Independent film has never been all that popular among regular moviegoers – that is until A24 showed up. Midsommar, Ex Machina, Lady Bird – recognise these titles? They’re all from this ground-breaking production company.
Founded in New York City in 2012, A24 has since evolved to become the go-to film distributor for independent films, and also making indies more accessible and recognisable to a wider audience. Not only that, but they have also gained a tremendous cult following; loyalty that I dare say would be envied by many companies. A24 films are notably far from the mainstream and exude the offbeat feel of many independent films.
However, their selling point has not just been that they are an ‘indie’ label. They produce films that are relatable, alternative, empathetic, and daring. Some notable examples, apart from those aforementioned, include the Best Picture-winning Moonlight, The Farewell, Eighth Grade, and the most recent award season frontrunner Minari. What has also helped boost the box office earnings for A24 are their stellar casts. While the studio has had no problem attracting big names to their projects, from Saoirse Ronan to Willem Dafoe, they have also given the spotlight to upcoming actors and have often provided a massive boost to their careers.
Take Florence Pugh for example – while she was getting plenty of work prior to leading Midsommar, she snagged even bigger roles (i.e., the constantly postponed Black Widow film) thereafter. Arguably, having an A24 logo at the start of your film is similar to having a quality seal – more often than not audiences know that they will be getting a well-made product. All this being said, A24 has ventured into TV too, and successfully so, with Euphoria becoming a crowd favourite.
Aside from its recognition among Hollywood players through its countless award nominations and wins, one could say, even just from observations and online mentions, that A24 is not just a production company but a brand, an adjective, and even a state of existence. And this is where A24 diverges from your usual film production company.
A24 knows how to capitalise on the many public platforms available across the internet, while also using their fame to encourage charity. They know that much of their audiences are well-connected and hungry for anything to soothe their craving for anything artsy, and they have delivered heavily in this area.
The A24 Podcast is one such example, in which the studio has kindly brought together a few of their talents from several of their films to have discussions about a wide range of topics. One episode brought together the A24 horror kings Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse) and Ari Aster (Hereditary, Midsommar), which ended up being a lively and stimulating discussion between two friends.
Podcasts not your thing? Perhaps you like reading more… Thankfully, A24 has some interesting articles up on their website, as well as zines for purchase from their store (more on this later). They have your usual interview articles, but also poke fun at their films through themed articles that are almost Buzzfeed-esque: they released a holiday gift guide in 2020, which included what to gift your toxic romantic partner, inspired by Jack Reynor’s character Christian from Midsommar.
The way A24 handles their social media has been following the recent corporate trend of brand personification, whereby the tone of their copy sounds casual and playful – as though they were someone’s personal account. They are able to appeal to a young adult audience well, which makes up their main target market. Highlights include retweeting memes of their films on Twitter, together with a tweet of The Lighthouse star Robert Pattinson and cows.
More frequently, you can also observe the studio’s name and film slate as a whole being used to describe a mood or state of mind. There are numerous Spotify playlists using the name, such as “my life, but produced by A24” and “songs that make me feel like I’m in an A24 film”. Similar wording is seen on Twitter, further demonstrating the sheer influence and reach of the studio.
The past year has been a troubled time for all (see Keith Mulopo’s article: Hasta La Vista Cinema), and A24 has played their part in helping make life a little less difficult less hard for some. Through their A24 auctions, they have managed to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for several organizations in New York – giving back to the community they started in. The mermaid carving you might recognise from The Lighthouse sold for a whopping $110,750, which benefitted the Food Bank of New York City. The description given? “Oh, to be a little mermaid held tightly by Robert Pattinson.” Classic A24.
Amongst all this, you can even own a piece of A24. Well, kind of. The production company has a merchandise shop. How often do you see a film studio sell merch with their own logo plastered all over? Not very. A24’s merch somehow never comes off as tacky, compared to say, if there was a shirt with a Warner Bros logo on the front. They sell more things than you could ever imagine from a company in the industry – caps, candles, gym shorts (yes), and even a beach towel!
Audiences’ liking for A24 and their films is hugely apparent – especially on social media – and they likely know this themselves. It could be because of how the company has been changing up the Hollywood landscape, through providing alternatives to the usual studios’ works, that many have grown tired of, they have managed to capture the imaginations of a youth tired of never-ending movie franchises.
While as mentioned before that A24 films tend to have similar tones and big themes, they are still wildly distinct from each other, and from an audience perspective don’t show any evidence of a formulaic concept that has become so resonant in bigger studio projects. Even Sofia Coppola told GQ in an interview about A24, that “they don’t have the personality of movie executives.”
It begs the question though: is A24 still truly an independent film company? Or would it be more suited to be labelled as working within the mainstream? From a financial perspective, their films do follow the typical guidelines of what counts as an indie. Their films work on miniscule budgets. To name a few, The Farewell had a budget of $3m, Moonlight with $1.5m, and The Florida Project with $2m. All went on to be critical hits, showing that smaller budgets don’t necessarily need to limit the potential of filmmaking, especially in Hollywood.
Their films are still nowhere near the levels of major film studios in terms of gross, but that doesn’t seem like a concern for them, as they appear to prioritise the art over the money – a characteristically indie trait. While they may still be relatively unknown to the average moviegoer, compared to other studios, they nonetheless have garnered a reputation within the industry that is above reproach.
A24 is the breath of fresh air we all need from time to time, in a creative arena that is still continuously bombarded with a wealth of sequels, prequels and reboots. A24 has managed to reach the regular moviegoer and has redefined what it means to have a movie experience. Not only are they changing the indie film landscape, but the way in which films in Hollywood are marketed and related to audiences – whether it is through storytelling or how the company is branded. They have removed themselves from the stench of money fuelled film studios and created a company that people are willing to support. Whether A24 continue in this fashion or proceed to turn into a corporate studio that pushes out the next franchise remains to be seen. However, for now… We can hopefully look forward to their future creations.
Written by Pui Kuan