A24: The Sacred Numbers

There are a huge number of film studios that flicker before our eyes every now and then — sometimes because of scandals and a failure to handle film properly. But there is one that always stays in the shadows and remains truly independent.

by Anastasia Ageeva and Naya Guseva

Taking into account Dune conquering the box-office and subsequently the world today, it should be mentioned that the first successful film for A24 was also made by Denis Villeneuve. Enemy starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, and Isabella Rossellini is an unexpected genre turn in the career of someone who was named the best director of the decade last year. Before his triumph, the company distributed projects by Harmony Corine, Sophia Coppola, Sally Potter, etc, but none of them have found their way to the general public.

In 2016, A24 robbed Damien Chazelle of the Oscars: the director presented his film La La Land that year. It was Moonlight by Barry Jenkins that took the Academy award for Best Picture grabbing two more — for Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay — along the way. It is important to note that this was the company's first original production. Excellent performance was also shown by Room — a drama starring Brie Larson and our underage crush Jacob Trembley that reflected the issue of missing people or those held hostage. Similar success awaited Ex Machina — a British sci-fi film that won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects and outrun George Miller on the fury road. As for marketing, A24 promoted the film at SXSW with a fake Tinder account with the face of Alicia Vikander.
On the topic of promotion, let's say that A24 walks a thin line with success. They were among the first who had abandoned traditional methods in favour of social media — 95% of the A24 promotional budget is applied to Internet platforms. And they do it with style — the company chose "Don't ask permission — ask for forgiveness" as its credo. For example, they made a parody of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci for the release of Razor Holidays with James Franco at the head of the table.

A24 welcomes the same creativity in films. For instance, David Lowery made A Ghost Story quite unique in terms of the use of acting — Casey Affleck's character dies soon after the beginning and the rest of the time walks around covered with a bedsheet, acting exclusively with his body. To reflect the idea of the film, the company offered the New Yorkers an immersive experience — they could wear a bedsheet like Affleck. An important additional note: this is the same David Lowery — the director of The Green Knight that thrilled everyone — especially our editor-in-chief.
Barry Jenkins (director, 'Moonlight'): A24's the kind of company where they say, "Yeah, they don't need to know what it's about. They just need to know how it feels."
Most of A24's hits were based on famous novels or adapted from real events but still there are some compelling originals the world needs to talk about more. For instance, Steven Knight's claustrophobic drama Locke starring Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, and young Tom Holland. Later on there was Good Time by the Safdie brothers that fell into the same category and featured, in our opinion, the best acting from Robert Pattinson so far. The directors got back for their next film Uncut Gems which received a nomination for Golden Raspberry, but a good one — The Razzie Redeemer Award for Adam Sandler's performance.

A24 employs an array of talented directors. Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos joined the same company when he decided to make The Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Lobster, followed by the rising star Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) and the soon-to-become-a-director-to-talk-about James Franco (The Disaster Artist). Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert made a stir when they turned their namesake Daniel Radcliffe into a pliable doll in Swiss Army Man. Opinions of critics and audiences were controversial, but still a wise observation was made: "All of this high-concept absurdism in a semi-magical forest ends up being a surprisingly effective way to examine modern life from a clear distance." And we can't argue with David Bax from Battleship Pretension on this.
Colin Farrell (actor, 'The Lobster,' 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer'): They have such a great eye for these small little films and rich and unique stories that may have not found it to the big screen if it wasn't for them.
A24 helps debuting directors like Ari Aster, Robert Eggers, and Bo Burnham to break out in the huge cinema world. Their first films (Hereditary, The Witch, and Eighth Grade respectively) came out under the close supervision of the company. The directors above are those we in In Visible love with all our hearts, so you can also check out our materials on the psychology of relationships in Ari Aster's films and on polytheism of Robert Eggers' stories.

The bet on amateur cinema has paid off. In the nine years following the launch of A24, these three symbols on posters have come to convey the obvious meaning — the film session you go to will be remembered for a long time
" The biggest thing that stood out to me — and why I was so ready to make 'Moonlight' — was that I always felt you could feel the filmmakers' voices in their films. That's why everyone says, 'I know what an A24 film is, but no A24 film is like any other."
A24 filled the gap that existed in the market and offered a huge variety of genres and styles. But still, as many have noticed, their films share "an elusive unifying quality", says The Washington Post and quotes Barry Jenkins:
In the last few years there emerged a certain concern for A24 in terms of competition. Such companies as Fox Searchlight, Annapurna, Neon, and Blumhouse gain popularity among cinematographers and provide a huge variety of gripping projects. They also made quite an entrance during awards season with Her, Joy, Get Out, I, Tonya, BlacKkKlansman, etc.
Another form of entertainment that A24 produces is TV shows. The first series produced by the company was released on Amazon in 2018. Comrade Detective is a great parody comedy telling the story of Romanian police during the Cold War and featuring Channing Tatum. The company also had a hand in producing Euphoria— a strewn with nominations drama about different teenage traumas. The latest TV release from A24 is the series Mr. Corman with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the title role of an ordinary school teacher who experiences panic attacks and cherishes his dream of becoming a musician.

What is so special about the films that A24 produces? They are not just a bastion of fantasy, even if there's a woman carrying a baby lamb. There is something much deeper behind them that makes even the strangest stories engaging.

To begin with, A24's productions are frightening and make you tense in a slightly different way. In Hereditary the scariest scene is the family dinner — the degree of psychological catastrophe rises. Similarly, The Lighthouse terrifies us not with references to German expressionism or visions of the protagonists, but with their utterly animalistic behaviour. And even though many of the themes are far removed from our everyday lives, their representation hits the mark. Saint Maud, for example, tells the story of a fervent believer who finds universal salvation in God. Not all of us have met fanatics in real life, but by the end of the film we are likely to curl up in a knot in fear of poor Maud's obsession. The bottom line is that aspects of psychology found in A24's films can be infinitely distant from the viewer, but are presented in such detail that they cannot be understood.
What's more, not many people are interested in folk and mysticism. Who in their right mind would want to see a film about a Puritan family who are banished from the community because their daughter is suspected of having an affair with the devil, while he appears as a black goat? We're talking about Robert Eggers' The Witch. However, the beauty of A24's authors' story is its novelty. Even the story of a puritan family can be presented in such a way that the viewer can see themselves in the character of Anya Taylor-Joy, rejected by her family. The Green Knight, the anonymous story of one of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table, is worth watching. However, David Lowery releases the story at a time when humanity is suffering from a universal attempt to stand out and stand up to its superiors. Therefore the film's main target audience is haggard clerks.

Speaking of David Lowery. The studio's website has published his rather personal letter relating to the latest film. And it's very rewarding: it's one thing to be interviewed in a major publication, quite another to have a letter that begins with the words "Dear Friends".

By the way, here it is.
The idea of the author in general is at the forefront of A24's politics. They openly share their visions, traumas, dreams and so on with the viewer. The studio, in turn, does not restrict them in any way. Maybe that's why, on A24's official website, next to the letter from the Safdie brothers, you can see a note called How To Cast A Dick.

Thanks to this freedom, almost every film has an element of surprise. The good pacing set by already-mentioned Safdie Brothers takes an inexplicable turn every 15 minutes and leaves no opportunity to understand what's going on — unfairness and failure squared away. You're unlikely to remember how Robert Pattinson's character got from point A to point B, but it will also encourage you to watch the film again. The acclaimed Uncut Gems starred Adam Sandler, who everyone is used to seeing as a comedian. Here he's an addicted, almost insane underground jewellery dealer. And Sandler is absolutely wonderful in the role.

Here we can also think of Jonah Hill, who is also familiar to everyone from his rambling roles in comedies. And boom — he becomes the director of Mid90s, a heartwarming drama about a boy who dreams of making friends and becoming a professional skateboarder.

A24 is open and free about everything. The marketing campaigns deserve a special mention too. Watch out for spoilers next.

Remember the mermaid figurine that Pattinson's character masturbated to in The Lighthouse? You could buy one of these at an auction from A24. A floral dress from Ari Aster's Midsommar was also available for purchase there. And the puzzle in the form of Charlie's severed head from Hereditary is still available, should you ever really want one.
We have told you enough to pique your interest. Let's not get bored and suggest a few pictures that deserve your attention and are good for getting to know A24.

1. Swiss Army Man (2016)
2. The Lighthouse (2019)
3. Mid90s (2018)
4.Hereditary (2018)
5. Good time (2017)
6. The Green Knight (2021)
7. The Disaster Artist (2017)
8. A Ghost Story (2017)
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