How Woody Allen Writes A New Movie Every Year

August 30, 2013By
Woody Allen

Woody Allen is a moving making machine.

Woody Allen is now in his later seventies.

For the last fifty years he’s been working in the film industry putting out films at an “assembly-line pace” according to a recent article by The Wall Street Journal. His latest film comes out this year and it will be his 48th in a long and storied career.

Every year Woody Allen comes out with a new film. It’s incredible for someone that writes, directs and often stars in each of those films. There is really no one like him in the business.

And when you think about it  there is really no one like him in other industries either especially creative industries.

It’s common for directories to skip a year. It’s common for musicians to skip a year or to take some time in between records. Doing things at a rapid pace can burn you out as many creative types have proven over the years.

So how does Woody Allen do it?

Here are some thoughts.

Driven To Finish

There are a few quotes in stories around that note that Allen has a restless nature. He’s got an every about him where he’s always on edge feeling like he needs to get something done now without wasting anytime.

That’s a quality that not everybody has, but if you do have it you have a tendency to get things done. It doesn’t always mean the result will be perfect, but you’ve at least put forth your best effort and you’ve done it within the time requirement.

I think you can build your personality to fit this drive. You can drive yourself to finish. You have to let go of some things along the way, but if you’re driven to finish you’ll force yourself to cut out what’s absolutely not necessary in the process so you can do only what’s best.

Meeting Requirements

Woody Allen probably works on contracts with others that require him to meet expectations. Some of us need the little extra push to have something done while others can set their own requirements and expectations.

However you do it I think it’s good to have requirements on your work including blogging. Make them reasonable, but always push yourself a little further each time.

This makes you finish your work while always improving. You’re striving for perfection in the long run without ever really achieving it, but along the way you’ll create some really great material.

Letting Go Of Expectations And Perception

We’ll sidetrack a little bit from Woody Allen to mention Toby Keith.

Back in the ’70s, ’80s and a little bit into the ’90s it was common for country artists to release at least one and sometimes two albums each year. Look at the big artists in the ’70s and ’80s like George Strait, Alabama and Hank Williams Jr. Every year they have new music out or at least a new package of hits with a few new songs.

Those artists often burned out keeping up with that schedule and as a result most artists today release records every 18 to 24 months. It seems to be a little bit of an easier pace.

But one artist still cranks out new music every year and that’s Toby Keith. For 20 years he’s had an album out every year counting his hits packages.

I remember a quote (paraphrased) that Toby had a few years back. He said he has a pretty straightforward routine. He sits down and listens to songs from other writers and he writes about 10-12 songs himself. He usually records about nine of his own and maybe one from someone else.

He says that’s what the fans will get that year and they can either like it or leave it.

In order to keep up this kind of pace you have to let go of some expectations. You have to let the creative side just flow. To do that you also have to let go of how you think others will perceive you.

It’s like kids when they’re drawing or doing something creative. They’re happy with what they do because they’ve done the best they could. It might not always be a work of art, but they’re going through the process without worrying about perception.

Of course you want people to read your blog posts, but if you think about it too much you’ll always find something wrong and it will deter you from keeping up your schedule.

Breaking Things Into Small Bits

It’s been said that Woody Allen’s movies are usually little snippets of his life’s experiences. The man has a quirkiness about him. He seems to always be awkwardly working his way through love.

What’s interesting and what Allen really seems to get is that he doesn’t have to write one movie about love. He breaks his life down into small bits and pieces and uses those small things as inspiration for his movies.

Another thing I catchy myself doing sometimes is taking an approach to writing that is way too big.

Instead of writing about love. You write about all the little things that make up love.

Instead of writing about your huge trip. Write individual stories about each of the stops along the way.

It happens in songwriting too. You can try to write a song about love and it can come out great, but usually it’s too vague. On the other hand you can write a song about a specific moment when you realized you loved someone. That usually makes a great song.

And the great thing is you still have all those other moments that can make for great writing material.


Woody Allen may not have the best batting average when it comes to movies. I admit I’ve only seen a handful of them, but I know people love his movies and his record of a new movie every year is really impressive.

There seem to be a few things that Allen (and others with similar records) does that allows him to keep up the pace:

  • Be aware of your time and only do what’s necessary
  • Put requirements on yourself of get requirements from others
  • Let go of what you think others think
  • Turn your big ideas into small ideas

Try those things and you should be able to meet more deadlines with all the work you do including your blogging.

Image: Photo by Terry Richardson