One of our favorite PBS series (and produced by our WNET THIRTEEN New York) is American Masters. On November 20 and 21st Robert Weide’s two-part documentary features unprecedented access to reveal the notoriously private film legend’s life and creative process of Woody Allen.
The iconic writer, director, actor, comedian, and musician Woody Allen allowed his life and creative process to be documented on-camera for the first time. With this unprecedented access, Emmy®-winning, Oscar®-nominatedfilmmaker Robert Weide followed the notoriously private film legend over a year and a half to create the ultimate film biography. Woody Allen: A Documentarypremieres nationally Sunday, November 20 from 9-11 p.m. (ET/PT) and Monday, November 21 from 9-10:30 p.m. (ET/PT) on WNET New York and other PBS stations (check local listings) as part of the 25th anniversary season of American Masters.
“This is the Woody doc everybody has been waiting for, and I am delighted that this creative giant is finally assuming his rightful place in the American Masters library,”says Susan Lacy, series creator and executive producer of American Masters, an eight-time winner of the Emmy® Award for Outstanding Primetime Non-Fiction Series.The seriesis a production of THIRTEEN for WNET New York Public Media. WNET is the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York’s public television stations. For nearly 50 years, WNET has been producing and broadcasting national and local documentary and other programs to the New York community.
“Woody Allen was always the big ‘get’ for me,” says Robert Weide, best known for his long-term directing/producing stint on Curb Your Enthusiasm, which earned him Emmy®and Golden Globe®Awards. “The prolific nature of Woody’s output has provided me with an embarrassment of riches. In fact, Woody will have made three features just in the time it’s taken me to make this one documentary.”
Beginning with Allen’s childhood and his first professional gigs as a teen — furnishing jokes for comics and publicists — American Masters – Woody Allen: A Documentary chronicles the trajectory and longevity of Allen’s career: from his work in the 1950s-60s as a TV scribefor Sid Caesar, standup comedian and frequent TV talk show guest, to a writer-director averaging one film-per-year for more than 40 years. Weide covers Allen’s earliest film work in Take the Money and Run, Bananas, Sleeper, and Love and Death; frequent Oscar®favorites such as Annie Hall, Manhattan, Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, Purple Rose of Cairo, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Husbands & Wives, Bullets Over Broadway, and Mighty Aphrodite; and his recent globetrotting phase with Match Point, Vicky Christina Barcelona, and this year’s box office smash Midnight in Paris.
Exploring the ultimate “independent filmmaker’s” writing habits, casting, directing, and relationship with his actors, Weide traveled with Allen from the London set of You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger —a major coup“considering Woody has never allowed so much as an EPK [Electronic Press Kit] crew on his sets,” claims Weide — to the Cannes premiere of Midnight in Paris this May. He also filmed Allenat home, in the editing room and touring his childhood haunts inthe Midwood section of Brooklyn.New interviews provide insight and backstory: actors Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Penelope Cruz, John Cusack, Larry David, Mariel Hemingway, Scarlett Johansson, Julie Kavner, Diane Keaton, Martin Landau, Louise Lasser, Sean Penn, Tony Roberts, Chris Rock, Mira Sorvino, Naomi Watts, Dianne Wiest, and Owen Wilson; writing collaborators Marshall Brickman, Mickey Rose and Doug McGrath; cinematographers Gordon Willis and Vilmos Zsigmond; Allen’s sister Letty Aronson; longtime manager Jack Rollins; casting director Juliet Taylor; pals Dick Cavett and Martin Scorsese; and others.
American Masters – Woody Allen: A Documentary also touches on Allen’s contributions as a writer for the theater and his casual pieces for The New Yorker, as well as his frequent moonlighting gig as a clarinet player with a New Orleans-style jazz band. “He never refused a request and he never declined to answer a question,” says Weide.
To take American Masters beyond the television broadcast and further explore the themes, stories and personalities of masters past and present, the companion website (pbs.org/americanmasters) offers streaming video of select films, interviews, essays, photographs, outtakes, and other resources. Woody Allen: A Documentary is a Whyaduck Productions and Insurgent Media Production in association with THIRTEEN’s American Masters for WNET. Robert Weide is director, writer, producer, and co-editor. Michael Peyser, Erik Gordon, Fisher Stevens, Andrew Karsch, and Brett Ratner are executive producers. Susan Lacy is the series creator and executive producer of American Masters.
American Mastersis made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding for American Masters is provided by Rosalind P. Walter, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Jack Rudin, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, and public television viewers. Funding for this program is provided by Miriam and Sam Blatt.
About WNET New York Public Media
WNETis America’s flagship public media outlet, bringing quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. The parent company of public television stations THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET produces such acclaimed PBS series as Great Performances, American Masters, Nature, Need to Know, Charlie Rose, Tavis Smiley and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Noah Comprende and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through SundayArts, Reel 13, NJ Today and the new online newsmagazine MetroFocus.