What We Lose When Film Dies, How Storytelling is Changing and More from Darren Aronofsky

Darren Aronofsky and producing partner Scott Franklin sat down with Producers Guild of America president Gary Lucchesi at PGA’s Produced By Conference in New York. Here’s what Aronofsky had to say about his movies and the future of filmmaking at large.

1. The 90-minute feature film is no longer the best way to tell a story.

“I’m teaching at NYU now, and when I ask my students what they want to do, they all want to make feature films,” said Aronofsky. “But does that really make sense? We’re in a golden age of television and self-distribution. The 90-minute feature film remains interesting as an event, but seeing the Netflix formula and short web content thrive…. If I was a young storyteller now, I don’t know if I would focus on the dream of a 90-minute film. Storytelling is changing. There’s an opportunity to do a lot of different things. I’m not sure that the most eyes are going to come out of a theatrical release for a dramatic 90-minute feature.”

2. “Black Swan” almost didn’t get financed.

Black Swan

“Everyone passed on funding ‘Black Swan,'” said Aronofsky. In an awkward moment, it was revealed that even the moderator of the panel, Producers Guild of America president Gary Lucchesi, a veteran producer and head of Lakeshore Entertainment, had passed on the film; plenty of digs were made. The film eventually snagged some independent financiers, but they ultimately collapsed: “We called them the Bernie Madoff of film financing,” Aronofsky said. “It was a pyramid scheme.”

3. He thinks test screenings are mostly bogus.

“Previewing makes sense in a straight horror or comedy, but genre-twisting films don’t test at all,” Aronofsky said. “People are always saying, ‘Oh, that’s too much,'” continued Aronofsky, citing more intense moments in his films such as Natalie Portman’s leg-breaking scene in “Black Swan.” “It comes down to taste. The intense moments are the things that people don’t forget, though. They take them home with them.” So, when can test screenings actually be useful? “You look for patterns. Often where there are issues, audiences are circling around something, but they won’t give you the answer. They’ll usually just talk about it a lot.”

4. He claims to have invented crowd-funding.

“We’re in a golden age of television and self-distribution.” – Darren Aronofsky

“We invented Kickstarter,” said Aronofsky, referring to the crowdfunding campaign he devised for his 1998 film “Pi.” The one difference? “We actually paid back money. Not copyrighting that idea was a huge mistake.”

5. There was a ton of controversy over “The Wrestler” at Cannes.

Mickey Rourke The Wrestler

“We were the last film at the Venice Film Festival, but they didn’t even call it the closing night film,” said Aronofsky. “That’s how much disrespect there was. But then we got the Golden Lion.” The Lion wasn’t enough for Mickey Rourke, though: “Mickey destroyed his hotel room because he didn’t win the Best Actor prize. But we were like, ‘Mickey, the film is you.’ He went on to insult me in front of everyone at the press conference later. Destroyed me.” Aronofsky said that Rourke’s sentiments were shared by Wim Wenders, who apparently said he would never be on another film festival jury because “Mickey deserved that award.”

6. He laments the loss of film stock.

“Losing film is losing something about the art itself,” said Aronofsky. “There’s something in the alchemy of shooting on film, of not knowing what you have until the next day, that is essential to the creative process of filmmaking. But I don’t know how much of a choice we have anymore. 16mm added so much to what ‘Black Swan’ and ‘The Wrestler’ are aesthetically, and I don’t know if they would be what they are if we shot digitally.”

7. We live in times of high content visibility.

“The best part of the job is between action and cut, when everything is coming together.” – Darren Aronofsky

“If you make something good, it gets found,” said Aronofsky. “It gets seen. If it doesn’t, there’s probably something lacking. Every once in a while there are films that slip by, but even those have followers and a fan base.”

8. Contrary to popular belief, he loves interns.

“I like bringing up interns,” said Aronofsky. “So many interns have turned into major players. It’s a shame what happened on the ‘Black Swan’ set.”

9. All of his characters are a part of him.

“The best part of the job is between action and cut, when everything is coming together and the actors are just going for it,” said Aronofsky. “The focus, all of the different people coming together at this one epicenter of energy. The job of the director is to tell the truth. All of my characters have my feelings in them.”

Special thanks to Indiewire for this one.

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