Here’s How Much Everyone Gets Paid on a Movie Set — From the Key Grip to the Director
Want to make money in Hollywood? Sadly, the odds of becoming a movie star are about 1 in 1,190,000, according to the The Book of Odds.
But your chances are much better for finding work behind the camera, and even if these jobs don't pay millions, you can still earn a decent living.
So much do people working in the business really get paid? The Hollywood Reporter recently rounded up a list of salaries typically earned by a variety of employees working on small- and big-budget movies. We've combined THR's data with other research on the subject—including some numbers from salary research site Payscale.com, and a Vanity Fair video showing how much each person makes in a theoretical $200 million budget film—to get a good sense of how much different people make working on a movie.
Here's what you can truly expect to make if you break into Hollywood.
The Hollywood Reporter estimates that A-list movie stars routinely make $15 million to $20 million for top roles in big-budget films. Secondary lead actors in a movie such as The Force Awakens earned an estimated $1.5 million to $4.5 million. Meanwhile, lesser-known actors like Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman or Henry Cavill in Man of Steel might only get $150,000 to $300,000 even though they were starring in their movies.
According to Payscale, the median salary for an actor or actress in general—in plays, TV, and the movies, without regard to the size of the role—is far, far less: $50,529 per year.
The typical makeup artist working in the film industry earns about $48 an hour, or roughly $75,000 a year, per The Hollywood Reporter. But a makeup artist working on a big-budget movie will make $124,000, or perhaps more. The median wage for a makeup artist in or out of the movie business is only $17.79 per hour, according to Payscale.com data.
A camera operator's median earnings in the TV or film business are just under $50,000 a year. If you're working on a big-budget movie, though, you'll earn up to $154,000 a year.
The latest Writers Guild agreement requires that film screenwriters be paid at least $72,600 for an original script, and $63,500 for an adaptation, but Hollywood Reporter says that top talent such as Aaron Sorkin routinely pull in $3 to $5 million per script. The median annual salary for a screenwriter is $72,414.
Payscale reports that the median annual salary for a producer in TV and films is just $66,121. However, the typical Hollywood film producer earns $750,000 to $1 million per movie, though first-time producers might make only $250,000. Producers behind monster box office hits can pull in tens of millions.
The person whose job it is to hold the microphone above actors' heads but out of the camera frame—a.k.a. the boom operator—makes about $37,000 for working on low-budget films, $72,000 for typical studio films, and up to $120,625 for big-budget movies, according to Hollywood Reporter estimates.
Directors overseeing their first big-budget films make around $500,000, according to Hollywood Reporter. But if you direct a big-time hit, your earnings can soar. Patty Jenkins was reportedly paid $1 million for Wonder Woman, and after it proved to be the second-biggest movie of 2017 (thus far), she agreed to direct the sequel for $8 million to $9 million.
The job of a grip is to build and oversee all the equipment needed to support cameras and lighting, including dollies, tripods, cranes, and such. The key grip, who is charge of all grip duties on the set, makes an estimated $113,920 on a big-budget film, and perhaps $25 to $35 an hour for work on TV shows and low-budget films, according to Hollywood Reporter.