How common are actor-directors?

Last week, I was chatting with NYU professor Paul Thompson and he asked me about the predominance of actor-directors.

In the past, I have looked at the writer-director hybrid, as well as other facets of directing (including age, gender, career path and hardest working), but never the actor-director. It’s certainly a relevant topic, as actor Bradley Cooper’s directing debut, A Star Is Born, is receiving rave reviews and an impressive box office haul.

To get a sense of how many actors are directing (and vice versa) I looked at all movies released in US cinemas between 1988 and 2017 (11,841 movies) and zeroed in on the directors who’ve also received acting credits.

How many directors have also received an acting credit?

This topic is slightly more complicated than it at …

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Is Jason Blum right that there is a shortage of female horror directors?

Last week, horror super-producer Jason Blum got himself in hot water after a comment he made during an interview with Polygon.

Blum said “There are not a lot of female directors period and even less who are inclined to do horror”.

When I first read this, I was horrified!  How could he say such a thing?  Doesn’t he know that the right thing to say was “fewer who are inclined to do horror”, not “less”?!

Ok, grammar pedantry aside, the quote made him the target of a number of negative comments and articles.  I’m not seeking to add commentary to the debate, nor to support or chastise Blum for this.  Rather, I wanted to take a look at the data behind his assertion and use it to discuss female directors …

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Who are the most prolific people working in Hollywood?

Last week, I looked at how the composition of crews on Hollywood movies has changed over the years.  This piece led a few people to ask questions on related topics, one of which I will address today.  John asked:”From your datasets can you see which people have worked the most often?”

To answer the question, I looked at all credits received on the 200 highest-grossing movies at the US box office between 1997 and 2016 (i.e. 4,000 movies).  I then created league tables of the most frequently-credited people in a number of major roles.  Today’s research is only looking at movies, so work on other media is not being counted (i.e. TV shows).

Most prolific directors in Hollywood

Let’s start with the highest profile creative role …

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How has the average Hollywood movie crew changed?

In the past, I’ve looked at how big a movie crew can get, for both UK films and Hollywood movies. But I was recently asked by a reader how the composition of such crews has changed over time. Which departments are getting larger? Which jobs are on the rise and which are waning?

To answer this, I looked at the credits of the top 200 US-grossing movies of each of the past 20 years (1997-2016), giving me a dataset of 4,000 movies.

The big picture

In the past two decades, the number of crew members on a top-grossing movie has grown by 77%, from 350 in 1997 to 620 in 2016. If we group those crew credits into stages of production, we …

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48 trends reshaping the film industry: Part 3 – Distribution and exhibition

This is the third instalment of a four-part series chronicling trends and changes in the film industry.

To compile the list, I have been back through all of my old research, conducted new projects, read outside research and solicited suggestions from my industry readership (thank you to everyone who contributed).

The result is a list of 48 trends and changes affecting the film industry.  For readability, I have split them into four groups:

  • Development and finance
  • Cast, crew and production
  • Distribution and exhibition (see below)
  • Industry changes
  • 25. Cinemas are showing far more than just traditional movie screenings

    In the first half of the 20th century, there was a lot of change in what cinemas screened.  They started showing very short gimmicky films, added live music, replaced the music with …

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    48 trends reshaping the film industry: Part 2 – Production

    This is the second instalment of a four-part series chronicling 48 different trends and changes in the film industry.

    Last week I gave you trends 1 to 12, in the fields of development and finance and in future weeks I will cover distribution, sales, exhibition and structural changes in how the film industry operates.

    This week’s twelve trends focus on the production sector, including details of changes to cast and crew.

    13. Movie production worldwide is booming

    In the ten years between 2000 and 2010, worldwide movie production doubled and has continued to rise since then.  This boom is largely down to cheaper and easier to use technologies for shooting, finishing and distributing movies.  In addition, the internet (especially YouTube) has democratised access to the knowledge needed to …

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    How many shots are in the average movie?

    Last week, I experienced the latest Transformers movie.  The constant fast-paced action and frenetic editing got me thinking just how many shots were in that movie.  

    Sadly, I lost count during the screening but afterwards, I resolved to look into the broader question: How many shots are in the average movie?

    How many shots are in the average movie?

    Let’s start by directly answering the question which started this research.  Across all the movies I could find data for (released 1997 to 2016), the average number of shots in a movie is 1,045.  But I’m sure regular readers know that I’m not going to end the article purely because I’ve answered the original question!

    Unsurprisingly, there are huge variations between movies.  Russian Ark …

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    How to become a film director

    Last week saw the publication of my report ‘Cut Out Of The Picture‘, which looked at gender inequality in the UK film industry.  In the process of researching and writing the report, we spoke to over 200 film professionals about how someone becomes a film director.  I thought aspiring film directors may benefit from a distillation of what we discovered, so please find below a mix of data and advice.

    Our study looked at every film produced in the UK over a ten-year period (2,591 films), and we then conducted detailed interviews with 6% of those directors (121 directors).  The career paths detailed below only relate to people who actually directed a feature film in the UK between 2005 and 2014, inclusive.

    There is no one route to …
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    How many Assistant Directors work on UK and US movies?

    A couple of years ago I looked at the number of Assistant Directors on Hollywood films.  I want to return to the topic as I now have more data, I can add the UK figures into the mix and because I have conducted interviews with over 30 working 1st ADs in the UK and US to get the human perspective.  Today, I’ll be looking at the data and next week I’ll share the views and opinions of 1st ADs.

    The Assistant Directors department are the people who make sure the film actually gets shot and that the whole production stays on schedule.  The role is typically split into three classes…

  • First Assistant Director (1st AD) runs the department and is one of the most senior ‘below the …
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    Are movies getting longer?

    Either I’m getting older or movies are getting longer… and longer … and longer.   So which is it?  I took a look at the numbers.

    I studied the running time of the top 100 US-grossing films since 1994 (2,200 films in total) and all films shot in the UK 2005-14 (2,142 films). In summary…

    • The median length of a top 100 US-grossing films between 1994 and 2015 was 110 minutes
    • Running times have increased in six of the past seven years
    • The longest films are historical and western films and the shortest are animations and documentaries.
    • Peter Jackson makes the longest movies in Hollywood, with a median running time of 169 minutes.
    • The median running time of UK feature films (2008-14) was 94 minutes.
    • Films with lower budgets have shorter running times
    • The complete extended …
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