How to get hired in Film and TV

ShortRoundTo many, working in the film and television industry can sound a little nutty. Many job advertisements seem to read…

Compliant drone needed to work long hours for low pay under unpleasant conditions. Must be willing to drop everything at short notice in return for no job security, no pension and fewer than one lunch break per day. Must own a car and don’t bother applying unless you know someone who already works here.

And yet there are no shortage of new entrants. The number of media students has increased dramatically in recent years and the UK film industry is employing more people than it has in a very long time, possibly ever. The end result is that most industry professionals get asked on a regular basis “How can I get into the film/TV industry?”

To answer this I performed two surveys – one with 1,235 international film professionals and the other with’s audience of UK television and film employers.

In summary;

  • Facebook is the most popular place for employers to post new vacancies
  • Having a driving licence is much more useful than a university degree
  • On average, UK employers receive 60 applications for each job.
  • Only 46% of those applicants meet the job requirements
  • Just under half of all film and television employers think that new entrants should work for free
  • When asked ‘What makes a perfect CV?’ 67% of employers used the words “short” or “concise”

Where can I find a job?

It would take a few blog posts to go through all the ways you could start your career in film or television so for now I will stick to the job boards.  The most commonly used site for new film and TV jobs is… Facebook!

I have previously analysed a year’s worth of jobs on Shooting People, which would be worth reading if you’re looking for film work.

Should you work for free?

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How many BFI funding applications are successful?

Today’s article contains new data that the BFI have released to me.  Following research I carried out about UK Film Council / BFI funding of short films, I wondered what the success rate was for feature film funding applications and put in an enquiry.

The National Lottery is the second largest source of public funding for films in the UK, and in 2012/13 totalled £65.4 million.  (Incidentally, the largest source is HMRC, who gave £206 million via the UK film tax relief). The vast majority of Lottery money is awarded by the BFI, and filmmakers are invited to apply for grants within development, production and distribution strands.

In summary…

  • In the past three years, the BFI has received 2,505 applications for funding.
  • Of those, 720 were successful, equating to 29% of applications.
  • Almost half of all applications to the BFI for development funding in 2012/13 were successful.
  • In an average year, the BFI receives 353 applications for development funding, 403 for production funding and 79 seeking support for distribution.

Development funding

In the graph above, the numbers for ‘applications received’ include the few which were later withdrawn. The figures for development applications cover film development, pilots, pre-production, supplementary funding applications and awards.

Between 2012/13 and 2013/14 the number of applications fell by 16%, leading to a higher overall success rate for the remaining applications.

Production funding

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Who dominates UK film distribution?

It is becoming ever easier to make a feature film, thanks in large part to new technology which is cheaper and more accessible. We are currently in a boom for feature film production, with more films made in the UK last year than ever before. However, the size of movie audiences and the rate at which we watch films is not growing at the same speed.  This means the ‘pressure point’ in the filmmaking process has shifted from “Will I get it made?” to “Will anyone see it?”

I’m going to spend some time over the next few months looking at the situation UK filmmakers face when trying to get their film sold and seen by audiences.  First up, let’s take a look at who is actually distributing feature films in the UK.  In summary…

  • There were 698 films released in cinemas in the UK and Ireland in 2013
  • The number of  film and video distributors has increased by 32% since 1996
  • In 2013, there were 470 companies focused on film and video distribution in the UK, only 127 of whom actually released a film in UK cinemas that year
  • The top 10 distributors account for 97% of the box office revenue
  • Just three companies (StudioCanal, eOne and Entertainment) control half of all box office income made on UK independent films.

More films in cinemas than ever before

The number of films being released in the UK and Ireland has doubled in the past 15 years.  Last year, there were almost 700 films shown in cinemas in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

And more distribution companies, too

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What percentage of a film crew is female?

Today I am releasing the results of a long-term project. For a while, I’ve been looking at the gender of film crew members over the past 20 years.

The results are pretty shocking, and should hopefully serve as a wake up call to parts of the industry.  I don’t believe that the majority of the industry is fundamentally sexist or anti-women but when you look at these results, especially over time, it’s plain to see that something is wrong and it isn’t fixing itself.

Download the full report now, for free. This project was far too large to fit into a single blog post, so I’ve written it up as a PDF report. It spans 16 pages and breaks down the results in much more detail. The report is free and all you need to do to get it is sign up to my e-mail list.

I send out one e-mail every week or two, to highlight new articles on this blog around film data and statistics. You can unsubscribe anytime, I won’t sell or pass on your email address, there’s no spam… it’s just me.

The results in summary

I studied the 100 highest grossing films at the US Box Office for each year between 1994 and 2013 (a total of 2,000 films). Additionally, in order to see how a film’s genre affects gender employment, I also looked at the 100 highest grossing films for each genre.

In summary…

  • Women make up only 23% of crew members on the 2,000 highest grossing films of the past 20 years.
  • Only one of the top 100 films in 2013 has a female Composer.
  • In 2013, under 2% of Directors were female.
  • The only departments to have a majority of women are Make-up, Casting and Costume
  • Visual Effects is the largest department on most major movies and yet only has 17.5% women
  • Of all the departments, the Camera and Electrical department is the most male, with only 5% women
  • Musicals and Music-based films have the highest proportion of women in their crews (27%).
  • Sci-Fi and Action films have the smallest proportion of women (20% and 21% respectively).
  • The films with the highest percentage were “Mean Girls” and “The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants” (42%).
  • The most male crews were “On Deadly Ground” and “Robots” (10% female).
  • There has been no improvement in the last 20 years. The percentage of female crew members has decreased between 1994 (22.7%) and 2013 (21.8%).
  • The three most significant creative roles (Writer, Producer and Director) have all seen the percentage of women fall.
  • The jobs performed by women have become more polarised. In jobs which are traditionally seen as more female (art, costume and make-up) the percentage of women has increased, whereas in the more technical fields (editing and visual effects) the percentage of women has fallen.

On average, women make up 22.6% of a film crew

On average, over the last 20 years, women have made up 22.6% of film crew members. The average for 2013 was actually lower, at 21.8%.

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What is the average budget of a British film?

I spoke at The Data Summit last week and gave a room full of technology experts a by-the-numbers tour of the UK film industry. It’s always fun to give non-industry people a glimpse into the film industry as it’s a healthy reminder just how bizarre some of our practises are.  I spoke to the accompaniment of sharp intakes of breaths (at the chronic mis-match between supply and demand), the sound of jaws dropping (at the success rate of films) and even a heckle of support from The Guardian’s technology editor Charles Arthur (when discussing the “originality” of Hollywood films).

One question that came from two different people was: What does it cost to make a film in Britain? So I thought I’d look at this on my blog this week.  The numbers below relate to films shot in the UK, as defined by the BFI.

In summary…

  • Across all films shot in the UK in 2013, the average budget was £6.2 million.
  • Adjusted to 2013 pounds, the average budget in 2012 was £4.2 million, 2011 was £7m, 2010 was £5.4m and 2009 was £6.9m.
  • 43% of films shot in the UK in 2013 cost less than £500,000
  • All of those <£500k films account for only 4% of all money spent on films in 2013.
  • The average budget for <£500k films in 2013 was £150,000

The Overall Average

The average budget for all films shot in the UK in 2013 was £6.2 million.

This is not very revealing as there are so many different types of films made in the UK that it’s akin to asking what the average cost of a restaurant meal is – it depends what you’re eating.

Drilling Deeper – The Films We Make

In order to uncover a more useful answer we should start by looking at the types of films we make in the UK.  By number, two thirds are budgeted under £2 million.

But when we look at the amount of money spent we can see that these low budget films make up just 13% of the overall spend.

So it’s clear that stating one average budget across all films is not very useful.

Average Budget by Budget Range

With this in mind, I grouped the films into six budget ranges and calculated the inflation-adjusted average budgets.

The final chart is of particular interest.  With most of the other graphs the average budget is towards the middle of the range; such as the “£10m – £30m” range where the average in 2013 was £14.6m.  However, in the “Under £500k” range we can see that the 2013 average is just £150k.  This suggests that further segmentation is needed at this lower level to reveal more (sadly that data is not yet available).


The initial data points came from the BFI’s Research and Statistics Unit. From there I extrapolated some data, combined with others and adjusted for inflation. I chose to focus on films shot in the UK as defined by their production year.  An alternative course open to me was to study the films passing the Cultural Test.  This was a slightly smaller number of films, so I opted to study production over certification.

In a future blog I may return to this topic as in some cases the number of films made in the UK differs significantly from the number of films passing the Cultural Test.  I feel there is something of interest to be teased out of these differences.  Stay tuned, campers.

The rise and rise of alternative content in cinemas

Last week I gave a talk at the Barbican for the East End Film Festival. The event, EMERGE, was looking at the convergence of technology and storytelling and which made for a fascinating day.  One of the topics which came up in discussion was the rise of alternative content in UK cinemas.  Due to time, we didn’t get a chance to address the issue properly so I promised I would cover it here.

Alternative content, or ‘Event Cinema’, is the use of cinemas to show concerts, events and performances which are not traditional feature films.  The sector has grown massively in recent years and even has it’s own trade body in the UK, the Event Cinema Association. Just like with feature films, the field is dominated with major cultural brands, such as New York’s Met Opera, the UK National Theatre, Bolshoi Ballet and the Royal Opera House.

back_to_the_future-383217New brands have also been established, the largest of which is Secret Cinema who mix live theatre with classic films to present a whole evening’s entertainment.  Later this summer they are rebuilding parts of the American town of Hill Valley in which to present screenings of ‘Back To The Future‘.

In summary…

  • The UK leads Europe in alternative content*
  • Alternative content took £12.5 million at the UK box office in 2012
  • Opera accounts for 40% of all alternative content events in the UK
  • 52% of UK alternative content is live
  • In Germany only 35% is live
  • 87 of alternative content is Sweden is broadcast live.

Leading the European Pack

The UK is taking the lead in alternative content within Europe*.  Of the events screened in the UK, 52% are broadcast live with the other 48% are pre-recorded. The split between live and recorded content is quite different between countries.  In Germany and Austria only 35% of content is broadcast live where as in Sweden it stands at 87% live.

On The Rise

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Is the current UK film boom benefiting independent filmmakers?

I get asked a lot what the numbers reveal about the state of the UK film industry. The overall numbers suggest that we’re doing pretty well.  Box office admissions are up 250% from 1980, we have the second biggest box office in Europe (although frustratingly behind the French), UK employment in film production is twice what it was 15 years ago, and our films are taking an increasing amount at the global box office.  Most crucially, the last few years have seen the largest number of films produced in the UK since the invention of film.

However, this answer rarely sits well with small, independent filmmakers. Many insist that times are hard and that the benefit of the ‘boom’ is only being felt by the Hollywood studios who will just leave once the juicy tax money dries up.  So I decided to take a more detailed look at the numbers behind the films made in the UK.

How many films are produced in the UK?

In 2012, there were 249 films produced in the UK (i.e. started principle photography).  This was down from a peak of 358 in 2010 but a lot higher than the number for 1998 (83 films).

Who is making these films?

The UK currently has a stable and attractive tax credit system which has lured large Hollywood productions to our shores, such as Edge of Tomorrow, Fast & Furious 6 and the Batman trilogy to name just a few.  However, this same tax credit system is open to feature films of all levels and is in fact more attractive to films budgeted under £20 million than those over £20 million.

So is it studio productions or independent films which account for the recent boom in the number of films made in the UK?  It’s independent films.

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How many people and films are at the Cannes Festival?

I have just returned from the Cannes Film Festival – exhausted, with a suitcase full of paperwork and a strong desire to sit alone in a darkened room for the next week to recover.  Cannes market (marché) and festival is *the* annual gathering of film professionals from all over the world and it’s a heady mix of sun, film screenings, ice creams, parties, awards, networking, ice creams, booze and fun.  And ice creams.

One of the drawbacks of writing about film data and statistics is that while I was there I was asked innumerable times “How many people do you think are here?”  I got so sick of the question that I vowed once I returned to Blighty I would investigate and publish the results here.

In summary…

  • 29,626 people were officially accredited in the festival and market in 2013.
  • Two thirds of those people came from Europe.
  • 4,589 members of the press attended in 2013
  • 44% of whom were French
  • A total of 80 films were celebrated by the festival in 2013: 22 made up the Official Selection.
  • In 2013, 1,420 films were screened in the market: twice the number in 2003.
  • 2,178 short films were in Short Film Corner

The People

To be granted access to the events and buildings in Cannes during the festival you need to apply for official accreditation.  There are varying sorts, including…

  • Festival badge. It’s free but you need to prove that you’re active in the industry.
  • Market badge. This is around 300 Euros and gives you access to all the market screenings.
  • Short Film Corner badge. If you have a film selected in the short film market then the director and producer are each given accreditation.
  • Press badge. There are varying levels of press accreditation and the top level is probably the best badge around.  With it, almost all areas of the festival will treat you like a VIP.

Last year, 29,626 people were officially accredited for the Cannes festival and market.

As well as the official attendees there were many unaccredited people flooding into Cannes including waiters, vendors and hookers (who apparently can earn up to $40,000 a night).


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