Patti Smith Narrates Darren Aronofsky’s VR Experience ‘Spheres: Pale Blue Dot’

American singer/songwriter Patti Smith narrated an episode of Darren Aronofsky’s virtual reality experience Spheres.
The three-part series, which is directed by Eliza McNitt, made headlines earlier this year when the VR financing and distribution venture CityLights announced it would acquire Spheres in a seven-figure deal. That represented a milestone for the emerging medium, which had never sold at a major festival.
Jessica Chastain narrated the first installment, Spheres…

American singer/songwriter Patti Smith narrated an episode of Darren Aronofsky’s virtual reality experience Spheres. The three-part series, which is directed by Eliza McNitt, made headlines earlier this year when the VR financing and distribution venture CityLights announced it would acquire Spheres in a seven-figure deal. That represented a milestone for the emerging medium, which had never sold at a major festival. Jessica Chastain narrated the first installment, Spheres…

Darren Aronofsky Promises ‘One Strange Rock’ Will Blow Your Mind – The Contenders Emmys

Darren Aronofsky signed on to the docuseries One Strange Rock to give viewers a glimpse of planet Earth like they’ve never seen before.
The ten-part National Geographic series, which is produced by Aronofsky and hosted by Will Smith, tells the story of Earth and explores the fragility of Earth and explores how everyone on the planet has something in common, with the help of astronauts who have traveled to outer space.
“I’ve always loved these kinds of portraits of our…

Darren Aronofsky signed on to the docuseries One Strange Rock to give viewers a glimpse of planet Earth like they've never seen before. The ten-part National Geographic series, which is produced by Aronofsky and hosted by Will Smith, tells the story of Earth and explores the fragility of Earth and explores how everyone on the planet has something in common, with the help of astronauts who have traveled to outer space. "I've always loved these kinds of portraits of our…

Sony Pictures Pushes Matthew McConaughey’s ‘White Boy Rick’ Back a Month

Sony Pictures’ “White Boy Rick,” starring Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Bel Powley, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, will now be released wide Sept. 21, a month after its original release date of Aug. 17. The movie will also get a limited release on Sept. 14. This marks the second time “White Boy Rick” was delayed; it […]

Sony Pictures’ “White Boy Rick,” starring Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Bel Powley, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, will now be released wide Sept. 21, a month after its original release date of Aug. 17. The movie will also get a limited release on Sept. 14. This marks the second time “White Boy Rick” was delayed; it […]

Darren Aronofsky Views ‘One Strange Rock’ as a Companion Piece to ‘mother!’, Because Maybe There’s Hope for the World Yet

The director made the new NatGeo documentary series about Earth, hosted by Will Smith, at the same time as his controversial drama.

At the same time that Darren Aronofsky was directing an allegory about the ruination of planet Earth, he was producing a TV show about how beautiful and miraculous our world can be.

“‘mother!’ was a very personal project about what’s going on, just trying to hold up a mirror to some of the things that are really out of control,” he told IndieWire at the Television Critics Association winter press tour about “One Strange Rock,” the new documentary series he executive produced for NatGeo. “This is just a very different approach on that very similar subject matter, since they’re both talking about our home. This is more talking about how beautiful our home is, how all the systems work together so beautifully to create this precious thing we call life.”

But the metaphor of “mother!,” which features Jennifer Lawrence’s “house” getting destroyed by the evil of man, still applies to “One Strange Rock,” according to him: “We need that plumbing, we need that electrical work, we need that cable, we need the roof, we need all those systems to be working. Admiring how they all work together is something that’s inspiring; that shows off how beautiful our home is.”

“One Strange Rock,” which premiered Monday, was executive produced by Aronofsky and his frequent collaborator Ari Handel, who co-wrote “The Fountain” and “Noah,” and worked with producer Jane Root to create 10 episodes about the weird little rock we live on.

VFX enhanced Earth view from the International Space Station. (credit: NASA)

Aronofsky and Handel met in college, the first week of their sophomore year at Harvard, and their friendship continued after graduation, when Aronofsky began pursuing a career in film and Handel moved onto receiving a Ph.D. in neuroscience.

“Ari would, to get away from academia, would sort of sit around with us and throw around ideas,” Aronofsky said. “And then I had this idea for ‘The Fountain’ was sort of brewing and I asked Ari if he would want to write it with me, because he was kind of getting over academia after he got his Ph.D.”

Aronofsky continued, “We would just walk around and talk and then it eventually grew into him becoming the president of Protozoa [Aronofsky’s production company] and now we’ve written a bunch of scripts together and produced a bunch of movies together. It’s been a long trip.”

Aronofsky and Handel were brought in by NatGeo to, in Aronofsky’s words, figure out how to make the concept for the series — an in-depth look at Earth as the miracle it can often be, blending many different scientific disciplines for a comprehensive look at our “strange rock” — work both on a visual level as well as a storytelling level.

“It was about trying to connect all of these different teams that were going around the planet with a kind of visual language,” Handel said. “So a manual was created of the types of shots we were looking for, so that all of the different directors and cinematographers that were scattered around the planet would try to make things that were related and connected because we always were about trying to connect how these different systems work.”

The filming on the series extended as far as space, thanks to astronaut Paolo Nespoli, who shot footage on the International Space Station for the show. “I kind of gave him a coaching session on how to photograph up there and how to make it as cinematic as possible,” Aronofsky said.

Another key element was the show’s host — the Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith, narrates the series directly to camera, and his “everyman-esque” quality, Aronofsky felt, helps communicate big ideas to the audience. “It’s about figuring out a way to make it more relatable to everyone who is watching,” he said.

Will Smith and Executive Producer Darren Aronofsky during production of "One Strange Rock". (National Geographic/Matt Frost)

The show’s genesis, he noted, came from not science but a human touch, based on the experiences of astronauts who have just returned from space. “Some people call it religious, some people call it spiritual, some people are just filled with awe. There’s terms for it but they all have this experience that connects all the different systems that they understand and scientific information that they understand and this one idea of this interconnectedness. And when they come back to Earth, they’re changed forever,” he said. “We wanted to try and relate that back to the audience — back to everyone watching the show. I think Will was able to kind of capture that energy and kind of relate it back.”

Right now, most documentaries about the current state of our planet have a dark undercurrent to them, thanks to the ever-increasing threat of climate change and other threats. But as mentioned above, the message of “One Strange Rock” is ultimately a hopeful one, which was a deliberate choice for the team, even while in a “mother!” state of mind.

“There’s a lot of work out there right now because of the times we’re in about how scary things are,” Aronofsky said. “We wanted to do something that was filled with hope but also that showed how precious it is, this planet. It was a different way of showing this story, the same story, it’s a very complicated system. We’re very, very blessed by all these things having worked out to allow us to be here to watch our favorite TV shows. And as soon as you look at those systems they’re incredibly miraculous and I think through an understanding of those systems, I think hopefully they will fill us with respect for them.”

Added Handel, “The more you understand how all this stuff works together, it’s awe-inspiring. It’s inspirational. It makes you filled with an admiration. And that feels like hope.”

“One Strange Rock” airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on NatGeo. 

‘One Strange Rock’ EPs on their ‘Wild’ Experience, Working with Will Smith

Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky knows more than a few things about creating big, bold, eye-catching images on-screen designed to heighten the emotional experience for a viewer. But he also knows that today’s audience often consumes their media on small screens, like their smartphones. So when he set out to executive produce his first project for television […]

Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky knows more than a few things about creating big, bold, eye-catching images on-screen designed to heighten the emotional experience for a viewer. But he also knows that today’s audience often consumes their media on small screens, like their smartphones. So when he set out to executive produce his first project for television […]

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.

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.”

Darren Aronofsky Reveals True Meaning of ‘Mother!’ at SXSW Talk

So what was “Mother!” really about? In a keynote address at SXSW on Saturday morning, director Darren Aronofsky offered his take on his recent drama starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem that divided audiences. “I wanted to make a film about Mother Earth and how we treat Mother Earth,” Aronofsky said about Lawrence’s character, a […]

So what was “Mother!” really about? In a keynote address at SXSW on Saturday morning, director Darren Aronofsky offered his take on his recent drama starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem that divided audiences. “I wanted to make a film about Mother Earth and how we treat Mother Earth,” Aronofsky said about Lawrence’s character, a […]