A sly supporting cast takes a slight joke and gives it real depth
Woody Allen was one of the first people who taught me about screenwriting.
Not directly, of course. These days, young writers are positively spoiled with the number of scripts they can read, and not just ones that have been officially published. Almost anything you're curious about is floating around out there online, easy to get hold of, often before the film is even released. As a result, the basic language of screenplay is far more accessible to young writers now than it ever has been before.
When I was first interested in film, though, it was not a commonplace thing to publish every screenplay, and if you were interested in learning about the craft, you either had to go to a film school's library or, every now and then, you'd be lucky enough to see a script in book form. One of the guys who made the effort to collect his scripts and publish them was Woody Allen, and reading his scripts led me to read his prose and his plays, and taken as a whole, his printed body of work informed the way I felt about him as a filmmaker, and some of my ideas about film in general.
In Allen's world, the word is primary. His films are these rich cascades of language, and sometimes it all adds up and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes, it all snaps into focus and you get a genuine emotional and intellectual rush from what he does, and sometimes, it just lays there, intelligent but without a pulse. And it's often a matter of degrees between the two. Some of what he did in his short fiction wouldn't really work on film, and sometimes, his films feel like rough drafts, the result of his unrelenting schedule of a film a year.