Here's what Frank Ocean’s A24 movie might be about

A coming-of-age classic? A western? An arthouse drama? It's not even confirmed yet but our brains are in overdrive.

by Douglas Greenwood
06 June 2022, 2:40pm

image via Getty

After years of radio silence from Frank Ocean on the music front, it seems like the Grammy-winning star will be adding a new creative arrow to his bow. Rumours are swirling of him making his feature-length movie directorial debut with a new project, speculated to be titled Philly, set to start production with A24 before the end of the year. Details are scarce — but knowing Frank’s tastes and the team behind the scenes, let’s make some brief hypotheses as to what the movie could be about.

Of course, Frank Ocean is never doing nothing: he’s been keeping busy with Homer, his new luxury jewellery brand, and there’s bound to be new music on the way, since he’s scheduled to headline Coachella in 2023. But based on the story broken by Discussing Film last week, it looks like his movie work may be the most imminent.

So the story goes, Frank is apparently working with cult production company A24 and newcomer production company 2AM, ran by movie industry heavyweight Christine D'Souza Gelb, on Philly. Rumoured to be working alongside him at 2AM are two of its top executive producers: Julia Oh, who joined the company last year from Film4, and David Hinojosa, who co-founded the company with Christine. Julia’s production credits are strong, with American Honey and the British teen drama Rocks in her back catalogue; David’s is too, ranging from A24 projects like Zola and Bodies Bodies Bodies to Carol and Vox Lux. If that is indeed Frank’s team, he’s in extremely good hands. These studios also give us a good idea of the nebulous film’s potential budget. If you’re making a $250 million blockbuster, A24 aren’t the guys you go to. If it materialises, expect a lower budget affair.

Frank also, naturally, would have had a hand in deciding who he works with on this project. If Julia and David are his selections, what does that say about the kind of film he’s trying to make? American Honey, Rocks, Bodies Bodies Bodies and Zola are all projects tied to young people and their formative experiences. We know that Frank likes coming-of-agers, too. In a list of Frank’s favourite films — published in his famous and coveted Boys Don’t Cry zine — he namedropped a few famous examples, like Wes Anderson’s high school comedy Rushmore and the 1940s Italian neo-realist drama Bicycle Thieves, about a boy and his father trying to make ends meet for their family.

There’s also, of course, his public respect for Call Me By Your Name. During that film’s press run, he interviewed Timothée Chalamet about it for V. Then, of course, there was a “secret project” Frank worked on with the film’s director Luca Guadagnino that’s yet to see the light of day. Luca’s films flit between breezy portraits of love in Europe and wild horror movies at the moment though, so it might be hard to use him as a litmus test for where Frank’s filmmaking language may be heading next.

It’s worth pointing out that the aforementioned ‘favourite movie’ list Frank compiled for Boys Don’t Cry includes some deep-cut cinema and veritable classics. He loves Wong Kar-Wai and the Coen Brothers; Luis Buñuel and Quentin Tarantino – the man’s taste is fairly diverse, way beyond the typical film bro framework. He’s also seen as a fairly serious person on the surface, but hey, there’s every potential Frank might be working on a comedy, if Wes’ early work is still inspiring him.

In terms of shooting locations, Discussing Film’s sources shared that Frank and his team are eyeing up New Mexico. New Mexico has evolved as a shooting location over the years. In the 20th century, it was a go-to for dusty landscapes for legendary filmmakers, with the likes of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and The Grapes of Wrath (1940) being shot there. More recently, its wide open space has been used as a place for big, air hangar-like movie studios: The Avengers, for example, was shot on sound stages there. But it was also the place where Brokeback Mountain was partially filmed. Maybe then, Frank plans to make a Western?

The intention, apparently, is to shoot the project this Autumn, wrapping before the year is out. That would give Frank enough time to work on post-production and get the film ready for festivals by late summer the following year, following in the footsteps of other A24 projects, like Waves, for which Frank provided several of his songs for the soundtrack.

His other A24 connection is tenuous: he provided the foreword for the hardback book of Moonlight’s script, but both — alongside A24’s general perception as the arthouse moviemaking company of the moment — mean the collaboration would make perfect sense.

But this is all, as of yet, still just a rumour. i-D reached out to Frank’s reps who declined to comment. It seems like, if anything is going on at all, it’s still under wraps. Expect a more formal announcement — including, we hope, more on what the movie is about — or indeed a dispelling of all this hearsay very soon.

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Frank Ocean