The Average Film Director Salary Per Movie

by Johnny Kilhefner

You may think film directors are rolling in cash and, in certain cases, you wouldn't be wrong. The truth, however, is that most directors make a more modest living. Film directors create motion pictures working from a writer's script. Directors have the final say in selecting cast members, production design and the creative decisions of the production. Directors also conduct the rehearsals, direct the cast and crew, and work with actors to get the ideal performance from them.

Median Salary of Film Directors

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of all producers and directors was $68,440 as of May 2010. The top 10 percent, however, earned more than $166,400. (A movie, though, often takes more than a year to make.) Many directors are paid a percentage of ticket sales. Notable directors such as Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan and James Cameron earn extraordinarily high amounts due to merchandising, past film residuals and sales.

Employment by Industry

The motion-picture industry employs the most directors and producers, with 34,760 jobs at an annual mean wage of $114,450. The Cable and subscription directors earned $86,850. Radio and television producers and directors earned $67,110. According to the Director's Guild of America, directors of television commercials must earn at least $1,229 a day and at least $4,916 a week.

How to Become a Director

Becoming a director usually involves holding at least a bachelor's degree and years of work in the film industry, usually as an editor, camera operator, actor or writer. Many aspiring directors major in English, theater, journalism, communications, arts, or pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in film studies.

Career Outlook

The career outlook for film directors is projected to grow by 11 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is about the same rate as the average. This growth is due to the public demand for more movies and television shows. Self-employed producers and directors are expected to see a 16 percent growth, due to the rising number of independent films.

About the Author

Johnny Kilhefner is a writer with a focus on technology, design and marketing. Writing for more than five years, he has contributed to Writer's Weekly, PopMatters, Bridged Design and APMP, among many other outlets.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images