A24 illustration by Ashawna Linyard for Caleb Dukes' article
A24 is the future of the film industry as it rejects restrictive Hollywood demands for pure artistic freedom and expression. (Illustration by Ashawna Linyard, Georgia State University)

A24 and the Transition From Hollywood Big-Budgets to Arthouse Masterpieces

This artier newcomer is stepping into the film industry’s spotlight and edging out previous stalwarts like Miramax.

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A24 illustration by Ashawna Linyard for Caleb Dukes' article

This artier newcomer is stepping into the film industry’s spotlight and edging out previous stalwarts like Miramax.

Only a few years ago, Oscar nominations and box offices were filled with big-budget pictures from what could be described as name-brand production studios like Miramax, 20th Century Fox, The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. While no one is denying the staying power that all of these companies hold, it is no longer surprising to see more indie films from lesser known arthouse production companies winning awards and making tons of money. One production company especially stands out among the rest: A24.

A24 (originally A24 Films) was founded in 2012, but has already made a name for itself worldwide. It is honestly astounding how fast they were able to grow and prosper after their 2013 release, “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III.” The company was only slow going for a few moments before hugely breaking through with “Spring Breakers” later that year. The rest is history, as they say. Well, barely, considering how young the company is. However, since then, A24 has released film after film with stunning reviews.

Part of the beauty of A24’s independent, arthouse nature is that they can — for the most part — create whatever they want. It doesn’t matter if the films fit the mold of what people think a movie should be, whether they have a budget of millions or if they star the biggest celebrities in Hollywood (although in recent years, they have). In a sense, the producers don’t need to change their views for what the public wants to see, or what a bunch of white, male executives think the public wants to see.

Because of this, A24 has gained a reputation for making movies that depict viewpoints from people whose perspectives have historically been suppressed, such as racial minorities, women and queer people. This could be considered a big reason for their rapid success. Despite what those aforementioned white, male executives think, the world is not just white and male, and the world enjoys seeing itself on screen. People want to see their own viewpoints. Some of A24’s most beloved and awarded films that portray these “new” viewpoints include Greta Gerwig’s semi-autobiographical debut, “Lady Bird”; the year’s most beautiful multilingual flick yet, called “The Farewell”; and “Moonlight,” a coming-of-age story of a black, gay man named Chiron, which won the Oscar for best picture a few years back.

That was probably the biggest turning point for A24. After “Moonlight” famously beat out “La La Land” for best picture and everyone witnessed the biggest onstage mix-up ever, A24 immediately became the talk of the town. Suddenly every star wanted to be in their films, not just the then-undiscovered Brie Larson (who also won an Oscar for her A24 film, “Room”). The studio was officially on-par with their “bazillionaire” peers, and nobody knew what to do about it. It was like the world had flipped and you no longer made a movie with Paramount to win awards. Now, you traded off that paycheck and signed up for A24’s waiting list instead.

This switch really speaks to the new direction the public and Hollywood are going in. People are finally starting to care about seeing new stories and how people are treated in the process of making the content that they consume. Especially after the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, consumers have become disillusioned with gigantic companies that have little to no accountability and allow atrocious acts to occur within their systems. After all, Miramax, one of the largest production companies in Hollywood and the maker of films like “Pulp Fiction” and “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” was started by Harvey Weinstein. And we do not need to get into everything wrong with that. So many things.

Of course A24, like any other company, is not free of its own problems. It did produce “The Disaster Artist” starring James Franco (yikes), which told the story of and glorified the very problematic filming process of “The Room” as well as the life of its creator, Tommy Wiseau. I’m sure there are also lots of other problems, and they must be acknowledged. But when compared to the huge systematic problems within larger companies, these are much more addressable.

There are so many good things that A24 does that should also be acknowledged. As they have expanded into doing more television, the studio has produced even more stories that are largely ignored, such as Hulu’s “Ramy,” the story of a first-generation American Muslim living in his perceived divide between his generation and his Egyptian culture. Or HBO’s enormous new hit, “Euphoria,” which is co-produced by Drake and stars Zendaya as a drug addicted teenager just trying to grow up.

Even as A24’s popularity grows, they are not always at the top nowadays. Zendaya and the rest of the team on “Euphoria” were just shut out of the Golden Globes nominations, even though the show was largely considered a lock at least for best actress in a television series drama, making their shot at Emmy gold even more distant. And some of their biggest films this year, such as horror flick “Midsommar” and Adam Sandler-led “Uncut Gems,” were also severely snubbed. Not even “The Farewell,” probably my favorite film of the year, could nab a best picture musical or comedy nomination. But thankfully its lead, Awkwafina, did score a nomination.

All of this is to say that arthouse production companies could be the future of Hollywood. They are coming up big in both the box office and the award shows these days. Though they do not completely outshine the big-budget studios (I doubt anyone will ever unseat Disney), that is pretty typical for any production company. Let’s just hope that as A24 and others continue to rise in prominence, they do not turn into just another Miramax with horrific leaders and no vision for the evolution of filmmaking. To put it tragically (but realistically), I’d take A24’s cheap neon light cinematography over some million dollar CGI that comes with worker abuse any day.

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