While it takes many people to make a film, the term filmmaker is normally applied to the producers and directors at the heart of the movie's business and creative decisions. Producers raise money and approve how to spend it in the course of the filming, while directors make the on-set decisions that craft the film itself. Not every filmmaker gets to make big-budget Hollywood productions, however, which means wages can vary widely.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that producers and directors working in the motion picture and video industry earned an average annual wage of $114,450 as of May 2012, the equivalent of $55.03 an hour. The best-paid 25 percent could make $149,390 or more, with the top 10 percent earning in excess of $187,199. On the other hand, the lowest-paid 25 percent earned $59,820 or less, with the bottom 10 percent making $37,550 or less.
Producers and directors work in other industries besides motion pictures, including theater and television. The BLS reports that producers and directors across all types of entertainment earned an average of $92,390 a year, which was 24 percent less than the average for filmmakers. This was despite the fact that filmmaking was the top employer of these workers, with 40 percent of all producers and directors involved in movie and video production. On the other hand, the average salary for filmmaking didn't crack the top five best-paying industries for producers and directors. Producers and directors who worked in the scientific and technical consulting industry earned the highest average wages for the profession, at $164,430 a year.
Other Film Jobs
BLS statistics indicate that producers and directors were among the best-paid jobs in the movie business. Only art directors earned a higher average salary among the creative professions, at $123,260. Among other film industry workers, screenwriters earned a lower average salary, at $102,080, and even the actors who appear on screen earned less -- with the BLS reporting an average hourly wage of $44.61, since actors don't necessarily make a yearly wage. That was nearly 24 percent less than the average hourly wage for filmmakers.
The BLS reports 87,010 producers and directors worked nationwide as of May 2012, with 34,760 in the motion picture industry. It estimated job growth for producers and directors as a whole at 11 percent by 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The growing demand for movies is one reason for the added opportunities for filmmakers, according to the BLS, which also predicts the rise of independent films could fuel a 16-percent growth in the number of self-employed producers and directors.