Posted on

Company of the Year Angel Studios

This isn’t their first Q Awards rodeo. The Harmon brothers were featured in 2017 as Marketer of the Year for their creative marketing agency. Their resume also includes founding Orabrush and VidAngel, a filtering service that helps families watch movies “however the (bleep) they want.”     

  The Harmons’ most recent venture is the light-amplifying film distribution studio, Angel Studios.

     Neal (CEO), Jeffrey (chief content officer) and Jordan (president) are founding fanatics, and their work ethic from working potato farms in Idaho as they grew up has everything to do with how they build businesses — specifically Angel Studios. 
   “We’re very unlikely candidates to be studio executives,” Jeffrey says. “Growing up, I didn’t even know film was a profession.”
   All the brothers laugh and nod in agreement.  
   “The similarities between farming and the studio business are astounding,” Neal says. “You have to plan in advance, prepare land and take care of your crop. How well you harvest could be determined by weather or prices in the market. Similarly, we’ve released a project at the wrong time before, and then we’ve released another project where we hit the exact timing and the harvest was great.”  
   In 2023, the harvest was plentiful, leading Provo’s Angel Studios to be named BusinessQ’s Company of the Year.


   The story of Angel Studios doesn’t exist without VidAngel. A few years after the founding of VidAngel, it faced a brutal legal battle with four major Hollywood Studios for censoring its content, but community support was heavenly. VidAngel raised more than $10 million from thousands of supporters to help with legal fees.

   In 2020, after four-ish years of fighting the lawsuit, the Hollywood studios came to VidAngel with a settlement, and the Harmons sold the VidAngel filtering services and rebranded to Angel Studios in 2021. 

   “Angel Studios is what we originally envisioned when we started VidAngel,” says Neal. “We talked about how if we collected a group of people who were interested in great stories, but also cared about the values in their home, we would be able to build an audience and distribute brand new shows to them better than Hollywood could.”


   Despite the opposition they’ve faced, the Harmons stay dedicated to their vision of elevating media.

   “In every trial we’ve gone through, we have come to an extremely difficult challenge, and that challenge forces us to change,” Neal says. “The upside and the opportunity on the other side of that change is far better than what we had planned.”

   That “far better” opportunity manifests in now owning the freedom to conceptualize, produce and distribute films full of light — rather than just filtering the bad stuff. 

   Angel Studios produces original content — including “The Shift,” “Tuttle Twins,” “The Chosen” and “Dry Bar Comedy” — and acts as a distributor for film projects produced by other filmmakers, such as “Sound of Freedom” and “Cabrini.”

   These projects are crowdfunded by the “Angel Guild,” a collection of investors and paying members who vote for and invest in films they want brought to the screen. Though investors are asked to only invest what they are willing and able to lose, successful projects like “Sound of Freedom” and “After Death” had a 120 percent return of investment.

   “The Angel Guild is the alternative to the Hollywood gatekeepers,” Jordan says. “Instead of five or six individuals making multi million dollar decisions, we’re saying, ‘Let’s turn this over to the audience.’”

   Angel Studios’ best-performing film to date is “Sound of Freedom.” The film grossed $250.6 million worldwide and played in 3,411 theaters at its height.

   “These are life-changing stories,” Jeffrey says. “There’s something about the cinema, where you surrender all your distractions for a communal experience of what the director has to offer. The problem is that most of the things being taught in that life-changing opportunity are nihilistic or dark.”

   Angel Studios is flipping that standard on its head.


 With 2023 wins, theaters are anxiously anticipating Angel Studios’ 2024 titles. 

   “Cabrini,” the inspiring true story of an audacious Italian immigrant who became one of the great entrepreneurs of the 19th century, was released just before this magazine hit printers. Other 2024 titles will include “Sight,” a story of a Chinese immigrant who becomes a world-renowned eye surgeon in the U.S., and “Possum Trot,” based on a small church in East Texas where 22 families adopted 77 of the most difficult-to-place children in the local foster care system.

   “We started this company for our kids,” Jordan says. “I think we could see the writing on the wall as to how quickly Hollywood was spiraling into darker places. I would not do this job if it wasn’t for our North Star of telling these stories that amplify light — it’s too hard. But we have to do it for our kids.”

   Thanks to Angel Studios’ wings, the silver screen just got brighter.