Advice for filmmakers trying to navigate the film industry

This blog is my 250th article and it’s also my five-year blogiversary (I know that’s not a real word but I felt the made-up occasion needed a made-up word).

Over the past five years, I have published research on every single sector within the film industry, from directing to diversity, funding to festivals, actors to awards, stunts to producers.

Almost all of my work follows the same pattern: I take a simple question, build up a dataset, analyse it and then explain my findings with a whole host of charts and graphs.  This format allows me to tackle most of the questions I get from my readers.

However, there is one request which comes up all the time and which I have not yet …

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Gender diversity among film professionals working in sales and distribution

Between filmmakers and film audiences lie a complex network of middlemen, distributors and sub-distributors.  They play a vital role in the film value chain, ensuring that films are available all over the world in all manner of formats to all types of audiences.

This side of the industry is less visible than most other aspects, for a number of reasons.  Firstly, they don’t interact directly with the public the way cinemas do.  Secondly, their work is not visually interesting.  Film fans enjoy behind-the-scenes footage from movie shoots but I doubt behind the scenes of a negotiating re-licensing deal would have the same appeal.  Finally, it’s a fairly small sector with a relatively low number of people working in it (certainly compared to …

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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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How does the use of the terms ‘cinematographer’ and ‘director of photography’ differ?

When I was starting out in film, I always heard the head of the camera department being referred to as either “DoP” (pronounced dee-oh-pea) or “DP” (pronounced dee-pea), both of which are short for director of photography.  As I met more filmmakers, I learned that the same role is often called the cinematographer (pronounced… well, the way it’s written).

Today, I thought I’d take a look at these two job titles and try to make sense of where each is used.

What is a cinematographer / director of photography?

In most real-world situations, the two job titles are interchangeable. Simply put, this person is responsible for crafting the film’s visual style, or ‘look’.  They report directly to the director and have a large number of people answering to them.  …

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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 4 – Industry changes

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

To compile this 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
  • Industry changes (see below)
  • 37. Cannes festival and market are getting bigger

    The Cannes festival (“Festival de Cannes”) and film market (“Marché du Film”) are the biggest events in the industry calendar and attract film professionals from all over the world.   The 2005 Cannes festival and market …

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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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    A data dive into Patreon

    As long-time readers will know, I’m keen to cover the speed and scope of changes within the film business.  The industry has experienced a greater degree of flux in the past decade than in the previous century, and yet more shape-shifting is on the horizon.  This transformation makes it a fascinating time to be entering or studying the film industry.

    One of the areas of significant change is the evolving relationship between artists and audiences.  Historically, there have been many levels of middlemen between the artists (i.e. writers, directors, actors, etc) and their audience (i.e. the people who actually pay to watch their work).  Money and feedback from audiences flowed back to artists via a long chain of studios, sales agents, distributors, exhibitors, retailers …

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