Chances are, your favorite director’s favorite learning tool growing up was DVD commentary. The best way to learn something is to do it, and these directors took the practices of the masters and got to work. While DVD commentary has gone by the wayside, A24 created a new solution tailored to their core audience.
They’ve created a modern equivalent of the director’s commentary with highly stylized, informative coffee table books. According to one A24 employee, DVD commentary and bonus footage was the inspiration that led to the idea of these books 18 months ago.
Focusing their just-released first batch on Moonlight, Ex Machina, and The Witch, the New York-based production company is trying to create an item cherished by both film nerds and the A24 fan who care as much about an Online Ceramics collaboration as the movies themselves. These books are for the fans that obsess over Barry Jenkins’ long takes, and for people that simply like the way Moonlight looks. In A24’s mind, both are a valuable part of their fanbase.
A24 has so many films that are by writer-directors, screenplays that are both well written and very precise. When you read the scripts, you can visualize exactly what they wanted from the very beginning. These books offer a peek into the process from original idea to final cut. In addition to copies of the shooting scripts, this means the books are filled with a collection of stills, designs, and sketches. It’s a wonderfully nuanced and precise bible for the devoted filmgoer, or an excellent addition to any bookshelf with an aesthetic bent.
A24’s dedication to the films themselves is the guiding light for all of their merchandise, which is partly why the books are so densely packed with insider info. There has always been a core of A24 cult followers. The production company has built on that, while still expanding their scope. There are promotional items that are related specifically to films. If you’re a fan of Midsommar, you may want something specific to the film, but you may not necessarily want an A24 hat. Then there are people that have been a fan of A24 for years and repping the company as a brand is as important as seeing the films.
This has allowed A24 to flourish outside of its role as a traditional production house. Top to bottom, from trailers to officially licensed T-shirts, the company has honed in on an aesthetic and geared everything towards this vision. It’s a little bit retro, often self-aware, and more often than not minimal but stylized. Because of this, the lifestyle side of A24 matches the films in concept. These are arthouse gems for an expanded audience, the company is aware of its hardcore base but able to invite more mainstream devotees on a film-by-film, item-by-item basis.
The films chosen for these books says a lot about the overall project to make screenplays proper collector’s items. There’s Moonlight, the indie-underdog-turned-Oscar-winner; then there’s Ex Machina, the sci-fi hellscape; lastly, there’s The Witch, the horror-thriller that made its budget back 10 times over. These books appeal to individual audiences, and A24 core devotees, who go to bat for each A24 film as a part of the collection more than as an individual work. For some, the A24 tag is reason enough to check out a film. For others, who may love Ex Machina but find speculative sci-fi uninteresting, there’s an easy access point without getting bogged down in the company’s minutiae.
A24 is currently America’s premiere arthouse production company, and the accessories they pair with the films mirror this selectiveness. These books feel rare, even if they’re about to enter a wide release. It’s a prestigious brand, because the films they release are critical darlings and commercial successes. The items accompanying the films are merely supplements, little treats to tie the brand into its films and its casual fans back into the brand.
Everything related to the company is intentional, even if it feels effortless. In an industry as fraught as modern American cinema, branding is almost as important as the films the brand represents. With this new collection of books, A24 solidifies and emphasizes this point. These are books about Moonlight, The Witch, and Ex Machina, but they’re also about A24 itself. A24 is as much a luxury brand as they are a production house now. When a new drop comes, devoted fans are going to be lined up around the block, eager to buy, collect or watch whatever is offered. It may be another Online Ceramics collab, or an upcoming flick like The Lighthouse or Uncut Gems. Regardless of the product, the market is ready.
- Words: Will Schube