When comedy screenwriter superstar Ken Levine wrote An Open Letter to Woody Allen, he got a lot of feedback, positive and negative, on his blog. I encourage you to read his post, but basically he told Woody Allen to slow down and take a break in the hope Allen will make fewer movies, but better movies.
Here we have one artist telling another, I used to love your stuff, but your recent work disappoints me, so stop. I’m a bit sympathetic to that sentiment in that I’ve expressed some frustration here over the work of Jeff Lindsay, creator of the Dexter character.
The first Dexter book was great. Then the series went downhill (though I have yet to read the very latest so I’m hoping for the author’s redemption.) My objection in a long ago post was that in book three of the series, the lovable serial killer was doing very dumb, unbelievable things. The protagonist was sucked into a supernatural story and taking his elementary school-age kids to gory crime scenes as little serial killer apprentices.
I suspected that, since the Showtime series Dexter is such a hit (and well-deserved), maybe Lindsay’s agent and publisher were pushing him to make hay while the sun shone and pump out those books to the ravenous masses! (The reviews on Amazon backed me up on this. I wasn’t the only one who felt the author lost his way.)
So, while I understand Mr. Levine’s plea, ultimately, writers write for themselves first. If Woody Allen is happy with his script (and is still making money, employing people, finding financiers etc.,…) then he can do what he wants. I heard a rare interview with Woody Allen recently. He was shooting in London and having a great time doing it. He writes and directs to suit himself first and, if you want to play, follow along, too. Otherwise, go enjoy something else. No one’s forcing you to go to a Woody Allen movie. A lot of people don’t go now who used to, but I’ve read that most of Allen’s movies make the majority of their box office outside the United States. (There is a hint of Americanocentrism in Mr. Levine’s post, so perhaps that’s what informs his stance.)
When I saw one artist tell another to produce less, I realized that I was guilty of the same thing with Jeff Lindsay. I love the Dexter character. I mistook that emotional investment for ownership of the character and its author. As long as the books are still making money and Mr. Lindsay is enjoying himself, it’s not up to me or anyone else to tell him to stop or slow down. It’s up to me to say, “Well, sadly, that’s not for me anymore. Too bad. Fortunately, there are millions of other books to read so I’ll go check those out…and console myself with the excellent TV show Jeff Lindsay’s work spawned, Sunday nights on Showtime at 10 p.m. EST.”
- Woody Allen: A ‘Stranger’ Always, And Mortal Too (npr.org)
- Marshall Fine: In praise of Woody Allen (huffingtonpost.com)
- Ask HN: Inspirational movies (news.ycombinator.com)
- Dexter is delusional (theglobeandmail.com)
- Review: Dearly Devoted Dexter (Audio) (bookingmama.blogspot.com)