How valuable is experience when producing movies?

In much of human life, we equate the length of time someone has been performing a task with their level of skill.  Businesses proudly state how long ago they were founded, a lawyer with “30 years’ experience” can charge more than one fresh out of college and ‘time served’ often denotes seniority.

But is this true of the film industry?

Put more directly, does the number of films a producer has made indicate how likely their next project is to succeed?

To answer this, I teamed up with Bruce Nash from The Numbers.  We focused on 2,911 narrative (i.e. non-documentary) feature films released (either theatrically, direct-to-video or VOD) between 1999 and 2018.  For each film, we have detailed estimates of their financial performance, …

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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 it better to have one producer or a team of producers?

I have produced films alone and I have produced in partnership with other producers.  Personally, I prefer the latter.

Producing a movie is a big undertaking and so it’s good to have people to share the load and journey with.  Plus the film gets to benefit from multiple people’s strengths, passion and contacts.

Recently, I was chatting to a producer who has the opposite view. They prefer to have the sole producing responsibilities rest on their shoulders as it allows them to keep the film on track: one vision with one leader.

So I thought it would be interesting to look at what the data reveals.  We can’t objectively test ‘which is best’, but we can look at one facet of the question …

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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 movies dominated by a small number of old male composers?

Last week, a reader emailed to ask “How many composers actually work in Hollywood?!” They then added: “It seems to me the same old men score all the movies”.

It’s a great question so I thought I’d take a look and, along the way, see what else I could discover about film composers.

I used my dataset of all films released in US cinemas in the thirty years between 1988 and 2017 and focused on everyone who received a composer credit.

Top composers rule the sector

Across my dataset of thirty years of movies, 4,749 people received a composing credit.  The vast majority of film composers did not work on another film after that initial credit (although they may have worked on other types …

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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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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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