Independent film studio A24 is a powerhouse that just won’t stop
In 2013, A24 made waves promoting the wild indie film Spring Breakers, even going so far as to launch an Oscar campaign for James Franco with the slogan “Consider this sh*t.” Immediately, they were different. Immediately, they were refreshing.
In 2014, A24 distributed critical gems still talked about today. Most notably among them were Enemy, Under the Skin, Locke, Obvious Child and A Most Violent Year.
In 2015, A24 didn’t just stick its foot in the Oscar door — it shoved it open and sweeped nametags off the table to make a spot for itself. Ex Machina won Best Visual Effects. Brie Larson won Best Lead Actress for Room. Amy won Best Documentary Feature. And they still made other darlings: Slow West, While We’re Young and The End of the Tour.
In 2016, A24 made history, as Moonlight won Best Motion Picture, making it the first film with an all-black cast and the first LGBTQ+ film to do so.
Its other films that year continued to expand how we perceive cinema. The Witch further defined the contemporary horror film. Krisha introduced us to Trey Edward Shults. Green Room reminded us of Jeremy Saulnier. 20th Century Women made the word “sublime” tangible. And The Lobster and Swiss Army Man are two of the most fucking bizarre and wonderful movies of recent memory.
And in 2017, A24 looks to do more.
In an age where film is dying in a bland spate of sameness, A24 not only knows to be different, but to have a purpose and to be true. That’s why each film it distributes feels specifically like an A24 film, like a part of the A24 brand. Nothing really feels out of place or, what would be worse, indistinguishable, as the creatives are like gallery curators with little of the stereotypical snob and far more fun.
They go from making a Tinder account for the artificially intelligent robot in Ex Machina to starting a Twitter page for the goat in The Witch, from sending media physical messages in a bottle for Swiss Army Man to opening a shop with ghost sheets for A Ghost Story. And it’s not just out-there gestures like these; A24 hosts meticulously designed plans that place each film in a spot to succeed.
The company also knows to diversify within that brand. This isn’t your Fox Searchlights or your Sony Pictures Classics, where there’s almost too much that’s indistinguishable. With A24, even films seen by only a few feel singular in and of themselves. Free Fire is an action packed, guns-ablazing joy ride, with ravishingly badass posters to accompany. The Lovers is an odd yet deeply realized, deeply felt and deeply funny romantic comedy that’s a bit more friendly to an older crowd, featuring the ever wonderful Debra Winger and Tracy Letts. It Comes At Night haunts our paranoid nightmares, subverting horror expectations and getting people talking. Good Time is a neon trip — a frenetic, chaotic and deliciously addictive crime film with a Robert Pattinson we’ve never met before. And A Ghost Story transcends the dimensions of cinema, glaring into our bodies and our souls like only the most profound pieces of art can.
That’s only what A24 has released in 2017 so far. It would be tough to be evaluative of an upcoming slate, but it’s not surprising that A24 films are the current talk of the festival circuit, as the company has four more that could make their own weird and gleeful stamp on the year.
First, at the beginning of October, comes The Florida Project, from Tangerine director Sean Baker. A testament to diversifying, the film stars children, with the lead, Brooklynn Prince, being merely 7. Critics have already deemed it as one of the great films about childhood with others guaranteeing that Willem Dafoe is nominated for an Oscar.
Nearing Halloween, the more horrific side of Yorgos Lanthimos, director of The Lobster, will be unveiled with The Killing of a Sacred Deer. A Cannes premiere like The Florida Project, Sacred Deer has been received with a bit less unanimity than Baker’s film, but the intensity of the divide makes it all the more fascinating. A24 is a distributor that will take chances, a distributor that wants to make “radical work,” and Lanthimos’ picture certainly falls in that realm.
As November comes, something quite special arrives: Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird. An incredibly successful writer and actor already, giving one of her most moving performances in A24’s 20th Century Women, Gerwig is a talent that needs further platform, and for good reason. Premiering at Telluride Film Festival and moving to Toronto International Film Festival, Lady Bird is one of the most lovingly spoken about films to have traveled to one or both of those cities. More than a few critics have deemed it their favorite of the Colorado festival, and as it’s traveled to Canada, some have even expected the film to resonate in a similarly way to the landmark Boyhood, which, in turn, could lead to a legitimate Oscar threat.
Wrapping up the busy year, A24 will release The Disaster Artist, the James Franco-directed-and-uarring film about the making of the iconically trashed The Room, in December. The film visited South by Southwest as a work in progress, and was lauded at the time. Screening as a prepared cut last night at Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness, the film received a standing ovation from the crowd, who stayed on their feet throughout the entire Q&A afterward, something many festival frequenters had never seen before. Maybe with The Disaster Artist, an A24 James Franco awards campaign could have some results. “Oh, hi Oscars.”
No other distributor (and production company) garners buzz quite like this. The Shape of Water premiered to adoration, but no one is really mentioning Fox Searchlight. Call Me by Your Name is said to be one of the most emotionally affecting films of the year, but few go out of their way to talk about it within the context of the Sony Pictures Classics brand. None of this is to put down those films, but it really does make something clear.
A24 isn’t just a vehicle through which its movies are funneled. It becomes a part of the movies themselves, almost as an auteur figure behind them, which is undoubtedly a reason why, by the end of the year, A24 will be the studio that stands out the most. Its films are almost like events nowadays, something previously ascribed only to studio blockbusters.
But most importantly, A24 is making the movies fun again — not just the movies themselves, but the anticipation of them, the promotional and paratextual consumption of them and the discourse created in their aftermath. Movie-going isn’t just sitting in a theater; it’s everything else too. And if companies like A24 keep innovating, the movies might have a chance.
Featured image via A24.