How Much Do Film Directors Make?

Depending on experience, most film directors earn between $250,000 to $2 million per project. New directors typically earn between $250,000 to $500,000 per film, while studio film directors earn about $1 million per movie.

The Legends: Well-Known Directors

With box office earnings totaling over $9 billion, Steven Spielberg is a legendary director who earns one of the highest salaries in the industry. Peter Jackson and James Cameron have a similar status, with box office totals over $6 billion.

The Hot Up-and-Comers

Directors don’t always have to work their way up in the industry slowly. Instead, directors like Rian Johnson and Jordan Peele have gained accolades and higher salaries quickly, thanks to surprise box office hits.

It Doesn’t Matter What You Did 10 Years Ago

According to Vanity Fair, having a 10-year-old blockbuster under their belt doesn’t mean directors can ask for high salaries today. That means Justin Lin, who has more current hits on his resume, can ask for a higher salary than Michael Bay, whose recent films didn’t do as well.

The Star Wars Make-or-Break

Directors who have made movies in the Star Wars franchise find that these films can make or break their earning power. Gareth Edwards has had decreased earning power since he required a co-director, while Tony Gilroy has been able to demand impressive rates.

The Unicorn

In rare cases, directors also write and produce their films. M. Night Shyamalan and Peter Jackson have reportedly earned at least $20 million per film for taking on this additional work and creative control.

Speaking of: Television

Directors can also make it big on the small screen. Award-winning directors like Ron Howard and James Marsh have earned high rates for their TV productions.

Additional Film Director Salary Numbers

Minimum Pay

Directors earn a minimum of about $19,000 per project.

Median Salary

The median salary for directors is $34.46 per hour, according to Career Explorer.

Mean Salary

According to Glassdoor, the average base pay for directors is about $36,000 per year.

Percentage Agreements

In addition to a base rate, some directors earn a percentage of box office sales or profits.

Film Director Salary by State: Regional Comparisons

Directors in New York and California earn the highest salaries.

2018 Salary Information for Producers and Directors

Chron reports that in 2018, directors earned a median annual salary of $71,680.

Film Director Earnings by Seniority: Years of Experience and Salary

For many film directors, prior box office earnings are major salary factors. Take a closer look at some well-known directors and their standard rates.

How Do Film Director Salaries Compare to Similar Careers?

Curious whether directors earn more than their coworkers? Find out how directors’ rates compare to other film and TV professionals.

Movie Star

Major stars like Robert Downey Jr. earn upwards of $75 million, while Dwayne Johnson earns over $50 million, and Jennifer Lawrence earns $35 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Studio Chief

Studio chiefs’ annual salaries start at $5 million and often have expensive perks.

Producer

Movie producers make $250,000 to $2 million per year.

Showrunner

Showrunners earn $30,000 to $100,000 per episode.

Cinematographer

Cinematographers make $5,000 to $30,000 per week.

Screenwriter

Screenwriters make $100,000 to $1 million per project.

Manager

Talent managers typically earn $50,000 to $300,000 per year, but some also take home large bonuses.

Agent

Talent agents can earn anywhere from $200,000 to $10 million, including bonuses.

Agent’s Assistant

Assistants to talent agents earn around $10 to $13 per hour, much less than their bosses.

Camera Operator

Camera operators make $25.50 per hour to $154,000 per year.

Boom Operator

Boom operators get between $37,000 and $120,000 per year.

Key Grip

Key grips make $41,000 to $131,000 each year.

Publicist

Publicists start out around $30,000 and can earn up to $400,000.

TV Network President

Broadcast network presidents generally earn $2 million per year.

TV Director

TV directors earn between $25,000 and $42,000 per episode based on DGA rates.

Late-Night Talk Show Host

Seth Meyers earns $3 million per year, while Jon Stewart takes home about $30 million per year.

Game Show Host

Most game show hosts earn from $25,000 to $75,000 per episode.

TV Star

TV actors make $15,000 to $1 million per episode.

TV Writer

TV writers earn $3,000 to $6,000 per week.

Makeup Artist

Makeup artists make $37,000 to $124,000 per project

Reality Star

Reality TV stars earn between $10,000 and $200,000 for each episode.

Commercial Voice Actor

Voice actors make $3,000 to $1 million per advertisement.

Digital Talent

Digital stars make $500,000 to $15 million per year.

Stunt Person

An experienced stunt person can earn $1 million per year, but most make a standard rate of $889 per day.

Extra

Extra actors earn $148 per day, plus additional fees for specific conditions.

Animal Actor

Monkeys, dogs, and other animal actors generally earn $5,000 to $10,000 per year.

Private Chef

In the entertainment industry, private chefs make $75,000 to $200,000 per year.

Entertainment Lawyer

Entertainment lawyers generally start out around $150,000 per year and can earn up to $6 million per year.

Education and Training Required

Film directors usually have bachelor’s degrees in film, screenwriting, or theater. Most also get informal training through prior experience in the film industry.

Personality

Most directors are curious about people, emotions, and other aspects of life. They also tend to be highly creative, driven to succeed, and self-motivated to pursue projects.

Lifestyle and Industry

To work as a film director, you have to be flexible. Directors often have to work overnight or on weekends and in a variety of weather conditions.

Employment: How to Get a Job

To get a job as a director, you often need to gain experience in the industry and build a network.

Getting Started

To start out in the industry, look for entry-level jobs in acting, screenwriting, or editing. From there, you can connect with producers and seek director jobs.

Advancement

In most cases, directors who complete successful projects can build trust. From there, they can move on to more complex and higher-paid projects.

Unions, Groups, and Associations

Many professionals join the Directors Guild of America (DGA). Film festivals and local organizations can also help with networking.

Career Outlook: Job Growth Trend

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for directors is projected to grow 5% between 2018 and 2028.

FAQs

Get answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about directors.

What Does a Director Do?

Film directors are responsible for casting actors in roles, overseeing rehearsals and filming, and telling compelling stories with the help of the cast. They work closely with producers, editors, actors, and other filmmaking professionals. Directors also attend film festivals and assist with promotion.

Types of Directors

Many films have several kinds of directors:

  • Main Directors
  • Associate Directors
  • Director’s Assistants

What Skills Do You Need?

To succeed as a film director, you need these skills:

  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Leadership
  • Time management

The Bottom Line

While directors have the potential to earn millions, most start small and work their way up. Learn more about the Nashville Film Institute’s signature Filmmaking Diploma and take the first step toward becoming a director today.