Since it’s inception in 2012 A24 has been the model for critical consistency in terms of quality. I’m here to tell you why this makes them perhaps the best studio currently going. To understand this we must first understand the studio’s release history and where it all started. So let’s do just that?
As with the start to anything A24’s life was the brainchild of industry veteran’s. David Fenkel, former president of another good independent studio Oscilloscope Films, John Hodges former Head of Production and Development at indie studio Big Beach and lastly former finance leader at Guggenheim Partners Daniel Katz. With this trinity, we have a money guy, a production guy, and a head guy. With some seed money provided by Guggenheim, they began to try and tell stories but their first story was not one looked upon in a way their future releases would be.
The studio’s first production was a film written/directed and produced by Roman Coppola (son of Francis Ford) and it was called (A Glimpse Inside the Mind of) Charles Swan III. This films starring Charlie Sheen, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray was by no means a success for the studio and only made $210,565 its whole domestic run. On top of that, the film was panned with one critic stating “Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the film it that it adequately depicts the narcissism of its star…”. Ouch! That had to sting, especially when coupled with the lack of success. Lucky for the studio a string of absolutely amazing films was in store.
Transforming Independent Cinema
With their next two releases, the studio would start to pick up critical success (with Ginger & Rosa) and financial success (Spring Breakers). Harmony Korine’s polarizing film did more than making the studio money though, it got buzz all over the internet. For this journalist though it was Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring that gave the studio it’s the first major “get”. Coming off a film like Somewhere which went ironically nowhere Coppola took a true crime story and made a decent film. It is the first Oscar-nominated director whose film they were able to lock down. With 2014 on the horizon they released 12 films (this would end up being their average) and each of them tells a different story. From James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now, a teenage love story to the oddly hypnotic sci-fi thriller Under the Skin.
Telling stories in a unique way
Now with their reputation rising and the critical acclaim coming in from their previous films they began to take chances on the films they were putting out. Here’s the thing though, they were still excellent films. Let’s talk about some of these concepts. Above is the trailer for Locke starring Tom Hardy which is set entirely in the title characters BMW. A bold concept but one pulled off swimmingly. As well Obvious Child takes a very pro-feminist stance and doesn’t really care what you think. Enemy is an odd film that has been explained online and that sort of thing is necessary for a film like this. Its concept is so odd and difficult to understand you’ll need things explained to you or to rewatch the film several times. Regardless Denis Villeneuve’s film gained great praise. When talking about 2014 for A24 Life After Beth and Tusk were two films that failed to impress critically but were ballsy moves from an idea standpoint. They were outside of the box for sure. Even J.C. Chandor’s crime thriller A Most Violent Year was not told in a standard crime movie malaise.
Taking the next step
To say that any studio is the best you need a modicum of success. 2015 was the year that their previous critical acclaim blended with some financial success and catapulted A24 to a name that can be trusted. While We’re Young did okay at the box office and was good enough critically and Barely Lethal was neither of those things ($6,075 at the box office and 22% on RottenTomatoes) but it’s the other films we’re looking at here. Slow West, The End of the Tour and Cut Bank were all great films that really changed up their genre. It was, however, a trio of Oscar-nominated films that also made the studio a bunch of money. Amy a documentary about late singer Amy Winehouse won Best Documentary Feature at the 88th Academy Awards but it was not alone. Sci-fi thriller Ex-Machina played the Rocky Balboa to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Apollo Creed and took home the Oscar for Best Visual Effects and picking up a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Lastly, the accolades continued for a film I named the Best of 2015 Larry Abramson’s Room. Not only did Abramson pick up a nomination for Best Director, and the film itself received a Best Picture nomination but its star the lovely, talented, and underappreciated Brie Larson won the Best Actress statue. A height that most small studios would find it’s pinnacle. This would just continue the win streak that 2016 would see through the studio’s biggest ever victory.
Going big time
When we talk about a studio hitting its peak A24 in 2016 would be a model example. The VVitch, Green Room, The Lobster, Swiss Army Man, American Honey. There are studios that would kill to release this many fantastic films in a single year. This doesn’t include the films we didn’t get the luxury of seeing but received great reviews like Remember, Krisha, De Palma, and Morris From America. There is no other film though that needs to be in the conversation for what makes A24 such a transcendent and gutsy studio. Moonlight. Crafting a three chapter manifesto about a young, gay man dealing with his sexuality in a machismo-fueled Miami. Director Barry Jenkins is sure and certain in the story he’s telling. How many studios would’ve touched something like this with a ten-foot pole? With a 1.4 million dollar budget, A24 pushed it too well…the moon and the film ended up taking home more awards including the biggest of them all. After Mahershala Ali took home and trophy for Supporting Actor and director Barry Jenkins took home one for writing the screenplay the studio did it! Not just a nomination, or in this case 9 total for A24, they’d won the biggest prize in the land. Best Picture. Despite the announcement error and everything the little studio that could, had finally climbed the mountaintop.
“You’re the best around”
To truly be the best studio around you have to take risks and do things differently in an expertly written article which you can find HERE they discuss lessons learned in the films of A24. Things they’ve done risks taken that have helped the studio turn into one that you can consistently trust to turn out either interesting or critically acclaimed films. Sometimes both. I implore you to do yourself a favor and watch both A24’s bank catalog, a lot of which we’ve discussed here and their future releases like A Ghost Story whose trailer you can watch above. I want to have a discussion about these institutions that produce these films. What they do, what separates them from their counterparts. That, ladies and gents are what the comment section is for use it! Tell me what you think!
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