On July 19 2023, YouTuber @TheHorrorGuru tweeted an article from Variety, claiming that the smaller independent production company A24 managed to “adhere to SAG-AFTRA’S terms while the big studios making the top 10 grossing films of the year are acting like they can’t afford” to do so:
What is A24?
A24 is a Manhattan-based film studio known for films such as Everything Everywhere All at Once, Uncut Gems, and series such as Beef. It has a dedicated fanbase, unusual for studios, as Vulture pointed out in 2022:
In its ten years of existence [as of 2022], A24 has released more than 100 films in nearly every genre imaginable, from psychological thrillers set in 1890s lighthouses to slapstick romps about intergenerational trauma. In the early years, the brand was built on hype-baiting films like Spring Breakers as well as brainy genre fare like Ex Machina and The Witch. (All of these were acquisitions; the studio didn’t begin producing its own films until Moonlight.) Its films felt like something new, harder-edged than the typical art-house film of the aughts and more nakedly expressionistic. Ask A24 fans to describe what unites them, and they’ll use words like eclectic, eccentric, immersive, and authentic.
There is a certain sleight-of-hand involved, as not everything A24 has put out is great. In the wake of Spring Breakers, it released a bad Gus Van Sandt movie (The Sea of Trees), a bad Gillian Flynn adaptation (Dark Places), and not one but two bad Atom Egoyan movies (The Captive and Remember). But the magic of the brand was that over time it has been able to sell the idea of A24 as synonymous with originality, idiosyncrasy, and prestige. Not a movie but a film.
A24’s distribution of the film Everything Everywhere All at Once in 2022 raised its profile, and the 2023 release of Beef on Netflix also drew acclaim. In May 2023, Vox.com’s video “How A24 took over Hollywood” was prefaced:
A24 swept the 2022 Oscars. They’ve made some of the most distinct and interesting movies and TV shows of the past 10 years. But most importantly, they’ve garnered a reputation for quality — and their brand loyalty is so strong that hipster film bros everywhere are wearing A24 T-shirts and caps.
But unlike Universal or Paramount, studios that have been around for over a century, A24 has done this in just over a decade. How did this independent film distributor transform into a major player in the entertainment industry in such a short time?
A24’s official website is here.
The 2023 Writers Guild of America (WGA) Strike
In the early hours of May 2 2023, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) officially went on strike:
On July 14 2023, The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) joined the Writer’s Guild of America on strike. At stake is pay, which has dropped dramatically in recent years for writers and actors thanks to revenue models in the post-streaming world, old contract structures that do not take those newer models into consideration, and technology being used as an excuse to refuse to pay workers across the board:
For decades, an actor who appeared on a popular TV show like “Seinfeld” or “The Office” even once could count on getting royalty checks when the show appeared in reruns, bringing pay even at times they were unable to find work.
The streaming model has largely dried up that income, with residual payments untethered from a show or movie’s popularity. Actors want a long-term share of that revenue.
The issue is one of many the actors have in common with writers. For both scribes and performers, the move to streaming and its ripple effects have also meant shorter seasons of shows with longer gaps between them, and therefore less work. They say inflation is outpacing the scheduled pay bumps in their contracts.
And both writers and actors fear the threat of unregulated use of artificial intelligence. The actors say studios want to be able to use their likenesses without having to hire them, or pay them.
Actors also say they’re contending with the new and increasing burden of self-taped auditions — the cost of which used to be the responsibility of casting and productions.
The [Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers] said it presented actors a generous deal that included the biggest bump in minimum pay in 35 years and “a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses.” They say the union has “regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry.”
In the July 19 2023 tweet embedded above, @TheHorrorGuru commented alongside the linked Variety article:
I want you let it sink in that A24, the smaller company that makes and distributes low budget independent films, is able to adhere to SAG-AFTRA’S terms while the big studios making the top 10 grossing films of the year are acting like they can’t afford it.
In other words, the tweet appeared to suggest that a small and less established production company (A24) had no difficulty with navigating SAG-AFTRA’S terms, while at the same time larger and wealthier studios were treating those same terms as unfeasible. @TheHorrorGuru linked to a July 18 2023 Variety article, “SAG-AFTRA Approves 39 Indie Projects to Shoot During Strike, Including Two A24 Films”:
SAG-AFTRA has granted approval to 39 independent productions to shoot during the strike, after confirming that they are not tied to AMPTP companies.
The list includes two projects from A24, the independent production company: “Mother Mary,” starring Anne Hathaway and Michaela Coel, and “Death of a Unicorn,” starring Paul Rudd and Jenna Ortega, which is set to begin shooting soon in Hungary.
A24 is not part of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said a spokesperson for the company.
The Variety article indicated that A24’s independence from the AMPTP was part of the reason two of their films were greenlit for production despite the strikes. The article also addressed A24’s compliance with SAG-AFTRA terms:
On [July 18 2023], the union posted a list of the 39 projects approved so far … The productions agree to abide by the terms of the latest offer submitted by SAG-AFTRA during contract negotiations. Ultimately, the productions will adhere to the final deal negotiated by the AMPTP.
Variety further reported that SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director and chief general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland “actively encouraged” actors “to participate in such projects,” and continued:
[Crabtree-Ireland] said if independent productions are able to move forward on the union’s terms, that undermines the studio talking point that the union’s demands are “unrealistic.”
A viral July 19 2023 tweet by @TheHorrorGuru claimed that A24, “the smaller company that makes and distributes low budget independent films, is able to adhere to SAG-AFTRA’S terms while the big studios making the top 10 grossing films of the year are acting like they can’t afford it.” An attached article by entertainment trade publication Variety reported on 39 production waivers approved by SAG-AFTRA on July 18 2023, including two projects by A24. Union executive Duncan Crabtree-Ireland was quoted in the piece, saying that the waivers clearly undermined the arguments from AMPTP studios that SAG-AFTRA’s stated terms for returning to work were “unrealistic.”