Five Filmmaking Lessons from Woody Allen

© Jerry Kupcinet. Creative Commons 3.0
© Jerry Kupcinet. Creative Commons 3.0

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying Woody Allen is one of, if not THE most prolific feature filmmaker of this and the last generation. His messed up personal life aside (hello, dating your girlfriend/kinda wife’s adopted daughter?), he has made some of the most iconic classics of all time.

There’s a documentary on Netflix streaming you have to check out if you’re a fan of Allen’s work. Heck, even if you’re not a fan of Allen personally, it’s a documentary worth watching. But, in case you’re too lazy or busy, here are five important lessons about filmmaking I gleaned from the doc.

  1. It’s the talent, not the tools. Yes, I know this is now practically a cliché. Nonetheless, you may find it interesting to know that Allen has written every one of his screenplays (from What’s Up Pussy Cat to Blue Jasmine) on the same typewriter he’s owned for SIXTY YEARS! Do you know how he cuts and pastes? He literally cuts a good section from a script and staples it onto a subsequent draft. Check out this clip from the doc.
  2. He never went to film school. Allen started out as a writer and comedian. At some point he was given the opportunity to direct a script he wrote. Everything he’s learned he’s learned “on the job.”
  3. He never stops. Allen is always writing. He literally goes from one script right into the next. He’s written and directed 46 films in as many years.
  4. He keeps complete control. It’s gotta be every filmmaker’s dream to be able to make the kind of films he/she wants to make without studio approval. But Woody Allen has that. He has complete control over all his movies. All. No doubt that’s the reason he’s never been given a massive blockbuster budget. But I don’t think he’d want that anyway.
  5. Filmmaking is NOT his only creative outlet. I’ve always believed that as artists we should look to other art forms, not only for inspiration in our main craft, but also to take a breather and not get burned out. Allen loves jazz music and plays the clarinet.

And here’s a bonus lesson for you: age doesn’t matter. Woody directed his first feature when he was 31. This December 1 he will be 78 years and he’s still going strong. How’s that for instilling hope for those of you who haven’t yet made that feature. If you still have breath in your lungs and are relatively mobile, it’s never too late.

7 thoughts on “Five Filmmaking Lessons from Woody Allen

  1. Love Woody…..never ever will there be a talent like him!!! Watched Annie Hall last month and it is still as good as when it won the Oscar. Favorite filmmaker by far 🙂

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