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SXSW 2018: Darren Aronofsky Reveals the 10 Commandments of Indie Filmmaking, From ‘Adapt to Reality’ to ‘Give a Shit’

The "mother!" filmmaker just delivered his Keynote at the festival.

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Paramount/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5885237w)Darren AronofskyNoah - 2014Director: Darren AronofskyParamount PicturesUSAOn/Off SetNoé


Like most filmmakers, Darren Aronofsky grumbles at the idea of people watching his work on increasingly small screens. “I spend a lot of time making the theatrical experience the ultimate experience,” the “mother!” writer/director said during his SXSW Keynote this morning. “You see mother! on your iPhone, it’s going to suck.” How you see the film was especially important this time around, Aronofsky noted, as “there’s no score in that movie, it’s all sound design … The sound is as important as the picture.”

Aronofsky marked his first appearance at South by Southwest with the 10 Commandments of Indie Filmmaking:

  1. Make the Film Only You Can Make
  2. Persistence Is 9/10 of the Game
  3. Work with Family
  4. Do Your Homework Before You Get to Set
  5. Adapt to Reality
  6. Don’t Be Afraid of Your Actors
  7. Don’t Forget About Your Audience
  8. Commit to the Vision
  9. Let Your Child Go
  10. Give a Shit

Number 8 proved especially difficult during “Noah,” he revealed, as the film proved controversial among evangelical Christians (“surprise, surprise,” Aronofsky said). Still, “every film I’ve done at this point is my movie. Every last cut I decided myself to do them. If anything, that’s what I’m most proud of, that I haven’t lost a film yet.”

That personal, fully committed approach can be seen onscreen as well. “I’m in every one of my films,” he said. “I’m the wrestler. I’m the ballet dancer. Both Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem’s character. I’m every character in every movie.”

As for giving a shit, it’s clear that Aronofsky is as tuned into the news as the rest of us. “Art is about disruption, especially today,” he said. “With all the shit going on, you have no excuse to make empty films,” and now, more than ever, young artists need to turn their attention to “human love, not human violence.” To those up-and-coming filmmakers, he had a piece of advice: “Never stick a gun in a movie star’s hands. Never stick a gun in anyone’s hands, if you can help it.”

Aronofsky also got explicit about the meaning of “mother!,” which baffled many. “I wanted to make a film about Mother Earth and how we treat Mother Earth,” he said. “The way I see we treat Mother Earth is incredibly disrespectful. We pillage her, we rape her, we call her dirt.”

If Jennifer Lawrence was playing Mother Earth, then Javier Bardem was playing God — and not the forgiving version. “I looked at the Bible and how the Old Testament God is painted,” Aronofsky said. “When you think about that God, if you don’t pray to him, he kills you. What type of character does that? For me, it was about interpreting that to human emotion.”

Despite his clear interest in the Bible and the title of his Keynote, Aronofsky is nothing if not self-aware: “With all humility,” he said, “I’m a hack writer compared to the guy who wrote the Bible.”

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