Today we got the surprise announcement that Woody Allen will be creating an Amazon Series (we are hesitant to call it a “TV” series). The announcement is exciting, but it raises a number of questions. So let’s look at what we know and speculate on how this might effect Allen’s work going forward.
Q: How will this effect Allen’s film making schedule?
A: Famously, Woody Allen has made a film a year since the mid 80s. To maintain that schedule, he is working several years ahead. We know that he has financing for at least three more films. One, starring Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix, is due out this year (the 2015 film). He has deals to deliver two more, and deals would have been in place for years.
It is possible that Allen might take a break from the cinema for a year to make a series. But Allen has been able to manage a film a year whilst working on other large projects (The Bullets Over Broadway Musical for example).
In short, we are assuming we are all systems go for a 2016 film. If anything, Allen has already written the thing, and will look to cast in a couple of months.
Q: When will the series be released?
Amazon’s press release says 2016. It would have to be late 2016.
Allen has stated (humourously) that he doesn’t actually have an idea for the series yet. That’s probably not true, he probably (as always) has several ideas that he could take out and write. What we do know is he can’t just use an existing script (like Whatever Works), so he will need time to write. The summer is out for making a 2016 film, so production will likely start, at the soonest, later in 2015.
Even working quickly, production and post production will likely take us into 2016.
Amazon series so far have dodged the summer, favouring February/March releases. February 2017 seems a likely release date. Let’s see if Amazon’s vague comment of ‘next year’ holds.
(There is an outside chance that the series will film before summer. Allen has an unusually light start of the year…so maybe?)
Q: What will the series be like?
This we know every little – as it is like not written. What we do know is that it is half hour episodes and a ‘full season’ – which for Amazon means 10 episodes.
What is most interesting to speculate at this point is where the series will be set. Allen takes a short break in summer from his regular Jazz gigs to make a film. Will this series mean another break, or will he film it in good old New York? It would make financial sense to make it on home ground.
Amazon reckons that casting information is coming, which suggests at least some idea about what the story will be, and that some casting conversations may have already started.
We really know nothing else. It could be all shot in one setting, or it could be a sprawling anthology. We don’t even know if it’s a drama or a comedy (although comedy is mentioned by Amazon, see below). We will have to see.
Q: Why a series?
This was the biggest surprise. If this announcement had been like Netflix making four Adam Sandler films, we’d be less surprised. It would even be a logical progression. But a series is something very different from Allen – and an idea that Allen has been pretty vocally against. In a way it is nice. Allen is almost a prisoner of his own habits at this point – to see him break out of his yearly schedule is news for us!
On the other hand, Allen is famously protective of his films. Perhaps this is an opportunity for him to try out the streaming space, but not have it affect his all important film work. That said – he has made two TV films. Don’t Drink the Water for ABC in the US, and Scoop was funded and first shown in the UK on the BBC.
It is worth nothing that both HBO and Netflix have claimed to put offers to Allen over the years. He has always balked at the idea of a series. Which brings us to…
Q: Why Amazon?
According to the New York Times, Allen was not known to be shopping around any ideas for a series. There were some meetings in New York with Amazon and the deal has happened very quickly. Basically, it looks like an idea instigated by Amazon, that they brought home.
Also according to NYT, Roy Price, VP for Amazon Studios, has said
I had always thought Woody Allen’s characters and comedy would translate beautifully to TV, particularly now with more serialized story lines and openness to nuanced characterization.
We also assume Amazon are footing the whole bill. They will give Allen his standard creative control. Which is where this deal most makes sense. Amazon and similar services have the deepest pockets, and the biggest need to invest in talent.
Last year, Allen did make some comments about crowdfunding. Funding has always been an issue for Allen. So perhaps it was just that Allen was open to try a new way of making his art.
Q: When will we know more?
We don’t know – although it seems like all parties are eager to get moving. We expect we will hear more before the summer. Any news will, of course, be covered here!