Although they have very different jobs, directors and producers are often lumped together in occupational descriptions. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics listed producers and directors in the same category in their 2012 survey and found that the combined occupations had an average annual salary of $92,390. However, the director and producer have different responsibilities and while the BLS has not calculated separate average salaries for each occupation, there are many factors that influence whether a director or producer will make more money.
Directors are the main authority on the set and are in control of all creative aspects of a production. They select the cast, hold rehearsals, and advise the cast and crew on everything from acting to lighting. While they are in charge on set, the director must typically answer to an executive producer. Producers are the people in charge of the business and financial decisions for the project. They raise money, hire the director and crew, approve any changes during production, and make sure that the project stays on budget and on schedule.
In 2011, Forbes determined that the highest-earning man in entertainment was Tyler Perry, who made $130 million that year for writing, directing, and producing a series of movies. Blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer came in second with $113 million, and director-producer Steven Spielberg came in third with $107 million. The fact that two of the three highest earners in the entertainment industry work as both directors and producers suggests that the highest salaries go to those people who take on both these roles during a production.
The salaries for producers and directors are sometimes based on a percentage of a film’s income, meaning that the more successful their project is, the more money they make. For some other productions, the salary of both director and producer is based on a percentage of the total budget. In 2004, the Guardian broke down the budget of a blockbuster and suggested that about 50 percent more of a film budget is typically allocated to producers, meaning that if $10 million went to the director, $15 million would go to the producer. However, there is usually only one director and multiple producers, meaning that the budget for producers is more likely to be divided between more than one person.
One reason why a producer might be able to earn more than a director is that they can produce more than one project at a time, whereas a director’s obligation to be on set typically only allows him or her to work on one production at a time. Independent producer Ted Hope suggests that the producer salary should be between two to five percent of the total production budget, so on a film with a modest budget of $3 million, they would bring home between $10,900 and $27,272. While that may not sound like much, if a producer can produce five or 10 films per year, they can significantly increase their annual earnings.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Producers and Directors
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012: Producers and Directors
- The Guardian: Anatomy of a Blockbuster
- Forbes: The Highest-Paid Men in Entertainment
- Indiewire: How Much Does an American Indie Producer Get Paid?
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