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How to be creative: Woody Allen on Doing it Your Way

July 22, 2012

How to be creative

Here’s what I took from the second half of the Woody Allen documentary I saw in a hotel room in Orange. For me, the answer I gained from it was how to be creative by doing it your own way.

It was just the shot in the arm needed to remind me that doing things the way feel right for you is better than subservience to the ideals of others.

Here is what I gained on Woody Allen and doing it the way that feels right for you:

Communicate the way that feels right for you

Woody bypasses the agents and goes straight to the actors. He personalises the reasons he wants to work with particular actors through sending them a letter together with the script. He gives the actor a short period of time in which to return a completed script and also bypasses the legal contract process.

This gives him the ability to personally speak to the actors about why he has them in mind, and to get their feelings and approach to the project directly rather than through a third party.

It also helps him build rapport with the chosen actors’ right from the outset and to build a bond through the project as opposed to the usual concerns of contracts, money, and agent’s concerns and so on.

Have a plan, be flexible, but don’t settle

Woody is always very clear with his actors that the script is “just a blue print” and he relies on the actor in order to make it work character wise. He allows dialogue and script changes, he listens and constantly assesses how the story is going with any given actor.

So much so that if it isn’t working for any reason, he has a long history of reshooting complete sections and even complete films in order to get the characters right.

Creativity is not a competition

Unlike most other writers and film makers, Woody doesn’t focus on the last work and topping it. Or even following a particular style of story. And definitely not awards or critics praise.

His films work on a simple premise of “don’t care about topping the last story, just tell the next story you want to tell.”

While this seems so straight ahead, sadly it appears to be something lost on a lot of writers and film makers, usually to the detriment of their abilities and craft.

Finally, 3 direct quotes that really spoke to me on how to be creative were:

“I am fine to fail. I just draw the line at flagrant artistic suicide.”

Which is fantastic in that it reminds you that perfection isn’t always necessary, but you shouldn’t just put out any old thing and think it will suffice.

“Work on the quantity theory – keep making (films) until something comes out.”

My take on this is we don’t automatically reach perfection whenever we jot down an idea or even get it all the way through to completion. By continually writing, working and planning the next thing, we improve our chances of success for the next project.  We’re continually learning how to be creative and improving our creative fitness through all the practice.

You also have to get the lukewarm ideas out of the way to give the better ones a chance to breath.

And my favourite of the three…

“If it was easy it wouldn’t be fun or valuable.”

Ain’t that the truth?

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