It’s become increasingly clear that TV networks and streaming services are not only conspiring to steal all of our time, but all of film’s best directors as well. In an announcement that nobody saw coming, legendary director Woody Allen, who has made almost 50 films in as many years, is developing a series for Amazon that will air in 2016. Not many details have been released yet, but Allen will be writing and directing the half hour episodes. In classic self deprecating form, the 79 year old said in a press release “I don’t know how I got into this. I have no ideas and I’m not sure where to begin. My guess is that Roy Price (Amazon studios vice president) will regret this.”
Allen began his career writing for television. He penned scripts for The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show and several Sid Caesar specials, but a lot has changed in the half century that has passed in between those shows and his new one.
This announcement comes hot off two big Golden Globe wins for Amazon Studios, their hit show Transparent won Best TV Series and Best Actor (Jeffrey Tambor) in the Television Comedy or Musical categories on Sunday night. They’re now officially big players in a game that HBO started and now includes AMC, FX, Netflix, Showtime, BBC, and even Cinemax.
When auteurs like Steven Soderbergh and David Lynch have turned their backs on film in favour of developing series for television, this says a lot about the state of the film industry. Even Alejandro González Iñárritu, who is still picking up awards for last year’s Birdman, is currently developing a series called The One Percent for FX. There are obvious advantages to long form storytelling, particularly with the freedom the way we consume content now allows, but both Lynch and Soderbergh have expressed disenchantment with the system they once thrived in.
Allen on the other hand has always been given carte blanche to make his yearly film without any studio involvement, because he keeps budgets low and almost always turns a profit. So one must wonder what the appeal of a series was for him and if he’ll still return to making films. Only time will tell. He has an as-yet untitled film due out later this year starring Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix.