Woody Allen Amazon

Amazon is pulling in talent left and right. Spike Lee, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Jim Jarmusch, Terry Gilliam, and perhaps one stranger signee than any other: Woody Allen. When he signed the deal to make a TV series for Amazon, Allen joked “I don’t know how I got into this. I have no ideas, and I’m not sure where to begin.” Or we thought that was a joke, an expression of the anxiety that is one of his hallmarks.

Maybe that wasn’t just a gag. In a new interview, Allen says he knows nothing about TV, that “I’ve never seen anything online at all — nothing,” and that he doesn’t even know what a streaming service is. Amazon was relentless in pursuing him, finally grinding Allen down to the point where he said yes. But “I have regretted every second since I said OK,” he explains.

The interview is a career overview with Deadline, and it’s one of the better things Deadline has ever published. If you have even a passing interest in Allen’s work, it’s a must-read.

The Amazon comments, however, stand out. “I don’t even know what a streaming service is,” he says when asked about the Amazon deal, “that’s the interesting thing.” He goes on,

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.

But Amazon wouldn’t let up:

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 that creative freedom is something Allen prizes. Elsewhere in the interview he talks about never having to suffer a script note, that he writes, casts, shoots and cuts as he wants.

But a TV series isn’t just a movie split into half-hour segments.

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 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?’

Or, to sum things up, he told the LA Times,

It was a catastrophic mistake. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m floundering. I expect this to be a cosmic embarrassment?.

Which, for a person who has complete creative freedom and the status to work in whatever manner he desires, could actually prod the show into being something different and interesting. It’s weird and almost refreshing to hear someone as established as Allen express this sort of doubt, and we’re more curious than ever to see what he comes up with.

On the other hand, there is an endless collection of other talented people who are trying to get their own shows made, many with great ideas and great stories, and they don’t have a company with deep pockets chasing them on the basis of their name alone. For them, this sort of thing has to be incredibly frustrating to read.

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