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A24 and the Myth of the Indie Company

A24 are the New York based independent entertainment company who specialise in film production and distribution. Founded in 2012, A24 have shot to prominence in the worldwide film scene in only a short number of years, producing or distributing some of this decades most original and important work to come out of America. Their list is long and features an assortment of prominent filmmakers, from up-and-coming new American filmmakers like the Safdie Brothers and Ari Aster, to prominent European auteurs like Claire Denis. They seem to have appeared and filled a Miramax-shaped hole in the film landscape.

A24 are independent insofar as they are not beholden to shareholders, and as such, have no obligations to studio executives who may force them to cut up an auteurs masterpiece before its release. According to many of the filmmakers who have worked with A24, they are very accommodating and are almost always willing to give an artist creative control. But are they indie cinema? Or have they commodified the iconography and indicators of indie cinema in order to corner a section of the market? If we take indie to mean both independent of big business, and also as a counter to the mainstreams of both business and art, then yes, A24 could be considered indie- but not quite.
A24 may present like a plucky start up, but the reality is that it was founded by three veterans of the film production and distribution industry; Daniel Katz, David Fenkel, and John Hodges. They had the money and the prestige to get A24 off the ground and almost immediately started to distribute independent, genre, or art-house films from directors who could lend them some indie legitimacy. Their first film was written and directed by Roman Coppola, son of Francis, and their follow up was Spring Breakers by Harmony Korine. Very few directors in the American indie film scene are more respected than Harmony Korine, and by distributing Spring Breakers and basing much of the advertising around the fact that two ex-Disney actors (Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens) star in what looked like a sleazy soft-porn from the way the trailers were cut, is a play straight out of the Miramax book. They have also recently cut a deal with Apple to produce original films. Apple, hoping to compete with Netflix and Amazon has obviously turned to A24 to produce their films due to their “indie” credentials and massive success. It is highly unlikely that Apple will allow indie filmmakers carte blanche when making work for them; could this be the beginning of A24 forfeiting its indie credentials? Would an “indie” company be so quick to partner with one of the biggest companies in the world? What A24 is doing is important for the film industry, but don’t get it twisted, they’re not just in it for the love of film.