Darren Aronofsky Talks ‘Blurry’ Picture for Film, ‘Exciting’ Options in TV

Darren Aronofsky
Jemal Countess/Getty Images

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.”

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  1. Andrew says:

    Great article. Couple of things missing from his points though include the easy access of home cinema – I had a deluxe projector, surround sound, 3d capability etc installed for the cost of a decent LCD flatscreen. There is no need to go to the cinema for a full cinematic experience unless I’m really impatient to see something. Also, the experience of going to the cinema has been diluted with the introduction of soulless multiplexes selling plastic junk food at exorbitant prices. If I go, I much prefer the old school theatre which has character and history even if the seats are scuffed and the ceiling cornices a little crumbly. Unfortunately, they are a dying breed.

  2. James Heckel says:

    Just wait until Bryan Singer wants selected IMAX film locations for his next big release (and the qualified personnel to present the 70MM horizontal film format without disastrous results). As a former IMAX film projection manager, I can tell him it won’t be easy (or cheap). I am available.

  3. Dynnik says:

    I have to agree with nerdrage & RJR (above) about the nuisance of other viewers. But I will defend also that the collective experience enhances the viewer response to some stories (especially comedy). Those are the origins of drama! Theatres and plays?

    Even when big budget tentpoles are better appreciated at the cinema, there’s also something about the experience of watching a *well-crafted, non-epic, drama* that will forever be elusive in small screens. I’ve felt it. To mention Aronofsky, “Requiem for a Dream” or “The Wrestler” on a big-screen were really INTENSE. So… a just balance between the Netflix output and the traditional big-screen exhibition is the right way to go for projects (like it is ATM?).

    Moreover, I see a great advantage of TV in the serialized treatment of certain narratives. It’s not for every type of story, and of course it varies according to the production value of the series, but the “long run” can be even more immersible for the audience than the big-screen… when conceived as a 60 or 120 episode story from the beginning. If story and characters have a well thought arc, it’s a secure hit. If it stretches aimlessly or commercial /production issues affect the story, it’ll become a dull TV show.

  4. nerdrage says:

    Nobody goes to the theater to be a “community.” You wish the other people would disappear – the idiots yakking on cell phones, idiots who bring crying babies to R rated movies, idiots smacking their popcorn noisily…the future of movies is immersive, loud, overwhelming stuff that does make the rest of the audience vanish because nobody can hear the pig snarfing his popcorn when the whole planet is blowing up on screen…just wait till we have VR movies, all of your senses will be enveloped in the moviegoing experience and everyone else literally vanishes…and that will justify the mythical $50 movie ticket, since you could spend hours in a VR experience without being bored, the time limited only by the strength of your bladder…however, at that point, movies will be more like video games or amusement park rides and for traditional well-told stories, we’ll be at home, streaming them on Netflix.

    • How’s about YOU stay home, and the rest of us can be glad that’s where your antisocial nonsense will remain? Just remember to take your hands off the keyboard and put down the Mountain Dew for a few minutes every day; all of those sugars are bad for you, if you’re sitting around hating on the world all day without getting out and actually experiencing it. Also, carpal tunnel syndrome is the pits.

      • RJR says:

        Jeffrey, have to agree with nerdrage. Even with the theater instructing people to shut-off their devices, I’m sick of trying to watch a movie with dozens of phone lights on. And conversations. etc. etc. It’s the audience that is the problem…and it’s hardly anti-social to say so.

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