I flew to New York to film a commercial with Woody Allen for the NEW YORK MIRACLE campaign after 9/11. The spot had Woody Allen ice skating in Rockefeller Center. I hoped he would show up. We got there and Woody showed up. We had a double to do the actual skating. All Woody had to do was his line of dialogue and the double would do the rest. I shook hands with Woody and he was impossibly small with tiny hands. He told me he had written his own dialogue so I ignored the script I had. I had flown in my regular sound man from Los Angeles, Moe Chamberlain. I have a sophisticated syncing system in my camera and sound recorder and it’s necessary to be familiar with the system. I wouldn’t trust someone without the experience with the system, especially with talent like Woody Allen. Allen asked me if I wanted him to skate. I asked if he could indeed ice skate and he answered no. That’s that, then. We shot the first take. Perfect, except that Woody added a hand gesture that went out of frame. I adjusted the framing to incorporate the gesture. Woody asked what was wrong with the take. I said that his performance was perfect but that the shot had to be adjusted. He gave me a skeptical look and we set up for the next take.
Woody gave me a puzzled look.
‘Do you want to wait for the plane?’
I turned to look at Moe, the soundman. He pointed overhead and shook his head. I pulled off my headset and indeed there was a loud plane. My headset had some static and I couldn’t hear the plane. I fully expected Woody to leave, shaking his head. The plane left and we got the take. Woody asked:
‘That’s it. Perfect.’
Phil Dusenberry then came over and chatted with Woody. They had gone to the same high school in Brooklyn. Michael Patti asked why we didn’t do the script he had written. I said that I didn’t want to take a chance and from experience Woody Allen was a more accomplished writer than Michael was. Michael asked me to ask Woody to do his script, too. I went over to Woody and Phil then returned to Michael.
‘What did he say?’
‘I didn’t ask him.’
‘You didn’t ask him?’
‘You went over there and didn’t ask him?’
‘I just asked them (Woody and Phil) to move because we were arranging another setup and I didn’t want them to get hurt.’
‘What about my script?’
‘You wanted me to suggest to Woody Allen that your script was better than his?’
‘Excuse me, but I have to set up another meaningless shot that has been suggested by your boss, Ted.’
Michael never forgave me.