Video: Darren Aronofsky on Ugly Beauty, Clichés, & Obsessive Filmmaking

Darren Aronofsky
Credit: Nko Tavernise
A couple of weeks ago, director Darren Aronofsky sat down with Lynne Tillman to discuss his career, as well as his thoughts on filmmaking in general.

The video below is a little over 90 minutes long, but oh so worth it. However, if you're not in it for the long haul, you can skip down to check out several takeaways:

Inspiration from beautiful ugliness

Aronofsky describes growing up in Brooklyn near Coney Island and baring witness to the strange contradictions of his surroundings: a beautiful beach littered with trash, a once famed amusement park now abandoned and dilapidated. These images inspired a lot of the imagery, as well as the subject matter for his films later on in his life, like PiRequiem for a Dream, and The Wrestler. (Tillman notes that the "beauty was also tragic," which I thought was a great comment.)

"It's called a cliché for a reason, because it's often true."

Coming up with a story, character, or cinematic technique that is 100% original is damn near impossible, so, often this leads to having to use a lot of tried and true methods -- clichés. However, Aronofsky says that the problem doesn't come from using clichés, but from how you use them -- your execution. He explains how most of his plots are complete clichés, but the way he lets them unfold -- the way he tells the story -- is unique.

So, in other words, clichés aren't inherently bad. In fact, they tend to reveal patterns in our world and the human experience that we can all recognize and identify with, but if your stories become a pattern, especially one that your audience knows so well that they can anticipate every turn, that's when you know you need to shake things up in your execution.

Requiem for a Dream

Honest actors bring about an emotional audience

How do you get your audience to become emotionally involved in your story? Aronofsky says:

That's always a gamble. You're always hoping people are going to come along for the ride and be willing to go with it and that's usually based on emotional truth from the actors. So, if the actors are truthfully experiencing something, you can get away with a lot. That's how you get away with Lord of the Rings. The actors believe they're there. The illusion is close enough.

Be passionate about your film and obsessive about getting it made

We all know that our asking, pleading, and begging will more often than not lead to a whole bunch of no's before we ever hear a single yes. But, that's where passion and obsession come in! Aronofsky says:

Filmmaking is -- you definitely need to be pretty obsessive to get a film made, but that doesn't mean you're obsessed all the time, because when you get an idea -- thousands of people will say no to you before it's done in all different types of ways. What drives me is -- passion for the characters, for the story, sometimes for the shot.     

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Your Comment


awesome find V, thanks!

October 16, 2014 at 2:06PM, Edited October 16, 2:06PM

John Morse
Producer + Director

V Rene, you have the best articles. Love it. Thanks.

October 16, 2014 at 10:48PM, Edited October 16, 10:48PM


Never forget your pasion and your perseverance feeling.

October 17, 2014 at 1:43AM

Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director

His work is so ahead of its time, in my opinion. Each of his films are so vastly different, but they seem to also fit together in some weird way. His visuals are amazing (i.e. The Fountain), and the stories are fantastically written. This guy makes all around dope movies!!

October 17, 2014 at 5:52AM

Luis Garcia