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Woody Allen on Creativity

June 25, 2012

woody allen on creativity

Inspiration comes from the craziest of places. Saturday night saw me chilling out with a sick partner on the couch, watching a Woody Allen documentary. I knew the guy was clever, I just didn’t realise how clever.

This is what I gleaned from Woody Allen and his approach on effective creativity:

Maintain a rhythm. Rhythm and timing are key to storytelling and creativity. Without it, you have nothing.

If the system works, keep doing it. Woody has been using the same typewriter since he was 16. When he wants to insert something into a work, he cuts and pastes- with scissors and staples. It works for him despite the occasional call to modernise.

• Learn to do things in a pressure situation. You learn to do what you need to do by putting yourself in practical applications of what is needed and delivering time and time again. Woody worked for a revenue show where it was write weekend, hand script out Monday, show goes on Thursday, rinse and repeat. He attributes that for teaching him how to write.

• Engage with the audience in a different way. Do what you need to do to connect with the audience, not what every other schmo does because you just won’t. Be authentic, be honest and let them grab onto you.

• Protect your work so it stays true to your original vision. Don’t work in situations where you can’t maintain the control of where your work goes. What’s the point if it doesn’t end up being your work in the end anyway?

• Set your parameters. Woody and his fellow writer Mickey Rose told a studio that was interested in them making films “put 2million in a bag, give it to us and we will bring you a picture. Do this 3 times”. The studio said OK and it worked.

• Work with people who get you. Diane Keaton acted in and Mickey Rose co-wrote many of Woody Allen’s works because the partnerships worked and he enjoyed them. It shows in the work produced.

• Tell your stories economically. Woody doesn’t pay himself bucket loads, he never had massive budgets. He traded big bucks for creative control.

For all of us who toss up with the various ‘compromises’ in creative or business life, it’s comforting to know that by doing it the way that feels right, you can be successful in your own terms simply by following your vision the way you see it.

Kind of uplifting for such a dour guy!


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