Top 39 best paying jobs in film industry

Top 39 best paying jobs in film industry

Top 39 best paying jobs in film industry

39 Highest Paying Jobs in the Film Industry

If your main source of information is People magazine, you might think that Hollywood is a place where everyone is filthy rich. But this isn’t always the case.

The average wage for television, video and film camera operators was $32.50 in May 2020, which is only $5.43 more than the average wage for all occupations in the United States.

Making movies is not a simple or easy task, but it can be lucrative if you are willing to put in the work. There are many different ways to make money in the movie business, so be sure to check out the job descriptions on the next page for more information.

High-paying jobs in the film industry

 1. Producer

A producer can be a writer, an investor, an idea man, or a manager. They are responsible for every phase of filmmaking – pre-production, production and post-production.

The producer reads scripts and hears ideas from writers, directors, and agents in pre-production. After choosing an idea, the producer has to raise money to fund the project. One route is to get backing from a major movie studio. Another is to go independent and seek funding from individual investors.

The producer now needs to hire a screenwriter, director, production staff, casting directors, art directors, camera and lighting crews, and editors.

Producers are responsible for ensuring that projects stay within budget throughout the entire production process and post-production. This ensures that the film’s investors see a return on their investment.

Producers typically work their way up in the film industry, starting as production assistants or script readers before learning how to spot good ideas and bring them to fruition. Alternatively, they can just jump right into making smaller, lower-budget films and working their way up.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a film producer is $113,860. For producers and directors working in the Los Angeles area, that number jumps to $135,160. However, most producers usually do not work on salary; they take a cut of the film’s earnings at both domestic and foreign box offices as well as from DVD sales and streaming video contracts. And those earnings can quickly accumulate into millions of dollars

 2. Director

Directors oversee the artistic vision of a film, which may or may not include overseeing the financial side of filmmaking.

The director collaborates with the screenwriter and producer to choose a crew that will best represent the film’s themes.

The director is ultimately responsible for the final product, even if the producer does much of the actual hiring and location scouting.

The director helps actors to understand their lines and how to convey emotions in them. They work with the cinematographer to make sure that the action is being captured accurately, and then they decide whether or not takes need to be filmed again.

The director collaborates with an editor, composer, and music director to create a soundtrack and film that is complete. After months or years of work, the film is finalized.

Successful directors have a clear vision for their projects and are able to collaborate with an extensive team to bring that vision to life. They also need to be knowledgeable about film history and technique, starting with small, independent projects.

In 2020, the average annual salary of film directors was $113,860. Directors often negotiate for a cut of the film’s earnings, so their top salaries can be considerably higher.

 3. Screenwriter

There are several different ways to get involved with a film project. One way is to write a full script on spec, in which you hope to sell it to agents or producers who might hire you or develop the script further.

With the help of an agent, experienced screenwriters don’t even have to write a script. They can get appointments with producers to pitch an idea for a script, and the producer can then decide whether to just buy the idea or hire the screenwriter to write a full script or treatment.

Screenwriters who are hired later in the process, after a producer or director has developed an idea, are often asked to write adaptations of existing works, like novels or plays. It’s not uncommon for several screenwriters to be credited for the same script on large studio films.

Some screenwriters start their writing careers as playwrights, journalists, novelists, or other professional writers while others go directly into writing for film and television. It’s an notoriously difficult industry to break into, so it helps if you have connections.

Screenwriters in the motion picture and video industries typically earn a median salary of $106,340 annually. However, top-tier screenwriters can often receive hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars for a single script.

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 4. Film and Video Editor

Editors are responsible for cutting the footage shot by a director into a film that is approximately ninety minutes long. This job can be tedious and often times unglamorous, but it is an essential part of filmmaking.

Editors spend their days (and sometimes late nights) editing video and audio, shaving seconds off shots and meticulously editing audio. Larger film projects often employ many different editors with specific tasks, but they don’t usually receive a lot of money for all the late nights they spend working. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary in 2020 for a film and video editor was $93,610.

5. Actor

Acting is an essential component of filmmaking, and the most successful actors are able to convincingly inhabit the minds and bodies of their characters.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for an actor was $21.88 in 2020. Members of SAG working on a film with a budget greater than $2 million are guaranteed a minimum (aka as scale) of $1,030 per day or $3,575 per week. That’s not too shabby. However, if the film’s budget is less than $250,000 the guaranteed daily rate drops to $206 [source: Wrapbook]. Of course there are a few actors who can command salaries as high as $20 million for a single film but that’s not common.

6. Art Director

The art director is responsible for developing a detailed vision for the film’s sets, locations and surroundings. This vision is then handed off to the director and producers, who work with the art designer to bring it to life on screen. The art director oversees a team of draftsmen, set designers, set decorators, prop masters and set construction managers who help create a fully realized world for the actors to inhabit.

Art directors are highly skilled professionals who must be able to both effectively manage projects and create high-quality art. Due to the high demand for these skills, art directors typically command a salary in excess of $141,480 per year.

7. Cinematographer/Director of Photography

A film’s quality largely depends on the cinematography. If the visuals are not accurately portrayed, then the movie will be a failure.

A cinematographer is responsible for translating the director’s vision and story onto film or video. They must have a keen artistic eye, as well as mastery of the technology and technique of camera work. Cinematographers and directors of photography (DP) are not always the same person on big films, with different responsibilities depending on the size of the production. The DP chooses camera equipment, lenses, booms and other necessary tools to capture shots in a scene.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t list the salaries of members of the filming crew, but it does report that in 2020, the annual mean wage for film and video camera operators in the motion picture and video industries is $80,920. Top-level cinematographers and directors of photography can earn much more.

8. Multimedia Artist and Animator

Take a quick look at the five highest-grossing movies of all time:

  • Avatar (2009) – $2.9 billion
  • Avengers: Endgame (2019) – $2.8 billion
  • Titanic (1997) – $2.2 billion
  • Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2011) – $2.1 billion
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – $2.1 billion [source: BoxOfficeMojo]

The most successful films in the world are all typically shot using digital animation and effects. Studios like Disney-owned Pixar and George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) employ a team of talented artists to create fully realized characters and elaborate settings from scratch.

Traditional artists and cartoonists are often hired to come up with ideas for the look of different characters and settings, while sculptors are brought in to create the character’s first 3D clay models. These models can then be scanned into digital form for the animators, who are responsible for bringing a character’s emotions and dialogue to life frame by meticulous frame.

The median annual salary for special effects artists and animators in the film and video industry is $105,670.

9. Talent Agent

Many people believe that talent agents are not well-represented on the covers of prestigious magazines, such as Vanity Fair or Forbes, but these behind-the-scenes dealmakers are some of the most highly compensated professionals in the film industry.

A talent agent’s job is to find scripts for their actor or director clients to read, shop around headshots, film reels, and original scripts to studios and independent production companies nationwide.

The firm negotiates salaries and profit-sharing deals with movie studios and distribution companies. It also looks for extra promotional and sponsorship opportunities for its clients, such as putting its face on a perfume campaign or shooting commercials for a Japanese soft drink. The firm makes sure its clients are booked in the right hotel rooms, on the right airplane flights, and have all of their favorite food, music and clothes when they arrive.

Talent agents for the top actors, directors and producers in Hollywood are concentrated at a few large agencies. These agencies receive a percentage of their clients’ earnings under specific contracts for film projects.

If your client’s annual net income is in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, then you are doing well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that in 2020, the mean salary for a talent agent was $94,750.

10. Entertainment Lawyer

If you’re unhappy with your contract or feel like you may be due some of the film’s profits, then it’s best to call a lawyer. Entertainment lawyers are specialized in contract negotiations and can help connect clients with professionals in the entertainment industry. They’ll also take care of any intellectual property issues that might come up.

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If you are using a clip from someone else without their permission, the lawyer may be able to take legal action on your behalf.

Motion picture lawyers earn a median annual salary of $218,360 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

11. Executive producer

National average salary: $74,555 per year

Primary duties:

An executive producer is a professional who oversees the general production of a film or television show. They communicate directly with the studio in charge of the film and create the direction for the production, including story and cast choices.

Executive producers are typically people with a few years of experience working in different levels of film production.

12. Videographer

National average salary: $77,282 per year

Primary duties:

A videographer is a member of the film crew who has authority over their crew to direct the use of filming equipment and collaborate with other team members to edit footage for a finished product.

Joining a film crew is not necessary to be successful in this career, but being familiar with the production process and having experience working on a film or video project are both helpful.

13. Location manager

Average salary: $49,545 (£37,815)

Location managers are responsible for finding the perfect filming location and getting approval from the property owners to film there. They also arrange for all the necessities during filming, including snacks, power supplies, dressing areas and parking. To be successful in this role, you’ll need to have a likeable personality and excellent negotiation skills.

14. Set decorator

Average salary: $53,051 (£40,494)

As a set decorator, you will create detailed designs for sets that appear only once throughout a movie. You will need to source all decorations (including vehicles and animals), and although no formal training is necessary, previous experience in interior design may be beneficial.

15. Key grip

Average salary: $80,000 (£61,063)

A key grip is a position that manages all the equipment used to support cameras, tripods, and lighting. This includes ensuring that the light is cut for cinematic quality. To be successful in this role, you’ll need to be able to work under pressure and have good physical stamina.

16. Gaffer

Average salary: $54,738 (£41,785)

A gaffer is the head of the lighting department and typically works closely with members of the grip team. They are responsible for creating adequate lighting in preproduction and quickly adjusting the lighting on set throughout different scenes. A keen interest in electrical equipment is essential for this role, as they must be able to understand how various pieces of equipment work together to create a successful scene.

17. Film editor

Average salary: $49,365 (£37,683)

An editor is responsible for helping to cut down a movie after all the footage has been recorded. This is an important part of the filmmaking process, as the editor must find ways to create a captivating story while following minute details. Attention to detail is essential for success in this role, as editors are focused on the overall project

18. Executive producer

Average salary: $70,180 (£53,572)

An executive producer is a key figure in the production of a film, responsible for overseeing all aspects of the film’s business. This includes budgeting, hiring crew, and ensuring that scripts are properly tailored to meet award expectations.

19. Runner

Average salary: $38,480 (£29,374)

A runner is responsible for carrying out various administrative tasks in order to ensure that the film running smoothly. These jobs can involve arranging props, setting up locations, and getting coffee. In order to succeed in this role, you will need good stamina and a bubbly personality.

20. Programme researcher

Average salary: $54,995 (£41,978)

 Programme researchers are responsible for conducting detailed research in order to ensure that the factual references shown in the film are accurate. This includes obtaining copyright clearances for music used in production.

21. Hairdresser

Average salary: $30,584 (£23,345)

As a hair stylist on a film set, you will need to ensure that each actor’s and actress’s hair looks appropriate for the era they are portraying, as well as the scene they are in. You will be required to create numerous hairstyles throughout the day and be available when actors are filming.

22. Makeup artist

Average salary: $60,753 (£46,373)

A makeup artist will need to create different looks, including special effects, which can take hours. They may be required to work long shifts in order to ensure that the actors look authentic in their roles.

23. Casting director

Average salary: $68,000 (£51,901)

If you are interested in working as a casting director, you must have a good eye for talent. Casting directors not only need to be good at hosting auditions, but also need to spend a lot of time breaking down the individual characters and understanding how they will work together.

24. Props manager

Average salary: $34,521 (£26,348)

If you have excellent organizational skills and a sharp eye for detail, you may want to consider becoming a props manager. Props managers are responsible for source all the objects actors use during filming, and must keep them stored and placed correctly in order to ensure smooth filming days and subsequent reshoots.

25. Costume designer

Average salary: $56,927 (£43,450)

As a costume designer, you will be responsible for creating all the looks in the movie. This may involve many late nights as there are hundreds of scenes. Before you begin, you will read the script and meet with the film director to create a mood board for approval. To succeed in this career, you will need a degree in fashion design and relevant work experience in a fashion house.”

26. Production designer

Average salary: $51,391 (£39,220)

A production designer is responsible for the visual look of a film, including color palettes, location options, lighting and costumes. The production designer works with other departments to ensure that the director’s visions are brought to life.

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27. Sound designer

Average salary: $54,113 (£41,298)

Sound designers work in postproduction to add music and sound effects to films. They are often given a deadline, so they can manage their own schedule and work on multiple projects at the same time.

28. Visual effects artist

Average salary: $63,127 (£48,177)

Visual effects artists create effects that can’t be done on set, such as explosions, fires, and falling buildings. If you have a creative side and enjoy creating visuals, this is a great career choice.

29. Cinematographer

Average salary: $58,544 (£44,679)

A cinematographer is responsible for the direction and execution of all photographic and video elements in a film. They use both technical knowledge, as well as creative ideas, to help make the director’s vision a reality. Cinematographers are essentially the head of the film crew and play an important role in creating visual content that is both logical and visually appealing to viewers.

30. Stunt coordinator

Average annual salary: $42,500 (£32,432)

Stunts are a necessary part of the filmmaking process, and the head of stunts is responsible for planning, managing, and choreographing dangerous scenes in motion pictures and television series. These professionals need to make these scenes as realistic as possible in order to create an exciting movie experience for viewers. If done correctly, this job can be one of the best opportunities available in Hollywood.

31. Colorist

Average salary: $42,000 (£32,050)

The colorist is responsible for creating the look and mood of a motion picture or television show, often using a specific dark or grand scale to achieve this.

32. Storyboard artist

Average salary: $66,000 (£50,365)

The storyboard artist is responsible for designing and illustrating a visual representation of the film’s director’s vision before any filming begins. This position is essential because it helps ensure that shots are planned and filmed in a coherent manner. Storyboard artists typically create multiple panels of images to plan the shots and make sure there is continuity between takes.

33. Foley engineer

Average salary: $62,053 (£47,353)

 Foley engineers are responsible for creating sound effects and Foley recordings for films and television shows. They work in the sound department, recreating sounds that may have been missed during filming, so that viewers can hear everything that happened on set. While this career is not always glamorous, it is an important part of the filmmaking process.

34. Concept artist

Average salary: $51,449 (£39,262)

If you are a great artist, it is important to become familiar with the role of concept artist. Concept artists are responsible for producing fast and detailed drawings and paintings that represent scenes in a film or video game. They work closely with the director to come up with ideas and concepts for the project, helping to create an overall environment that is appealing to viewers.

35. Camera operator

Average salary: $48,696 (£37,161)

Did you enjoy the stylistic changes in Jason Bourne films, as well as the unique nature of Carol Reed movies back in the day? Quentin Tarantino’s techniques are excellent, and it is interesting to note who was responsible for making your experience enjoyable. The camera operator is responsible for capturing what is happening on screen, and it can be said that their work is one of the most important aspects of filmmaking.

36. Line producer

Average salary: $63,984 (£48,759)

A line producer is responsible for overseeing the production process and ensuring that the project is completed on time and within budget.

37. Best boy

Average salary: $92,000 (£70,207)

The best boy is a multipurpose individual who helps out with everything during production. From scheduling to rigging up lighting, he makes life easier for everyone involved. It’s a lot of work, but it pays well.

38. Boom operator

Average salary: $44,827 (£34,208)

The boom operator is a crucial member of the audio production crew, responsible for operating microphones over the heads of actors and capturing dialogue. This role has dramatically expanded since the introduction of sound during the talkie era.

39. Composer

Average salary: $53,299 (£40,673)

A soundtrack can make or break a movie or TV show, depending on the composer’s style. John Williams is often credited with creating the iconic sound of blockbuster movies like Star Wars and Jurassic Park, while Hans Zimmer has created some of the most popular soundtracks in recent history for blockbusters like The Dark Knight Trilogy and Iron Man 3.


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The 30 Best Careers in the Film IndustryActor/Actress. Average salary: $50,990 (£38,918) … Location manager. Average salary: $49,545 (£37,815) … Set decorator. Average salary: $53,051 (£40,494) … Key grip. Average salary: $80,000 (£61,063) … Gaffer. Average salary: $54,738 (£41,785) … Film editor. … Director. … Executive producer.The 30 Best Careers in the Film Industry – › film-jobsAbout Featured Snippets

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