on May 04, 2015 Educational

The 5 Highest Paying Jobs in Film Production

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Alan Rickman, also known as Severus Snape, once said: “Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.” Filmmakers are in a position to send messages to millions of people, everywhere. It may be the most effective form of communication amongst human beings. Therefore, those who are responsible for ushering films from early stages of production to widespread distribution are highly commodified. Because of this, the main players in the entertainment industry can earn A LOT of money. Those stuck in the middle of the pack may not. Here are the 5 highest paying jobs in film production.

1. Producer

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The Producer is, in most cases, the primary point person during a production. They oversee the budgeting of a film and act as the lead project manager to ensure schedules are kept and the process runs smoothly. Although producers can be brought in after a film has started, most are there right from the start to facilicate script sourcing, casting, staffing, and distribution efforts.  Top producers not only spot great scripts, they also have the business saavy to get it made without going over budget.

GENERAL:

Average Annual Salary: $109,860

Average Hourly Wage: $52.71

SPECIFIC:

Average Annual Salary in LA: $138,640

Average Hourly Wage in LA: $66.53

PGA producer: $500,000

Scott Rudin for producing Fast & Furious 7: $2.5 million  

Adam Sandler for producing Grown Ups 2: $5

2. Director

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The director dictates the artistic vision of a film to best transform a script from words on a page to living, breathing works of art. They are the artistic backbone of most films and their level of skill and talent can make or break the finished output. He/she will monitor the production process until he/she is satisfied with the result. The film will only move forward after the director’s approval.

GENERAL:

Average Annual Salary: $106,440

Average Hourly Wage: $51.17

SPECIFIC:

Low-Budget Features salary per week: $7,608

Medium-Budget Features salary per week: $8,647

High-budget Features salary per week: $12,106

Christopher Nolan for Interstellar: $20 million

3. Screenwriter

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Screenwriters can write directly for a show or movie, or they can be playwrights, authors, journalists, hired to write or adapt a story into a screenplay. Unless they write shows or commercials, screenwriters usually sell their screenplay to a producer, or produce the movie themselves. The best in the business write, produce, and direct their own screenplay. i.e. Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Jon Favreau.

GENERAL:

Average Annual Salary: $78,860

Average Hourly Wage: $37.84

SPECIFIC:

Shawn Christensen for The Karma Coalition: $750,000

Graham Moore for The Imitation Game: $1 million

M. Night Shyamalan for The Sixth Sense: $2.5 million

Joe Eszterhas for Basic Instinct: $3 million

4. Editor

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The film editor is responsible for cutting and piecing together  hours of footage. Which camera angles will be used? Which scenes will be left out? Which direction will the story go in? A lead editor may also manage a team of editors depending on the size of the production.  

GENERAL:

Average Annual Salary: $66,690

Average Hourly Wage: $32.06

SPECIFIC:

Average of Top 10%: $126,250

Average of Bottom 10%: $26,350

Average for Independent Freelancers: $61,270

Check out the The 5 Highest Paying Jobs in Post-Production, for more specifics!

5. Actor

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Despite being the most visible aspect of a film and often the primary driver for consumers to watch a movie, actors are not always paid the most--or paid at all. . Only 50 of nearly 100,000 members of the Screen Actor’s Guild are considered “stars”. This means that the range in earnings is nearly unmeasurable, but we’ll do our best.

GENERAL:

Average Annual Salary of SAG: $5,000

Average Hourly Wage of SAG: $10.69

SPECIFIC:

Minimum Wage per day in SAG: $782

Minimum Wage per week in SAG: $2,713

Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street: $60,000

Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips: $65,000

George Clooney in Good Night and Good Luck: $120,000

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club: $200,000

Brad Pitt in Ocean’s Eleven: $10 million

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street: $25 million

Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 3: $75 million

Keep in mind, many actors, directors, and producers are paid in royalties, or a percentage of the total box office earnings. Nonetheless, the margin between the film “stars” and the “rest” is enormous. The folks in the entertainment industry can be found on either side of the spectrum, which causes the average salaries to be lower than some would expect.

Filmmaking is an art. Although there are those who rise to the top and earn jaw-dropping payouts, many are just in it to pursue their passion. That’s where the drop in earnings comes in. The stars are an exclusive bunch. The majority of Hollywood lies in the thousands of unknown artists who have a message or story they're trying to convey.

All Statistics are derived from and cross-referenced between the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, SimplyHired.com, GlassDoor.com, Work.Chron.com, and Hollywood Reporter.

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Nick Shanman

Intern at large. Movie buff.