Monday, November 26, 2012

What Woody Allen Taught Me

Last night, I was flipping through Netflix and discovered a two part documentary on the director/writer/actor/comedian Woody Allen. Woody Allen has had a long career with some highly acclaimed films and some flops. According to the documentary, Woody Allen initially saw himself as a serious writer, not a comedian. He got his start writing skits and short plays for a theater in the Catskills. From there he went on to to write for the Sid Ceasar show. It was at this point, that he was influenced by some other comedy writers, who told him he should give stand-up a shot for at least one year.

Originally, he resisted. In fact, stand-up was so anxiety-provoking for him that he sometimes vomitted before going out on the stage. Pushing through, he cultivated an audience and was hired by a Hollywood studio to write his first feature. For Woody, this experience was frustrating, since he didn't get a chance to direct his own material and the studio was intrusive and took his work in a different direction. After that, Woody Allen took control of his own material and started directing.

What impressed me most about the documentary is how prolific Woody Allen is. Now in his seventies, he has written and directed an average of one film a year. He also has a unique vision for his work. He refuses to be swayed by other people's opinions and, in fact, never reads reviews. He writes the script that he wants to write. He follows his creative muse and enjoys challenging himself, even if, according to him, that film doesn't ever live up to his vision. Regardless of what other people say or his very high standards, he persists to do the work, one script and one film at a time.

Artists are by nature sensitive people and I think it's very easy to get caught up in pleasing other people. However, while we can always learn from other's opinions, it is ultimately up to the artist to hold fast to their vision.

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