John Heavey ’09 has been with A24 since the company’s early days as an upstart independent film distributor through its evolution to the renowned studio that produced Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2017. Now based at A24’s Los Angeles offices, Heavey is heading up marketing and advertising strategies for the company which, while still relatively small, casts an outsized shadow in Hollywood.
“Especially the first two years, we fell in love with every movie,” Heavey said in a 2017 oral history of the studio that appeared in GQ. “When I was explaining to people what I was doing, it felt like a political campaign. Like, you believe in something, you fall in love with it, and then you work for three months on trying to make it work.”
After earning his master’s in cinema studies at New York University, Heavey joined A24 as an intern in 2013 before the first film the company acquired had been released. The company’s size at the time demanded an “all hands on deck” approach, he says. “When it’s 10 people in the room, you’re doing your job but also listening and learning through osmosis.”
Heavey spent the next several years at A24’s New York headquarters coordinating distribution. As he explains it, “there are people who make the movies, people who market the movies, and people who put the movies in marketplaces. I was taking our movies and working with theaters to get them out to audiences.”
In 2016, films distributed by A24 took home Oscars for Best Actress (Brie Larson in Room), Best Documentary Feature (Amy), and Best Visual Effects (Ex Machina). The following year, in addition to the Academy Award for Best Picture, Moonlight won Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali)
As the company has expanded from distribution to production, and enjoyed international acclaim (including dozens of other Academy Award nominations for films it distributed and produced), Heavey says that “every step feels bigger. We started out acquiring finished films; now we’re a full-fledged studio.”
But even as A24 “feels like its growing exponentially,” its culture remains tightknit, which Heavey says is “one of my favorite things about it.” With the company’s media operation now in-house, Heavey defines the budget for a given project, develops a marketing plan and oversees a three-person team as they execute that plan.
Before joining A24, Heavey worked for Focus Features, the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Happy Madison Productions. He earned his B.A. in English at HWS, where he was captain of the Hobart varsity crew team, secretary of the Kappa Alpha Society, a writing colleague tutor and editor of The Herald.