For those who follow name directors around their Hollywood travels, it seems true that the director really is the superstar of the video and film production worlds. In the feature film, music video, and short films this is often true, but it is not just in these areas that a director is needed. Corporate videos, web videos, commercials, webisodes, talk shows, and dozens of other platforms also need professional directors who do similar tasks, but without much of the artistic credibility. The question “how much do directors make?” comes up relatively often, and it is actually a field that runs from extremely high on one end to much lower in most cases.
Just as with other film jobs, the rate that a director makes is dependent on the project. This is true of positions like the editor, director of photography, and the sound mixer, just as well as above the line positions like the director. The reality is that the answer to “how much do directors make?” is often put off balance because of how much some of the highest level directors make, which could be upward of twenty or thirty million dollars a year. In reality, most directors that are actively working may make somewhere from forty to a hundred thousand a year. This will also often indicate that they are not working on a daily basis, but do have sufficient projects that bring in a livable wage. On an active feature film you can expect an average of around $400,000 to $500,000, and you are going to see big differences between studio films and independent films.
You are going to find that today the average is lingering around the high $50,000 range and will fluctuate, but it should also be noted that this is the rarest of film positions. To be put into the role of the director, there must be an expectation of starting out at a much lower salary, and usually in a completely different production job.
For film directors actually working in the feature film work the Director’s Guild of America (DGA), which is their active union, sets a base salary for what directors must be paid. On smaller films with total budgets under $2.75 million they state that there is no salary requirement, and for films between $2.75 million and $3.6 million it is at $70,000. The range above that can change, but you can be ensured that the DGA will allow for reasonable salaries and for adequate time to complete your film. The reality is that this union is designed to get the directors what they need for their career, and this can be everything from proper payment to Director’s Cut and proper credits. The DGA can also deal with other film jobs, such as the assistant director department.