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Ben Yennie: State of the Film Industry Report - Part 1 - Overview

This project is something I’ve been working on for a few years now.  It started with market research, then lead to a seemingly simple goal that was much loftier than it initially appeared.  We wanted to answer some basic questions basic questions about the size our industry so entrepreneurs and filmmakers could make more informed decisions.  The complexity in figuring out these answers was much more than anticipated. However, after countless hours pouring over spreadsheets, survey exports and comparison reports, we have many of the answers we set out for.

So what were those questions, and what is this report?  First, some of the questions. “How many projects are made in a year?” “How big is the film industry?” “How much does the average filmmaker make per year?” Does film school really matter?” “Is the gender gap really that wide?” While many people have guesses, few have empirical data to back up those assumptions.  This report seeks to answer those questions and back up assumptions with empirical data, some in the slideshow below, and some in sections to be released over the coming weeks.

You may be asking how we got our data.  The simple answer is from filmmakers reading this, more than likely similar to yourself.  In early 2015 we sent out a survey with the help of Fandor, Indiewire, and Stage32.  A sponsorship of tools and expertise from Media Research Associates allowed me to analyze the data.

So why did it take so long? This was almost entirely a volunteer effort on my part.  ProductionNext granted me a stipend, but it wasn’t huge.  Due to needing to pay the rent here in San Francisco, it wasn’t always easy to make time to work on this survey.  If we do a second iteration of this report, we hope it will not be as much of a delay.

The original plan was to host this report on the Producer Foundry site.  However since, we’re not doing as much over there any more, we’re hosting it here on the ProductionNext Blog, as much of my time has shifted towards my growing role within ProductionNext.

Is this report perfect?  No.  There are some things we would do better, some things we would ask differently if we were to do it again.  There are also some things we would ask at all.  I’m not sure what the decision was to NOT ask about race in the demography section, but it is something I regret.  The report was always intended to be an ongoing project, so if it’s well received we’ll be doing it again in the spring or fall.   

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves by talking about iteration two before you’ve seen any of iteration one.  Here’s the long awaited part 1 of the State of the Film Industry report.  It’s been largely modeled on the Internet Trends Report by Mary Meeker.

State of the Film Industry Part 1 from Ben Yennie

Much of the methodology can be seen within this deck, but I wanted to point out that this section includes the most data backed assumptions on total number of projects produced domestically that we’ve been able to find.  It also has a very strong estimate of total amount of money spent on independent film and media projects within the US.

We’ve also been able to get a very solid number of filmmakers currently working in the US by cross-referencing our data with graduation data from the US Department of education.

We had originally planned to collect data in two phases.  The first, preliminary survey which resulted in this report, and a second in-depth report with much greater detail in both the questions and the answers. However since we ran out of funding, we never got to the second phase.

As such, we’ve had to make some assumptions on what average budgets for feature films are. We believe the assumptions are defensible, and likely conservative on several factors.  However, even with the assumptions we’ve made, we believe this to be the most data backed, publicly accessible estimation of the total size of the film industry in existence.

For more information, please refer to the slides above, and check back next week when I’ll be sharing part 2 which focuses on the economics of filmmakers.In the mean time, please consider checking out ProductionNext.  What does it do other than providing access to this survey?  I'll let this banner tell you.  Click it to apply for our closed Beta

If you want to read the other sections of this report, plus lots of bonus content, plus an entire standard survey export, check out the paperback version of this book on Amazon.  It's more than 110 full-color pages of data on the Film Industry.  Plus, for every copy sold, we donate a copy to a relevant educational institution.  Click the image below for mor information.

If you want to read the other web versions of this report, here's a table of contents.

Section 1: Overview/Key Metrics - (This Section)
Section 2: Economics of being a filmmaker - 
Section 3: Does Film School Matter - 
Section 4: The (Not So) Changing Face of Gender in the Film Industry -
Section 5: Do Romantic Relationships Correlate to Success in the Film Industry -
Section 6: Is Equipment a good investment for filmmakers? - 
Section 7: What makes for Economic Success in the Film Industry? - 




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