Darren Aronofsky looked to the future of a changing entertainment landscape on Saturday during a wide-ranging Q&A with the helmer and his producing partner Scott Franklin held as part of the Produced By: New York confab.
“It’s very blurry right now. It’s an exciting time,” the multihyphenate said during his session moderated by Producers Guild of America prexy Gary Lucchesi, a veteran producer and head of Lakeshore Entertainment.
“I keep thinking about the whole idea of the (traditional) 90-minute feature and whether it really makes sense when we’re in this golden age of television and also this self-distribution age,” he said. “I’m not sure the most success and the most eyes are going to come to you from a theatrical release. There might be other ways of releasing films,” he said.
Aronofsky added: “What it seems to be pointing to is a reason to go the cinema — if it’s an event film, a comedy or horror film where it makes sense for everybody to be (watching it) in a community.”
The helmer said he’s keenly aware that most people watch movies these days on much smaller screens. On his most recent pic, “Noah,” Aronofsky said he made a point of doing “the iPhone mix” to make sure the sound was strong on portable devices.
During the 90-minute session, Aronofsky and Franklin shared stories of scrambling to raise money for films and getting support for pics that were turned down all over town, including “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan.” The two had fun reminding Lucchesi that Lakeshore passed on “Black Swan,” which turned out to be a hit for Fox Searchlight, but only after they pulled off a “hail Mary miracle” to raise financing at the eleventh hour.
Aronofsky spoke of his interest in working in TV — through the development pact that his Protozoa Pictures banner recently inked with HBO.
“We’re setting up a few things that are starting to push forward,” Aronofsky said. “It’s exciting to work in that longer format.” One of those is an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s “MaddAddam” book trilogy.
He is also intrigued with the Netflix effect on entertainment.
“Just seeing the Netflix formula of having 20 hours pumped out to you in one day — it’s really changing things,” he said. “If I was a young storyteller now I don’t know if it would make sense to purely focus on the dream of making a 90-minute film that is going to be shown in a theater. It’s all changing in so many different ways. It points to that there’s an opportunity to do lots and lots of different things.”
He lamented the shift in production from film stock to digital, noting that it will have a significant effect on the storytelling process.
“Losing film is losing something about the art,” Aronofsky said. “There’s something in the alchemy of shooting something and not knowing what you have until the next day. That affects the way movies are made.” Aronofsky added that they had trouble finding crew members in New York who knew how to load film when they shot “Noah” on 35mm.
Of course, the subject of Aronofsky’s struggle with distributor Paramount over the final cut of “Noah” came up as part of a discussion about the merits of preview screenings, when some auds were upset by Aronofsky’s portrayal of the Biblical story. The helmer said he stuck to the drama inherent in the text.
“We went through a very long, silly preview process. A lot of money and time was wasted,” Aronofsky said of “Noah.” “It’s a very unique situation because it’s a character that is incredibly well-known but the preconceptions (people have) are so different.”