For many filmmakers, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon represent the next great creative frontier. Given healthy budgets and carte blanche, these outlets are responsible for providing numerous writers and directors the kind of freedom they can’t get at a studio level. Thus, it was with much excitement when it was announced earlier this year that Amazon had landed Woody Allen to write and direct a series for them. But here’s the thing: Allen is one of the writer/directors in Hollywood who gets to do whatever he wants anyway, and he admits he had to be persuaded to take the Amazon deal, but he’s not sure it was the right thing to do.
“This was a catastrophic mistake for me. I’m struggling with it,” he told a Cannes press conference (via USA Today). “I never should have gotten into it. I thought it would be really easy, to do six half-hours. I thought it would be a cinch. But it’s not. It’s very, very hard.”
“I kept saying I have no ideas for it, that I never watch television. I don’t know the first thing about it,” Allen elaborated to Deadline about being approached by Amazon. “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?”
And while it does seem like a sweet deal, Allen seems crippled by the broad canvas he’s being given to play with. “I have regretted every second since I said OK. It’s been so hard for me,” he says. “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.”
And it seems, Allen is still trying to figure out exactly what he’ll do. “I hope it’s just the anxiety again, but this is hard. I’m like a fish out of water. Movies I’ve been doing for decades, and even the stage stuff, I know the stage and have seen a million plays,” he said. “But this…how to begin something and end it after a half an hour and then come back the next time. It’s not me.”
However, it should be said that the filmmaker is adverse to new forms of storytelling. In fact, Allen reveals that he might drop film stock for his next movie starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Bruce Willis, and Blake Lively, which shoots this summer.
Frankly, it’s kind of nice to see a filmmaker admit that digital doesn’t have to represent The End Of Cinema, that there are practical advantages and, god forbid, it can actually look good too.
I’m very curious to see how Allen overcomes his creative hurdle for Amazon, and hopeful it sparks something creatively in the filmmaker who has been coasting somewhat in recent years. His latest “Irrational Man” opens on July 17th.