Everyone loves the movies. Sitting in a dark theater, watching the characters up on the screen, we don’t typically think exactly how much work goes into that hour and a half to two hours of entertainment that we’ve just experienced, except for maybe those few minutes as the credits are rolling. And the recent trend has been to credit more and more of the people that worked on a film, so those credits have been getting longer and longer. So how many people does it really take to make a movie?
There isn’t really a simple way to find that answer, due to many different factors that come into play. What kind of budget is there to work with? Is it a summer blockbuster or indie Oscar contender? Evan live-action vs animated can greatly impact the number of people involved.
According to a study by Stephen Follows, detailed in his Film Data and Education blog (https://stephenfollows.com/how-many-people-work-on-a-hollywood-film/), of the 50 top grossing films from each year between 1994-2013 (1000 movies), the average number of crew credits was 588. The biggest crews have been reported in the thousands, while more than half of the films Follows included credited less than 500. And many low budget independent films have been produced with less than 100 cast and crew.
The biggest factor in all of this is, of course, the budget. The bigger the budget, the more people producers can pay. Small budget? Might mean the sound editing and music editing teams are the same actually the same. Cast size also plays a large part. A movie like The Hunger Games has dozens of speaking parts that have to be credited, while Paranormal Activity only has four characters in the whole movie. A-list stars often come with their own assistants, hair and make-up people, sometimes more and all of these people are included in the credits.
Most films aren’t the big budget, huge special effects, blockbuster types. And the average number Stephen Follows found is likely skewed much higher due to huge tent-pole movies like The Avengers (2,718) and Thor (2,384). And there are many jobs on movies, like accountants for example, that may not get a credit at the end, so a website like IMDb doesn’t always have an accurate count of everyone involved.
So what does this all mean at the end of the day? High budget studio movies will have cast and crew typically in the 1500-2000 range, while smaller films are more likely to be 200-400. And either way, that’s a lot of popcorn that’s getting popped for the rest of us.