×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Woody Allen’s Amazon Deal Shows Willingness, But Change Creates Risk

Woody Allen Takes Risk With Amazon Deal

Did Woody Allen suffer an attack of angst? Or was he merely feeling it was time for a change?

With his 80th birthday approaching, Woody had been shooting movies (and raising financing) in just about every country in Europe from Italy to Spain, and was running out of propitious locations. So he made a big decision: By signing a deal with Amazon a couple of weeks ago, he was not only shifting platforms, but also casting his lot with a new player in the TV universe. The last time Woody was involved in TV was when he wrote incidental dialogue for Ed Sullivan.

I admire Woody for accommodating change. The media gurus keep reminding us that the ground is shifting beneath us, but I have lately been noticing several examples of resistance to that concept at different levels of the business.

I encountered a producer friend this week who applauded the denial of Oscar producing credit to Jonathan Sehring and John Sloss for their contribution to “Boyhood.” Sehring, the chief of IFC films, was responsible for distributing and, with Sloss, raising the funding for this extraordinary, 12-years-in-the-making film venture.

But according to mandates of the Producers’ Guild, credit should be accorded only if a producer helps develop a project, spends time supervising the set and performs other traditional duties — like a Hal Wallis in Old Hollywood (who often had final cut). The problem is, Old Hollywood is long gone, and as many as 10 or more alleged producers and executive producers are listed on most films. They’re people who contributed funding or represented one of the stars or wrote the script and agreed to take less money in return for a producing credit.

Innovators like Sehring and Sloss, whose film cost $4 million and has grossed almost $45 million, in my view deserve whatever credit they want for their effort, as do microbudget entrepreneurs like Jason Blum, who slams together slates of genre films and TV shows, deferring upfront fees in exchange for hefty profits — and who are never seen on a set.

Some talent agents, too, are slow to embrace change. I had lunch with a rep the other day who complained that the new bean counters at his agency had cut his expense account, lowered his bonus, and demanded he focus more on corporate clients than on talent. “I love talent,” he told me. “I don’t like corporate types.”

He, too, hadn’t noticed that shifting ground. His agency had received a capital infusion from a Wall Street player who had imposed new financial constraints. Hence the most important responsibility of my agent friend was now to hit his numbers, not to find gigs for his actors.

In Hollywood, as in any other sector of the business world, when the accepted ways of doing things are history, so are those who fail to make the necessary adjustments.

Problem is, once, a change is made, it tends to lead to further changes.

Woody, for instance, has never written for series television, and doesn’t even watch it. And with Amazon, he’ll find himself involved with a different sort of television.

Amazon landed a critical hit with “Transparent,” winner of two Golden Globe awards, but, like fellow newcomer Netflix, it has also encountered some bumps in the road. Woody does not want to become one of those bumps, but he admits he has no idea as yet what sort of show he wants to make. Last year, he tried to veer from his one-movie-a-year ritual by doing “Bullets Over Broadway.” A return to theater, where he had experienced successes like “Don’t Drink the Water” and “Play It Again, Sam,” he felt, would reflect he was ready to embrace change. It turned out to be an unhappy return to the past.

With Amazon, however, there is no past — and the future remains uncertain.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Disney Kevin Mayer Recode Media

    Disney Streaming Boss Kevin Mayer: App Architecture to Blame for Disney Plus Stumbles

    No, it wasn’t Amazon’s fault that Disney Plus struggled following its launch last week: Disney direct-to-consumer chairman Kevin Mayer told the audience of Recode’s Code Media conference in Los Angeles Tuesday that there really wasn’t anyone to blame but Disney’s own technology. “It had we to do with the way we architected the app,” Mayer [...]

  • Disney-Plus-Logo

    Disney Plus Customer Service Still Experiencing 'High Volume' of Help Inquiries

    Disney Plus got off to a rocky start with widespread technical problems for the streaming service on launch day — and a week later, the company says it’s still seeing a high level of incoming calls from users who are having problems. Disney announced one day after the launch that more than 10 million people [...]

  • The Game Awards

    The Game Awards 2019 Nominees: 'Death Stranding,' 'Control' Lead the Field (Full List)

    The Game Awards 2019 unveiled nominations for this year’s event, led by Hideo Kojima’s epic “Death Stranding” with nine nods and Remedy/505 Games’ “Control” with eight nominations. This year’s Game of the Year nominees, in addition to “Control” and “Death Stranding,” are “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,” “Resident Evil 2,” “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” and “The [...]

  • Roger Lynch Code Media

    Conde Nast CEO Roger Lynch: 'The Jury Is Out' on Apple News Plus

    Conde Nast CEO Roger Lynch told the audience of Recode’s Code Media conference that he hadn’t made up his mind yet about Apple’s news subscription service. “I think the jury is out,” Lynch said, adding that he had inherited Conde Nast’s deal with Apple from his predecessor. “I hope Apple News Plus is wildly successful,” [...]

  • Diego Winburn - Telemundo Snapchat

    Telemundo Launches First Snapchat Show, 'Diego Street Magic'

    NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, looking to tap into Snapchat’s youth-skewing user base, launched its first exclusive show on Snapchat. Telemundo’s 10-episode “Diego Street Magic” features Mexican-American magician Diego Winburn performing magic tricks and illusions on the streets of New York City. After premiering Nov. 19, new episodes will be available Tuesdays and Thursdays through mid-December on [...]

  • Disney Plus user interface home screen

    Disney Plus Is Not Hampering Netflix Yet, Analysts Say -- But It's Only Been a Week

    One week after the launch of Disney Plus, Wall Street analysts are scouring tea leaves for signs of how the Mouse House’s streaming service is faring — and whether it’s taken a bite out of Netflix. Disney Plus’ launch in the first week had “little to no impact” on Netflix usage trends, which is “reassuring [...]

  • Ross Levinsohn

    Maven Media Bosses Stumble Explaining Their Plans for Sports Illustrated

    Ross Levinsohn’s reintroduction into the spotlight of the media world was off to a rocky start. Appearing at Recode’s Code Media conference Monday afternoon alongside his business partner James Heckman, Levinsohn was given a chance to address the elephant in the room right out of the gate, with journalist Peter Kafka bringing up allegations of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content