Do directors direct both fiction and documentaries?

I am working on a long-term research project looking at gender among documentarians. Previously, I’ve studied the gender split among directors, producers, writers, cinematographers, composers and sales professionals – but always focusing on fictional feature films.

As I branch out to study factual films, I wanted to do a couple of micro-research projects to learn just how similar the worlds of factual and fictional filmmaking are.

First up: do documentary directors also direct fictional films?  And vice versa?

I started by building a database of all feature films made around the world in the past two decades (1999-2018 inclusive), both factual and fiction.  See the Note section at the end of this piece for more details.

How many people have directed a feature film?

Over …

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Is hiring a first-time director a risk?

Of all the creative jobs involved in the making of a feature film, the role of director is perhaps the most important.

It’s also the one which most clearly identifies a film. We talk about Spielberg films and Tarantino films more than we do Streep or Hanks films, even though all of these creatives are at the top of their field.

Some reasons for selecting one director over another are artistic (their skill, their ‘voice’, their connection to the script, etc) while others are pragmatic. When it comes to picking the perfect person to helm a film, producers and financiers want to do all they can to ensure the film will be a financial success.

There is a perception in some quarters that …

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Are women less likely to direct a second movie than men?

Last week, I looked at the average number of films a director is likely to make in their career, and also how many directors work on the average film.

Today I am taking into account the gender of directors and looking at how the experiences of male and female directors differ.

As a quick reminder, my dataset is of all fiction feature films produced around the world between 1949 and 2018 (over a quarter of a million movies).  You’ll find more detail on this in the Notes section at the end of the article and in last week’s piece using the same dataset.

What percentage of film directors are women?

It should come as no surprise to anyone (least of all readers of this …

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How many films does the average director make?

Last week on Twitter I was asked about the average director’s career and how many directors get to make a second film.

This was sparked by some research I conducted a while ago on the average careers of British writers, producers and directors, and also by my 2016 study of female directors in UK film.  So I promised to return to the topic of directors’ careers and how they differ between male and female directors.

To answer the questions fully, I built up a database of all fiction films made since 1949, worldwide –  a whopping 287,448 films.  Usually, I focus on films that reach cinemas, but this time I wanted to cast the net as wide as possible and study the …

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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 on a …

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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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