5 Career Tips from the Director of “Black Swan”

[ 0 ] January 16, 2011 |

Darren Aronsofky with Natalie Portman

Darren Aronofsky is doing something right. Aronofsky directed “Black Swan” – the  psychological thriller starring Natalie Portman that’s getting all the Oscar buzz. He also directed the Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei groundbreaking movie “The Wrestler,” which was the it film of 2008. When I recently heard him eloquently speak about the craft of filmmaking and the art of acting, a common theme resonated throughout: Working hard and staying focused.

1. Be present. How many times have you sat in a dreadfully boring meeting only to create a mental list of things you need to pick up from the grocery store on the way home from office? Better yet, how many times have you had to stop yourself from logging onto Facebook yet again during a conference call? Lucky for us, Aronofsky reminds us to stay focused and in the moment, courtesy of the actors he gets to work with. “Finding the moment, being present which is what actors do and that sort of became my defined space,” he recently said at the Film Society at Lincoln Center.

2. Play the part and step into the shoes of your colleagues. Have you ever reported to a boss who had no clue about how you actually did your job? Maybe now you’re the person in charge and don’t know what your team does to take care of business? Why not step into their role for a day? That’s what this director did. He actually took an acting class to set up a test for himself! “I said all I want to do is cry in front of a class and then I’ll quit.” Aronofsky explains, “I took Meisner ’til I cried and then I left the next day. I was like that’s enough time but I did it. I got into an unconscious state in front of people.”

3. Try new things and put it all out there. What do you do after directing “The Wrestler”? You do the opposite and make a ballet movie next and then sign on to direct The Wolverine, a comic book flick! “I think it’s important to keep trying new things,” he says.

4. Strive for a Michael Jordan moment. Again, Aronofsky emphasizes the importance of being present. “I call it kind of; it’s like looking for that Michael Jordan. You know there’s a great photograph of Michael Jordan, one of the slam dunk contests and it was shot with this really large negative. And he’s just soaring through the air with his tongue out which we’ve all seen a million times but the interesting thing about this photograph is that if you look behind Michael Jordan, every single person in the audience is in focus and you can see the expression on every single person’s face.”

He continues, “And they’re all staring at Michael Jordan and they’re all having that awe-filled; they’re having a religious moment. And I think that’s why we go to see Michael Jordan or why we go to see a great actor and so I think when they get there and they’re sort of channeling all the technical stuff, forgetting where they are and sort of being present, that’s when it’s great.”

5. Roll up your sleeves and work hard. There are no shortcuts to hard work and accomplishing a project. Aronofsky explains, “I’m very, very straightforward and I think I scare away a lot of actors. I just tell them what a bitch it’s going to be. I tell them there’s not going to be a trailer…all the money is on the screen and all this money’s going toward this art film and it’s going to suck and we’re going to do fifteen,sixteen hour days and emotionally we’re going to really go for it and try to do everything. That’s why we’re here.”


Natalie Portman’s new film “No Strings Attached” is the subject of our genConnect Expert Chat with Dr. Marianne Brandon and Dr. Alan Altman. Chat is January 20th at 3:30 pm EST. Is Friends With Benefits better than a committed relationship?

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More Career Tips by Vicki Salemi:

Job Lessons From Riding the Red Carpet With Matt Damon

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Category: Career, Career Development, Film, Music and Entertainment

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About Vicki Salemi: Vicki Salemi is a career expert who taps into her 13+ years of experience as a human resources/recruiting executive at KPMG and Deloitte to enlighten and empower people. She’s an author, journalist, public speaker and [...]
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