Tag Archives: Woody Allen

Woody Allen: Every step is part of the writing process

Woody Allen (2006), photo by Colin Swan

One of the best books I’ve picked up recently is Eric Lax’s Conversations with Woody Allen: His Films, the Movies, and Moviemaking, which is basically a 400+ page interview, spanning decades, between the author and Allen. I’m a fair-weather fan myself, I’ve only seen a few of his movies but I’ve always admired his relentless pursuit for his art, even when some of it seems to just be screwball comedy.

The book is divided into 8 parts for different facets of Allen’s work, including “Writing It”, “Shooting, Sets, Locations” and “Directing.” The following excerpt comes from the “Editing” part and in it, Allen talks about how he sees every step of filmmaking as part of the writing process (emphasis added):

[Eric Lax]: You’re involved with the details of every step of a film, and I’ve noticed that you do not delegate any part of its creation, even assembling a first cut from takes you’ve already selected.

[Woody Allen]: To me the movie is a handmade product. I was watching a documentary on editing on television the other day and many wonderful filmmakers were on and wonderful editors and everyone was talking briefly about how they edit. Years ago, they would turn it over to an editor. Or there are people I know who finish shooting and go away for a vacation and let the editor do a draft; then they come back and they check it out and do their changes.

I can’t do that. It would be unthinkable for me not to be in on every inch of movie – and this is not out of any sort of ego or sense of having to control; I just can’t imagine it any other way. How could I not be in on the editing, on the scoring, because I feel that the whole project is one big writing project?

You may not be writing with a typewriter once you get past the script phase, but when you’re picking locations and casting and on the set, you’re really writing. You’re writing with film, and you’re writing with film when you edit it together and you put some music in. This is all part of the writing process for me.

Lax, Eric (2009-08-12). Conversations with Woody Allen (p. 284). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

I feel the exact same way about any kind of modern storytelling. Whether it’s done as a photo essay, movie, or news application/website, each step of the process can profoundly affect and be affected by your editorial vision. Back in the day of traditional journalism, it’s possible that you could have one person do just the interviewing and research and then one person to put it as story form. But the feedback in that process – an unexpectedly emotional interview that alters what you previously thought the story arc should be – would almost be entirely lost.