Monday, November 21, 2011

Woody Allen on American Masters

Okay, I watched Part One of the Woody Allen documentary on American Masters on PBS last night.

Allen had become a gag writer in high school. He went from there to being a writer on Sid Ceasar's show. And with that, he got representation. Charles Joffe and Jack Rollins became his managers and they pushed him to bigger and bigger things. They got him to perform stand-up and to appear on TV gradually drilling his image into the mind of America.

And it's surprising now how much TV he did. They showed clips of him boxing a kangaroo, singing to a poodle, doing a big song and dance number on the Perry Como show, along with his appearances on the Tonight Show and Dick Cavett. Allen also appeared as guest host on The Tonight Show.Click on the photo above to see the video on YouTube.

And that's how it worked. Someone hired him to write the script for What's New, Pussycat and he was off and running.

I can't say I envy his early career. He must not have cared for it either since he hasn't been on a talk show in years.

I think about all the kids going off to film school. I don't know if it ever works. I was talking to a film school student here. I asked him what he hoped to do when he graduated.

"I'm going to go to Hollywood and direct movies," he said.

I was stunned by his confidence.

I tried to talk to him about some of the alternate routes people had taken to becoming directors---about the extreme low budget movies a few people were making back then. This was before digital video. It was probably before Hi8 video. But he wasn't interested. It was Hollywood or nothing, and it turned out to be nothing.

Look at the route Woody Allen took...from gag writer, to skit writer, to stand-up comic, to screen writer to director. Breaking into the movie industry is almost impossible. You have to use any opening you can find.

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