For those of you that don’t know; Among the latte-sipping, depressed, vinyl-collecting, thrift-shopping indie film kid generation, A24 is the seal of film excellence. It’s a mark of quality. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a studio brand since Pixar or Disney. Among today’s crowd, very few studio names stand out enough to be a draw for a film. Blumhouse comes to mind as it too has become synonymous with the campy, kitschy horror movies it tends to produce and mass distribute. However, among the oddball, independent, arthouse films, A24 seemed to be the only standout heavy-hitter at-bat; that is until NEON.
Box office numbers aside, there is no particular race for some sort of illustrious “indie king” title or trophy. But it’s always fun to pit two things against each other just for the hell of it, and if A24 is to have a rival, NEON is the worthiest challenger.
The Current Reigning (in my heart)
In this game of independent film distribution glory, A24 has had much longer to establish itself as the indie darling it is today. The company was founded in 2012, with the hopes of bringing about “movies from a distinctive point of view“. Within their first year, Spring Breakers, The Bling Ring and The Spectacular Now were hits in their own respective ways, earning spots in year-end lists and achieving a sense of cult status. With the addition of films like Enemy, Under the Skin, Tusk, and Ex Machina, A24 had become the home for the misfit, groundbreaking and diverse films it had hoped to be.
By 2017, the company had started to become a regular not only in producing the distinctive films it first started with; but also at award shows, producing a Best Picture winner, in addition to a few other Academy Award, Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominees. Each year, their output growing larger and more diverse. Films like Lady Bird, Moonlight, Room, Hereditary, Eighth Grade and The Lobster are among my favorite films of the last decade and seeing the A24 logo unravel itself before any movie will always brings along a sense of eagerness and excitement.
The Challenger (not officially)
If A24 is the champion, making appearances at award shows, festivals and running laps around my heart, NEON is the young, hip, slightly edgier(?) up-and-comer that everyone should be looking out for; if they aren’t already. Starting out a fresh two years ago, NEON promptly put itself into awards discussions when I,Tonya became a staple of the 2017 Awards season and the film earned Allison Janney an Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress.
Though in 2018 they had an interesting line-up, their films remained mostly under-the-radar with only a few, Vox Lux, Assassination Nation, and Three Identical Strangers getting some buzz from critics and the film community alike. In 2019, however, NEON’s selection has grown especially impressive as the company has managed to pick up a multitude of award-winning films from both Sundance and Cannes thus far.
Cool, and Now What?
Now, we throw both companies into a pit and have them fight to the death as there can only be one company distributing high-quality independent film properties… Or, we can just wait in anticipation and see which company will deliver the most bops in 2019. Do not be misled by the purposeful clickbait title though, I do not intend to tear one company down for the sake of the other. Rather, I prefer to admire and anticipate the high-caliber firepower both studios now possess, and, for the sake of friendly competition, look forward to seeing how their films will inevitably shape year-end lists and awards’ conversations.
In one corner, you have A24 whose lineup includes Sundance favorites The Souvenir, winner of the Foreign Dramatic Grand Jury Prize; The Last Black Man In San Francisco, winner of a Special Jury Prize in the Dramatic field and The Farewell, one of the most popular and most esteemed films at this year’s festival. They also feature Midsommar, Hereditary-director Ari Aster’s sophomore feature which has firmly cemented itself as my most anticipated film of the year.
At Cannes, they premiered The Lighthouse, another horror sophomore feature, though this one from the director of A24’s New England nightmare, The Witch (Robert Eggers). One to watch out for, though unannounced officially, is Uncut Gems, as it sees another pair of A24 alum returning; The Safdie Brothers, directors of Good Time.
Though impressive, NEON’s lineup surely surpasses A24’s tally in terms of award-winners; theirs features this year’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner Parasite, as well as the Sundance Grand Jury prize winners for U.S. Dramatic, Clemency, and World Documentary, Honeyland, hence giving them three grand prize winners to add to their arsenal. Their roster also features other festival favorites such as Monos, which won a special jury prize at Sundance, the award-winning documentary Apollo 11 as well as Luce and Little Monsters, both of which were highly regarded and raved about throughout the festival; from Cannes, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, this year’s Queer Palm winner and the highest-rated film of the year so far.
You can catch a better glimpse of each company’s release schedule on their websites (A24, NEON) and social media accounts. There’s also this article written by a friend on the massive year NEON is planning in 2019 that goes further in-depth on their announced line-up. Obviously, the year is far from over and both companies will eventually end up with a much wider, more solid roster of films as the year rounds out; they both have films that are still in the works and films that they may pick up at later festivals. This post is merely a long-winded way of saying that NEON, A24 and many other smaller production companies are still producing unique, quality and original stories by artists.
It is so exciting to see how the film landscape is changing and how so many unique and incredible stories and ideas are being noticed and brought forth and picked up by studios like these. Not mentioning the tons of other features slated to be released this year by other studios, those announced and unannounced, it truly is a great time to be a filmmaker and a great time to be a fan of film. I have a deep appreciation for companies like A24 and NEON that continue to provide opportunities and support for independent filmmakers whose ideas may have seemed at one point too outlandish or impossible.