As a frivolous pre-Christmas treat, here are some strange nuggets about UK actors.
I used publicly available data from a number of actors’ websites to draw data on almost 30,000 actors in the UK, based on their self-declared vital statistics. I have written a number of (major) caveats at the bottom of this article, which should be read before anyone decides to start or end an acting career based on these results.
- The percentage of white actors is similar to that of the UK population
- Asians make up 7% of the UK population but only 2.7% of actors
- Female actors are slimmer, blonder and much better dancers than male actors
- Female actors with blonde hair are on average slimmer than those of other hair colours
- 89% of female actors claim to have a healthy BMI, compared with 75% of men
- Male actors are more willing to perform nude than female actors
- Actors who can dance the Tango are much more willing to perform nude than those who know Tap
- More actors say they can do an American accent than Cockney or Yorkshire accents.
In very loose terms, actors seem to reflect modern Britain. The biggest difference between actors and the UK population appears to be within Asian actors, who only make up 2.7% of actors but are 7% of the general population.
Comparing surveys of ethnicity are always tricky as different organisations use different classifications. For example, the 2011 UK Census did not break down what percentage of people were classed as ‘Mediterranean’, whereas many actors’ listings do.
Today’s article is a bit more complex than usual but it started with a simple question…
In last week’s article I crunched the numbers on the average number of credits UK writers, producer, director and actors have. I calculated these based on UK films made since 2003 on over £500,000 and on UK films made since 2008 on under £500,000. The results were fairly sobering (only about one in five filmmakers manage to make a second feature film) and it led Mustapha to ask me via Twitter:
How many of those filmmakers who didn’t make a second film made dramas? Is there any correlation or is that pattern across the board?- @MKseibati
- The largest number of jobs are within Drama
- Across all budgets, Horror and Documentary offer producers and directors the best chance of making a second film.
- In Romance, money matters. 16% of producers of Romance £500k+ films over made a second film but only 2% of the low budget producers did the same.
- The highest chance of making a second film goes specifically to Producers of Dramas budgeted over £500k.
Screenwriters of Romance films under £500k only have a 1.9% chance of writing a second low-budget romance film.
- Action has the smallest cross-over between budget ranges. Only 7% of producers, directors and screenwriters of Action films have worked both big and small budgets.
Horror has the highest cross-over, with one in eight Horror creatives working at both budget levels.
- 82% of Documentary directors and 77% of Documentary producers have only worked on films budgeted under £500k.
First, a refresher on the films we Brits make
A few months ago I published data into what genre of films most UK filmmakers make. As we’re looking at the number of credits (rather than budgets or box office returns) here is that part of the data…
So it’s clear that Drama is a popular genre (despite its poor performance at the box office).
Thanks to the BFI, I’ve managed to build a list of all the UK films budgeted at over £500k since 2003 and all the UK films budgeted at under £500k since 2008. That’s 2,737 feature films in total. I’m starting to crunch the numbers on this large dataset and in the coming weeks I’ll share what I discover.
All the data in this article relates to UK films, although the people aren’t all UK nationals. First up – let’s take a look at how many films each person has been involved with. In summary…
- Only 13% of producers of low budget films have subsequently produced a second film
- Under 3% of directors who have directed a film have gone on to direct two more
- 23% of writers who wrote a film wrote a second film
- Directors are more likely to make a second film than producer, writers or actors
- The vast majority of writers, producer, directors and actors stick within either low budget (<£500K) or higher budgets (>£500k). Only 15% have worked in both budget ranges.
How many credits does the average creative have?
I carried out a quick poll on my Facebook page to find out what my film friends thought was an ‘average’ number of credits for UK producers, directors, screenwriter and actors (in the top seven billing of cast) would be. The consensus was 3 films for directors and writers, 5 for actors and 7 for producers. Although not at all scientific, this quick poll reinforces my belief that film people don’t realise how fleeting most people’s experience of filmmaking is.
The truth is a bit more depressing…
Ok, so the average number of credits is low, but how does it split up for each role?
I’m glad you asked…
I spent some of last week in Berlin at the InterFilm International Short Film Festival which was playing host to the Viral Video Awards (where my film ‘The Theory of Everything‘ won the Audience Award!)
The experience of watching British films abroad got me thinking about the export of UK films. Despite the fact that most British filmmakers want to sell their films worldwide, few seem to have a handle on how likely that is. I took a look at how British films perform around the world and which types of British films do best. In summary…
- The UK is the second largest exporter of films, after America
- In 2012, British films accounted for 15% of the global box office
- The vast majority of internationally distributed British films are financed by Hollywood
- The whole of Asia only accounts for 6% of UK film exports
- New Zealanders watch almost as many British films as the British
- The British films which travel best are star comedies and historical biopics
- UK films underperfom in Japan, Mexico, South Korea and Brazil
British films are second only to American films
British films have accounted for between 7% and 17% of the global box office in the last decade, that’s 12.5% on average.
Last week I published figures for the huge growth in the UK Film sector in the last decade. This sparked a number of people to contact me and ask about if this boom is mirrored in the number of people studying film in higher education.
The short answer is, kinda. There has certainly been a massive increase in film students in the last eight years, however its growth curve is largely uncorrelated to that of jobs within the film industry. I found that…
- The number of UK film students grew by 240% between 2004 and 2012
- Of 2012 film students, 17% were studying ‘Film Production’ and 83% ‘Film Studies’
- Between 2004-12, ‘Film Production’ students grew by 589%
- More and more ‘media students’ are focusing on film
- 12.5% of film students end up working in the ‘Arts, Design & Culture’ sector
- 34% of ex-film students work in ‘Retail / Catering’
More film students and more practical courses
Between 2004 and 2012, the number of UK film students grew from 1,625 to 5,530 – that’s a 240% increase in just eight years.
If we look deeper at those numbers we can see that the majority of students studying ‘film’ in higher education are on ‘Film Studies’ courses. In 2004 there were just 135 students studying on ‘Film Production’ courses (of which I was one) whereas by 2012 this number had ballooned to 930 (a 589% increase!)
I was asked by Kat, “How many people work in the UK Film Industry?” so i took a look. In summary…
- In 2012, there were 70,000 people working in the UK film industry
- 65% work in production, 10% in distribution and 25% in exhibition.
- We are currently in a boom for film production jobs, up 261% on 1996
- Most of this is fuelled by Hollywood’s inward investment in the UK
- Many cinema staff are on zero-hour contracts
- The number of cinema screens is stable but exhibition jobs are not
We’re in a boom for film jobs…
2011 was the biggest year for UK film jobs in a very long time (I can’t find figures going back far enough but it’s the biggest year I could find on record).
I spent the weekend at the London Screenwriters’ Festival. In previous years I’ve helped run the festival (including being Festival Producer in 2011) but this year my duties were light; just moderating sessions and drinking tea. This meant that I was fortunate enough to chat to many emerging and established screenwriters.
A common theme that came up in conversation was opportunities for screenwriters to raise a little bit of money via crowd-funding and produce their own scripts. The festival’s creative director, Chris Jones, is a master in making everyone feel empowered to make their projects a reality. So I thought I would chip in and add some data to the dreams.
I looked at Kickstarter, the largest and pre-eminent crowd-funding site, and I found…
- One in four projects on Kickstarter is a film
- 11,828 films have raised money on Kickstarter
- 17,881 films have failed, i.e. not reached their funding target
- The more Facebook friends you have, the better your campaign will do.
- Shorter is better – For a $10k project, a 30-day campaign will have a 35% chance of success whereas a 60-day campaign has 29%.
- A video increases your odds of success by two and half times
- Once your campaign reaches 40% of your goal, you have a 95% of raising your full target amount.
What Affects Your Chances of Kickstarter Success?
Every project is different so it’s impossible to give you a definitive list of things which guarantee crowd-funding glory. However, it is possible to look for pattens within the projects that are a success and those that aren’t. Here is what the data reveals on different variables across all Kickstarter campaigns (not just films):
- Longer campaigns fare worse than shorter ones - For an average $10,000 project, a 30-day project has a 35% chance of success, while a 60-day project has a 29% chance of success, all other things being the same.
- Having a video increases your odds of success two and half times - All else being equal, a project without a video only has a 15% chance of success while a project with video has a 37% chance of success. As filmmakers, this becomes more acute as your audience will want to see that you can deliver on your grand claims. A good example is the video Kenny Gee made for his IndieGoGo campaign to fund his short film ‘The Body’.
- Being a ‘featured’ project helps enormously - Projects that are ‘featured’ by Kickstarter have an 89% chance of being successful, compared to 30% without.
- Facebook friends count - For an average $10,000 project, if you have 10 Facebook friends, you have a 9% chance of succeeding. If you have 100 Facebook friends, it’s 20% and if you’re fortunate enough to have 1,000 Facebook friends then your chances of succeeding are 40%.
- It helps if you live in a ‘creative’ city. It’s no surprise to learn that film projects are most successful when the founder is based in Los Angeles, and the pattern holds for other fields, such as music projects being most popular in Nashville and technology projects in San Francisco. However, the correlation is deeper than just these iconic examples. When Professor Ethan Mollick looked at this issue he found that “the higher the proportion of creative individuals in a founder’s city, the higher the chance of success for that founder.” You can see his analysis in detail here.
- The more you ask for, the lower your chances of success. If all other factors are equal, projects under $10,000 have a 38% success rate, projects under $50,000 have an 18% success rate and projects under $100,000 have a 7% success rate.
A few days ago I published an article on the genres of films which filmmakers make and which audiences watch in the cinema and at home. The results have sparked some interesting debates on Facebook and I’ve been contacted by a few people asking for more details.
Much of the conversation is around the evidence that filmmakers make Dramas but audiences want to watch Comedies. Drama accounts for one in four of the films made in the UK but Dramas only accounts for 7% of the UK box office. Comedy is consistently the highest grossing genre in the cinema, on rental and on purchased copies.
Broadly speaking, the debate seems to be between filmmakers (who are are dubious of these findings) and film sales professionals (who say that these figures chime with their experiences). It’s not my place to pick sides, but I am more than happy to open up the process by which I discovered these results.
Start with the raw data…
I came to the conclusion in question by comparing two sets of data – films made in the UK and film show in UK cinemas. The raw data came from going through ten years worth of the BFI Statistical Yearbook. The Yearbook is a wonderful resource, started by the UK Film Council and now continued by the BFI, and gives an annual snapshot of the UK Film Industry. To find the genre figures I needed to look at both Production and Exhibition data from each Yearbook. Box office figures are published in a similar fashion.