Film studios are mostly portrayed in one of two ways: they’re either the glossy, insidious, corporate robots churning out every Marvel film you never asked for, or the lonesome indie brand that gives their artists unlimited freedom.
Recently, however, things have been changing. In 2017, Get Out has asserted itself as one of the year’s biggest box office hits, when its budget totalled in at just $5 million. Clearly, there is an appetite for incisive, woke, and mid-budget genre films with biting social commentary – and A24, the studio behind Moonlight and Spring Breakers, has found that perfect balance between market appeal and creative freedom that made Get Out such a success.
Typically, A24 productions are helmed by a sort-of established, hip-and-happening director (Sofia Coppola, Andrew Haig) with a budget between $1 million and $20 million. Some of the best received features of the past five years have spawned from their studio. In their first year alone, they released Spring Breakers, The Bling Ring, and The Spectacular Now, and, since then, they’ve distributed titles such as Under the Skin, Room, and American Honey (to name just a few) to widespread commercial and critical acclaim. Moonlight even won the top award at this year’s Oscars.
With a combination of snapping up the most visionary directors from the festival circuit, marketing their films with restrained ambiguity, and orchestrating a social media presence that finds as much time to retweet memes about Donald Trump as it does to promote its own films, A24 has found a gap in the market and filled it with bold and brilliant films. Some may argue that their marketing is deceiving – a simple, haunting, and vague trailer for The Witch resulted in some audience members feeling duped into believing it was just another trashy horror flick – but that’s the essence of their genius. Want to know how to create hype for a film that is so bat shit its audience won’t know what’s hit them? Release images of ex-Disney stars getting turnt on a party boat next to James Franco with dreadlocks. A24 managed to make Spring Breakers sell itself in the best way possible – by making the audience create the buzz for them.
Over the next year, things don’t look like slowing. A24 are working with some of the most interesting directors, actors, and writers currently making movies, blending indie sensibilities with a bold mass appeal.
A Ghost Story
Yes, a lot of this film’s screen time does involve Casey Affleck walking around with a white sheet thrown over him. However, director David Lowery has subverted the ghost costume everyone’s mum made for them as a kid, and morphed it into a haunting symbol for the protagonist’s post-mortem struggle to contemplate his existence. If you left out Haribos for this ghoul it would thank you with an existential crisis. A Ghost Story sees the deceased protagonist return to his wife (Rooney Mara) to comfort her grief, although he soon realises that he is stuck in time, watching passively as her memory of him fades. After premiering at Sundance earlier this year, the film opened in the US this month to rave reviews and IndieWire even named it as their best Indie film of 2017 so far. A Ghost Story opens in the UK on August 11th.
The Disaster Artist
For the past few years, all James Franco seems to have been doing is starring in underwhelming gay porn dramas (see King Cobra), generally making us yearn for a role up to the standard of his excellent performances in 127 Hours and Spring Breakers. Thankfully, The Disaster Artist might just be the film that saves his career. It revolves around the making of The Room, which has been dubbed as “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”. James Franco directs and stars as Tommy Wiseau, the man behind the world’s most unexpected cult classic, alongside his brother, Dave Franco. The satire received a standing ovation at SXSW earlier this year and its first trailer was released yesterday. A24 will release The Disaster Artist later this year.
Under the Silver Lake
Surprisingly, the last few years have seen a handful of commercially successful arthouse horror movies: The Babadook, The Witch, and It Follows have gone on to become low-key cult classics and managed to perform well at the box office, too. It Follows was a chilling exploration of sex and death in the American suburbs, with an off kilter otherworldly vibe, some excellent cinematography, and a pulsating electronic score from Disasterpeace. The film’s director, David Robert Mitchell, will follow it up with Under the Silver Lake, a neo-noir thriller set in Los Angeles starring Andrew Garfield. Hopes are high for the director’s sophomore feature; It Follows is a movie that begs to be watched over and over – and we can only hope that what will follow is a film that creeps up on its audiences as slyly as Mitchell’s last.
Lean on Pete
45 Years was a beautiful exploration of dwindling love in later life and Weekend, the simple story of how two men fall for each other over two days, is perhaps one of the best depictions of LGBTQ+ relationships, well, ever. Both were directed by Andrew Haig whose next feature, Lean on Pete, is to be distributed by A24. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Willy Vlautin, it tells the story of a young boy who goes in search of his lost aunt, aided only by a stolen racehorse named Lean on Pete, and stars Steve Buscemi, Travis Fimmel, and Chloe Sevigny. Little is known about the project, but the mere mention of Haig – who is perhaps the best social realist of his generation – is enough reason to be excited about this film. No release date has yet been confirmed, but we’re excited nonetheless.
Kristen Stewart has had an excellent few years, starring in the likes of Personal Shopper, Certain Women, and Café Society, managing to deftly shake off those fangs and leave her toothy past behind her. Robert Pattinson, however, has had more of a rocky ride: The Rover and Maps to the Stars introduced him as a talent worthy of indie appeal, but they didn’t quite cement his status in the same way that K-stew’s recent roles have.Enter Good Time, the hypnotic crime thriller directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, the guys behind 2014’s Heaven Knows What. Good Time sees Connie (Pattinson) embark on an odyssey through the NYC criminal underworld to save his brother from prison. Early reviews hint towards Oscar success for Pattinson and, perhaps, a nod for the Safdie brothers. A24 is yet to confirm a UK release date, but the feature will open in the US on August 11th.
Words by Liam Taft