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.
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
Directors earn a minimum of about $19,000 per project.
The median salary for directors is $34.46 per hour, according to Career Explorer.
According to Glassdoor, the average base pay for directors is about $36,000 per year.
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.
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 chiefs’ annual salaries start at $5 million and often have expensive perks.
Movie producers make $250,000 to $2 million per year.
Showrunners earn $30,000 to $100,000 per episode.
Cinematographers make $5,000 to $30,000 per week.
Screenwriters make $100,000 to $1 million per project.
Talent managers typically earn $50,000 to $300,000 per year, but some also take home large bonuses.
Talent agents can earn anywhere from $200,000 to $10 million, including bonuses.
Assistants to talent agents earn around $10 to $13 per hour, much less than their bosses.
Camera operators make $25.50 per hour to $154,000 per year.
Boom operators get between $37,000 and $120,000 per year.
Key grips make $41,000 to $131,000 each year.
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 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 actors make $15,000 to $1 million per episode.
TV writers earn $3,000 to $6,000 per week.
Makeup artists make $37,000 to $124,000 per project
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 stars make $500,000 to $15 million per year.
An experienced stunt person can earn $1 million per year, but most make a standard rate of $889 per day.
Extra actors earn $148 per day, plus additional fees for specific conditions.
Monkeys, dogs, and other animal actors generally earn $5,000 to $10,000 per year.
In the entertainment industry, private chefs make $75,000 to $200,000 per year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.