My buddy Adam just rented about 30 Woody Allen movies. If you aren’t familiar with Woody then get familiar. I’m a huge fan, but any artist should be impressed with his body of work. The man has made a movie a year for that last 40 plus years. It’s insane. There’s a great doc about him that is now available on Netflix instant.
Woody started writing stand up jokes in high school, sending them into magazines, then he wrote for other comics. Like so many successful people he never went to college (although he did attend NYU briefly when he was older). He became a stand up comic and then a celebrity, and eventually had enough clout to warrant a movie. His early films are hilarious and silly, and downright stupid. We just watched “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask”, in which one vignette features a giant breast terrorizing the countryside.
Cut to 20 years later and the man is making serious films about relationships. From “Interiors” to “Match Point” the range is stunning. We also noticed that Tarantino was influenced by Woody. In “Play It Again Sam” Woody’s character receives life advice from Humphrey Bogart. In “True Romance” Clarence receives advice from an offscreen Elvis Presley in almost the same manner.
But the main thing an aspiring filmmaker can take away from any Woody Allen movie is just how much you can accomplish with no budget. Woody’s had a loyal following for years but his movies are shot cheap. They often play out like filmed stage plays, with long wide shots where the camera meanders around and follows the character’s dialog back and forth. Pepper in some artistic shots of New York, Paris, or wherever he happens to be shooting, add some jazz music and you’ve got a Woody movie.
The key ingredient, of course, is the script. And this is what’s exciting for any aspiring filmmaker. If you have the imagination to write a good script, it doesn’t cost anything but the price of a laptop of a notebook. Woody’s “Midnight in Paris” captured people’s imaginations. And even though the budget was much higher than the typically Woody movie, it was still only $17Million (of which a chunk must have gone to $10 million dollar a picture star Owen Wilson). No, it was the romantic, whimsical, and imaginative storyline that got people going to the theater.
And even though the movie featured a kind of time travel, there were no special effects. In fact I have seen some high school shorts, well lit, that look as good as that movie. So while a lot of young filmmakers focus on copying big budget filmmaking action styles, the real money is in getting a good story and getting it shot, even with wide angles. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to be interesting.
We talk more about this inside Film School Secrets. Remember you don’t need film school or a big budget to make a good movie; just balls and a vivid imagination. Check out some of Woody’s movies to get some inspiration of your own.