It’s a job within my usual schedule. But I am not as good at it as I fantasized I might be. It’s not a piece of cake; it’s a tough thing and I’m earning every penny that they’re giving me and I just hope that they don’t feel, ‘My God, we gave him a very substantial amount of money and freedom and this is what he gives us?’
Deadline is smart enough to say: "But haven’t you just voiced the anxiety and insecurity that fueled your entire creative career?" Asked if he regrets agreeing to do it, he says: "Oh, it’s amazing how you can regret. I haven’t had a pleasurable moment since I undertook it." Ah, but would he have had a pleasurable moment if he'd turned it down?

(I invite comments on this post, but stay on topic. We don't need to hear again what you think about Woody's sexual misdemeanors, real and alleged. This is about Woody and television.)

51 comments:

Terry said...

Woody Allen is a great film maker. Can't wait to see his Amazon thing.
I saw "Blue Jasmine" a few weeks ago (on DVD, not a streaming service), and it was a textbook Aristotelean tragedy. He hit every base. It was amazing.

jr565 said...

If he can't do it, or doesn't understand it, he shouldn't have committed to it.

Gahrie said...

It will probably turn out to be a mistake. Woody has a process, one he has been using for fifty years.

Personally I'd like him to stop making chick flicks, and go back to the farces he made in the beginning of his career.

Maybe a film about the Clintons comparing them to the Perons?

jr565 said...

He's meh as a filmkaker. Occasionally he puts out a movie that's charming or interesting. He could be very funny early on, but as a serious film maker he's no Ingmar Bergman.

Temujin said...

Sorry about this. I know you wanted comments about Woody & TV. But the thing that grabbed me was the he never watches TV. He's out every night, and when he comes home he watches the end of a game, then Charlie Rose, then sleep.

I was thinking: I use Bob Ross. He uses Charlie Rose for the same thing: to bring on sleep.

robother said...

Didn't Woody get his start as a joke writer for Sid Caesar's half hour TV show? My guess is, he could just recycle 12 of the Show of Shows with a GenX cast and no one at Amazon or in the audience would be the wiser. Even if some Boomer critic points out what he's doing, he could palm it off as ironic hipster homage.

Laslo Spatula said...

Woody has movie-making down to a predictable process of story beats, arc, etc. Now he has to reconfigure this information into a different format that is both shorter AND longer than what he usually deals with (3 hours in length of short half-hour increments).

Woody hasn't really done anything 'new' with movies over the past decades: a Woody Allen movie is a Woody Allen movie.

Now he will be judged on his work in a new format: can the old dog learn new tricks? People who haven't paid attention to his work in years might be inclined to watch -- and walk away remembering why they don't watch Woody Allen movies.

Or will it just be a longer Woody Allen movie, with no concessions made to the episodic nature of the delivery?

Fear of going outside the bubble.

Incidental point: the novelist trying their hand at short stories.


I am Laslo.

Ann Althouse said...

@Temujin

That's completely on topic in my view.

Ann Althouse said...

I predict his TV shows will be excellent.

He's controlling expectations, but really just being himself.

He's not interested in any of the technology.

And he has done shorter things, like his contribution to "New York Stories." He knows how to do that. He's just acting out his anxieties in the particular context of having made a deal with Amazon.

Ann Althouse said...

In the 1980s, I used the 10 p.m. replay of The MacNeil-Leher News Hour to get sleepy.

Smilin' Jack said...

Love to see how this turns out. But I hate trying to stream shit, so if Amazon doesn't put it on DVD I'll have to pirate it.

ndspinelli said...

Maybe the producer can provide Woody w/ some 17 year old Asian intern to help get his creative juices flowing.

Jeff Gee said...

The "Oh my God, why did I agree to do this, what was I thinking??" IS part of his creative process. If he nails it one time out of six, it's a win.

Laslo Spatula said...

"And he has done shorter things, like his contribution to "New York Stories." He knows how to do that."

I thought that was one of the weakest things he has done. A collection of his tics without the ameliorating breathing room.

I am Laslo.

clint said...

He should be fine -- part of the point of the new direct-to-streaming shows is that they can make money with a much smaller niche audience. He doesn't need to know any of the tropes and techniques that have become standard in the industry. He just needs to attract his audience.

What fascinates me is what Amazon is doing. That slice of the American mosaic that likes to watch Woody Allen movies is largely like Woody Allen -- they don't watch tv, and haven't signed up for Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Instant Video. They're an uncaptured viewing market with plenty of disposable cash.

If the only result of the Woody Allen series, for Amazon, is to get a significant fraction of his audience to sign up for a streaming service and potentially be captured as long-term customers, then it's a huge win for Amazon even if they never get a single dollar in direct revenue from the Woody Allen series.

clint said...

"Ann Althouse said...
In the 1980s, I used the 10 p.m. replay of The MacNeil-Leher News Hour to get sleepy."

That explains so much. :)

EMD said...

In the 1980s, I used the 10 p.m. replay of The MacNeil-Leher News Hour to get sleepy.

You're a real party animal.

Sebastian said...

"they kept making a better deal and a better deal"

Pace AA's command, inquiring minds want to know how much better.

Bay Area Guy said...

Woody comes off as honest and thoughtful in these comments, voicing ordinary concerns with a sense of humility.

I will probably watch them. But it is hard to ignore the lurching "ick" factor.

St. George said...

That's the Woody public nebbish persona talking. I don't believe for a second that he'd never heard of streaming. He's one sharp businessman who's made, what, 50 movies. He knows what sells tickets, and that's playing the nitwit for public consumption.

I got into a jag recently and watches scores of his films. Lots of great stuff out there....Scoop, Match Point, Vicky Cristina, To Rome, Celebrity, Bullets Over Broadway, Shadows and Fog, and more. Blue Jasmine was outstanding; Magic in the Moonlight not so much. He hits it out of the park every three or four movies.

EDH said...

If he had an open wish list, Allen should have brought in Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David as creative consultants to help him acclimate to the small screen format.

I'd think they'd jump at the chance to work with Allen.

EDH said...

Sex has nothing to do with Allen's highly routine?

EDH said...

"nightly"

Cog said...

I like the idea of Allen's TV show to be a commentary about the TV culture itself.

If he's feeling nostalgic these days, then his memories of the days when he wrote for Sid Ceasar might serve to make an entertaining six-parter show.

Or, for a project set in the present day, he could borrow from Fellini (Allen's done that before) and his wonderful "Ginger and Fred" movie about two old show folks who reunite for a variety TV show. Then Allen could give us a piece of his mind about today's cultural wasteland, which he obviously disdains as much as Fellini did.

William said...

Allen claims he only watches Charley Rose on tv. That's like living during the Elizabethan age and avoiding the theater. If true, he's missing a lot of what defines our age.........I have a suspicion that he caught one or two episodes of Seinfeld. Perhaps he belongs to that generation which defined itself by its superiorty to the cultural wasteland of television. I know I went for many years without even owning a tv and didn't think I was missing anything. But all that's changed.

Coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rcocean said...

Just shows how Frozen in Amber our culture is. Amazon - supposedly a cutting edge 21st Century internet company - is begging 80 year old Woody Allen to give us more of the same stuff he's been giving us for 40 years. Ye Gods.

Can American culture be more hidebound and dead?

rcocean said...

We had the 60s counter-culture shaking up things after the hidebound 50s. So when is some counter-counter-culture going to come along? Because I'm getting tired of hearing about Madonnna, Woody Allen, Roth, and all the other Pop Culture dinosaurs.

Coupe said...

As others have said, this really shows who is in charge at Amazon.

I'm thinking, the decision makers all love Annie Hall, ergo they must have something from this man.

But the thing is, the stuff this guy puts out is mostly crap. People back East think he's the perfect Jew.

You would think Amazon would be hiring 30 somethings with 5 years experience, and a need to kick ass.

Nope, they got 70 year old men, who's idea of entertainment is Phil Silvers with a funny hat.

I'm tired of Jews running the entertainment industry.

Give us some Catholics. We know how to do entertainment. After all, we ran Europe for centuries.

Give us a break, we're not all bent on Crusades!

Anonymous said...

I like Woody's comments about TV. He only watches sports- mega dittos here. When my time comes, I doubt that I will say "I wish I had watched more television...".

Anonymous said...

"He's just acting out his anxieties in the particular context of having made a deal with Amazon."

Agreed. Woody has always been that way. He's made movies (ie Play it again Sam) about the fact that he's anxiety ridden and feels compelled to tell everyone about it, unlike the stoic, manly Hollywood archetypes he admires like Humphrey Bogart. This is one secret of his success; he writes about himself honestly and as a result he presents himself in a not so positive light, and then invites us to laugh along with him. He makes his anxieties and neuroses funny. Somehow.

dustbunny said...

Rcocean: unfortunately the counter-counter culture has come along and given us Lena Dunham.

el polacko said...

so he's just another one of our betters who "never watch television"...except for the things that they watch on television.

walter said...

Maybe he can recruit Miley Cyrus' twerking to get with the times.

richard mcenroe said...

"Maybe a film about the Clintons comparing them to the Perons?"

Hey! At least Evita had a bilt on her!

Anonymous said...

"so he's just another one of our betters who "never watch television"...except for the things that they watch on television. "

Pretty good and fair enough.

But I havn't watched a nanosecond of prime time reality shows, game shows, sitcoms, or dramas in so long, I can't remember when I stopped. So when I say TV is 90% drek, I'm talking about their original programing. But I see good movies or competitive sporting events as something different altogether. And I don't think I'm better because of preferring this, probably just happier and less bored.

richard mcenroe said...

And was over 12.

Steven said...

Maybe a film about the Clintons comparing them to the Perons?
But the wife was the popular half of the Perons (both times).

Lydia said...

I have a suspicion that he caught one or two episodes of Seinfeld.

Larry David was the lead in one of Allen's movies, Whatever Works. That pretty much indicates Allen couldn't possibly be completely unfamiliar with David's prior work, so, yeah, he must have seen some of Seinfeld.

Gahrie said...

"Maybe a film about the Clintons comparing them to the Perons?"

But the wife was the popular half of the Perons (both times).


OK I got it. The Clintons go to a fictional South American country..vacation, speech whatever. They are invited to the presidential palace, Bill seduces el presidente's wife, and the rest of the film is hillary and El presidente plotting their revenge....but bill escapes in the end.

Rockport Conservative said...

I remember seeing his early films, I remember the fact, I do not remember liking them, I found his work then and now boring. But I have to admit it has been at least 15 years since I bothered to see one.

rcocean said...

"Rcocean: unfortunately the counter-counter culture has come along and given us Lena Dunham."

Really? I think Dunham fits right in the mainstream Pop culture. She's a breath of stale air.

Jack Wayne said...

You couldn't pay me enough money to watch 1 minute of anything produced by Allen. I hated his "Comedies".

dustbunny said...

Rcocean: yes, but she and her fans think she is the counter-counterculture. She went to Oberlin! She was maybe raped, in an unreliable narrative kind of way. It's the best a dying culture seems to have the energy to cough up. Post-counter culture. Oh and she is disgusted by Woody Allen.

ndspinelli said...

I agree w/ rcocean, but see dustbunnies point. PC has created a force field to prevent a true counterculture. Our only hope will come from standup comedians. Louis CK took a shot @ it. He tread into the topic of molestation. Louis is a flat ass liberal but he is a true comedian and will skewer social norms often. There are many standups like him and they cover the political spectrum. BUT, only the liberal ones get prime time. The Dennis Millers get cable.

ndspinelli said...

The molestation bit was on SNL last night. I watched it live and said to myself, "He's gonna get some shit. And, he has.

David said...

People who make it in New York are talented self promoters. Woody is one of the best. This is another example.

Unknown said...

If I were Woody, he could easily meet his obligation by taking some of my old films and have present-day Allen digitally inserted to comment on -- even interact with -- characters of the old film. He could write clever dialogue, recall trivia, mock his younger self, whatever.

Krumhorn said...

The beauty of the over-the-top streaming content is that it doesn't have to conform with the standard broadcast formats or pacing. While the rhythm of 3 act half-hour comedies or teaser + 4 act hour episodes is now scrivened into our DNA like the punctuation of our heartbeats, shows like Bosch, True Detective, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Daredevil, Mozart in the Jungle and Sex in the City can roam freely and excite and intrigue us.

Netflix and Amazon don't give a rat's fanny about delivering audiences to advertisers, which is why they keep their viewing statistics buried in remote lead-sealed pits in Area 51. It's for them to know, and for everyone else to guess at. All they care about is subscription growth. Netflix gained almost 5 million new subcribers in Q1 with over 60 million overall. Each of 5 million paying $8/mo.......$40 million/mo......almost half a billion a year. Who cares if they pay $4 million an episode for a new series??

Woody Allen could do something wonderful....although, frankly, I doubt it very much...but he has a wonderful opportunity to try something daring and amazing.

We are truly living in the Golden Age of television. I've spent decades in this business and have participated in and been responsible for some exciting product. But I'd give almost anything to be starting out again in my 20's to experience this new opportunity for greatness.

BTW, I'm not particularly a Mike Flemming fan, and my Woody Allen days were over shortly after Manhattan, but that was a really terrific interview.

- Krumhorn

Krumhorn said...

...and another thing..

Netflix now uses over 35% of all US downstream internet bandwidth.

- Krumhorn