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Woody Allen Documentary a Writer’s and Film Scholar’s Gem

November 23, 2011

I watched Woody Allen: A Documentary on PBS this past Sunday and Monday night. The two-part documentary was everything I love about American Masters‘ profiles and public television in general – I do love a good history lesson.

Cover of "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

I’ve always enjoyed Woody Allen‘s films. I’ll admit I haven’t seen the vast majority of them – I’ve yet to see Bananas, Hannah and Her Sisters, Bullets Over Broadway, Match Point – nevertheless some of my favorite movies include Take the Money and Run, Annie Hall, Manhattan, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris. While I never had a deep knowledge of Woody as a person and his philosophy as a filmmaker, I’ve always appreciated each film that I have seen and come out feeling thoroughly entertained and a little more thoughtful, like a shock of fresh air got my brain breathing again.

Cover of "Hannah and Her Sisters [Region ...

…and one I’ve yet to see.

The documentary’s director, Robert B. Weide, really accomplished a similar feat. He produced an amusing and thoughtful profile while providing a glimpse of what it’s like to make a film as Woody.

As a writer and aspiring millionaire (due to my fantastic abilities as a writer for the television screen) I found it absolutely fascinating and a rare opportunity to observe the habits and process of an acclaimed writer.

What I really treasured about this program was learning and how Woody approaches a project and how he developed as a writer. He started writing jokes in his teens and through writing for other comedians and doing stand-up, he made his way to screenwriting. He attended Tamiment, a Poconos resort, for three summers writing comedy sketches in a fast-paced environment. That’s where he learned to write. I “learned” to write in a four-year program. He writes non-stop and says he’s never experienced writer’s block. I get caught up in my own thoughts in a blog post.

Clip from Woody Allen: A Documentary

Watch Woody Allen at Tamiment on PBS. See more from AMERICAN MASTERS.

Pathetic as that may sound, Woody’s full throttle work ethic inspires me. More often than not the only thing hanging me up from writing is myself and while I will probably never be as accomplished or beloved as Woody is – not to mention prolific – I was assured  by this documentary that I’m doing something right. In the documentary, Woody shows Weide his drawer full of notes all on random pieces of paper – potential stories or ideas for films. Some are on hotel stationary, others on yellow memo pad. It made me smile because I have a file folder where I keep scraps of dialogue or scenarios that might work for some project at a later date.

I’m so happy that Robert Weide chose to make this documentary. Even if no one is interested in the writing and creating process of Woody Allen, it’s a important piece of the history of filmmaking in the 20th and 21st centuries. What a treasure.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 23, 2011 11:12 pm

    I really liked this too. I loved how he filmed the doc sort of in the same style as Woody’s films. I liked that his mom and dad always called him Allen.
    I am looking forward to watching the second half.

  2. November 30, 2011 6:02 pm

    Hi Rachelle! Popping by to check out the blog and say hi. Can I say I love, LOVE your writing style? Conversational but in no way lazy. Music to my…eyes? Yes. Eyes. Let’s go with that. I also completely relate to getting caught up while writing blog posts. It’s almost shameful how long it takes me to eke out 800 words.

    Have a lovely day!

    • December 2, 2011 10:25 am

      Thanks for the kind words Joy! I’m trying to let it just come out. Some days are easier than others. I sound like I have arthritis or some debilitating injury, wow.

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