Major new study into gender inequality among UK film and TV writers

Almost exactly two years ago, Alexis Kreager and I published a big report into the gender inequality faced by film directors working in the UK film industry.

Soon after it was published, we were approached by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) about studying the plight of screenwriters, both in the film and television industries.  This led to the WGGB (along with the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society – ALCS) supporting us in carrying out a deep data dive into the experiences of UK writers.

The full 177-page report can be downloaded here, and I have written a brief summary in the article below.

Download the full report

You can read more about the Writers’ Guild and ALCS’ campaign connected to the report at writersguild.org.uk/equalitywrites

The report covers both …

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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 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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WGA Writers’ Strike 2017: The numbers behind the demands

You may have heard rumblings in the press about a possible upcoming writers’ strike in Hollywood, and a few readers have been in touch to ask about the debate.  

In today’s article, I will look at some of the key numbers that lie at the heart of the disagreement between the writers and the studios. 

I am going to avoid taking sides in this piece as my aim is to provide useful data for the debate, rather than to argue for one view or another. If I’ve missed anything, or if you want to add your thoughts on the topic, please do so in comments at the bottom of the page. Topics like this can arouse strong feelings on both sides, so I …

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Are movies based on true stories better than fictional stories?

Last week, I looked at movies based on true stories, following a question from Kathleen Drumm, TIFF Industry Director.  Kathleen also asked about the quality of these movies and posited that they are likely to be better than your average movie, due to the fact that they frequently make up a large number of Oscar nominations for ‘Best Picture’. 

To study this topic, I built a dataset of all movies which grossed at least $1 in US cinemas between 1996 and 2015 (inclusive) and then looked at each movie’s Metascore.  Metascore averages the ratings of major film critics to produce a score out of 100.  The Metascore will stand in as our measure of what film critics think of a movie and we’ll judge the …

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How many movies are based on real life events?

This year we have experienced a number of real life events which if you saw them in a movie, would test the limits of your credulity. So perhaps appropriately, I have received a couple of questions about the representation of real life events in movies. Kathleen Drumm, Industry Director for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is running a session on 5th December entitled ‘Based on a True Story‘ and she emailed to ask about the current state of movies based on real life events.

I’m going to tackle this in two parts.  Today, I am going to look at the number of movies made based on real life events and then next week we’ll look at the quality and success of such movies.

Real …
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Do good movie reviews lead to a higher chance of financial success?

Some producers do all they can to court film critics, under the impression that one positive review in the right journal can herald financial success for their movie.  While other producers scoff at the notion of the all-powerful film critic, believing instead that reviews hold no sway in the actions of movie-goers. 

Bruce Nash from The Numbers and I investigated this very topic, by studying the correlation between the reviews a movie receives and its chance of reaching profitability. Or to put it in the language of the ruthless investor or producer:  “Does it actually matter if critics think my movie is any good?”

We looked at 3,715 feature films released in US cinemas 2000-15 for which we have production budget information (a …

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What percentage of directors are writer-directors?

On the face of it, writing and directing a feature film are two very different jobs.  The clichés are of the introverted writer squirrelling themselves away in a quiet room while the loud, bombastic director strides confidently on set and orders hundreds of people around.

However, when you look a little closer you see that there is plenty of overlap. Both involve the creation of worlds and characters, both require creative imagination to craft stories and both require communicating your vision to the team around you.

Hollywood is awash with writer-directors, including Peter Jackson, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, Wes Anderson, Joss Whedon and Alfonso Cuarón to name just half a dozen.  But how often is the director of a film also one of the writers?  I used …

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How old are Hollywood screenwriters?

Following on from last week’s look at the average age of Hollywood directors, I thought I would perform the same analysis for Hollywood screenwriters.

The situation for screenwriters is slightly more complicated than directors as films tend to have more writers than directors, and there are many different types of writing credit.  In the past, I have looked at how many people work on a film, and shown that the average Hollywood film has 3.5 writers.  However, this number is slightly suppressed due to the rules of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) which limits how many people can be officially credited.  Hollywood Studios are permitted to credit just three parties with the writing of the screenplay, although each of those parties …

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