So you wanna get into showbiz to make the big bucks? Here’s how the money in Hollywood breaks down.
FILM STAR – $60K – $75M A FILM
How bad is the decline in actor salaries over the past decade? A Lot. Most “Big Name Actors” are making more money off the backend of the movie as a producer than taking in actual salary. For example, Robert Downey Jr’s $75 million came from the 7% stake he had in Iron Man 3.
Major stars still roll in the dough, but everyone else on set gets peanuts to their millions- for example, Leonardo DiCaprio made $25 million for The Wolf of Wall Street, while co-star Jonah Hill got paid $60,000.
Even mid-level stars like Jonah Hill are better off than most other actors. According to the Screen Actors Guild, the average member earns $52,000 a year, while the vast majority take home less than $1,000 a year from acting jobs.
TV STARS $150K-$1M AN EPISODE
It used to be when movie stars did a TV show; it was seen as slumming. Now it’s considered moving on up. Oscar winner Halle Berry is on CBS’ Extant, and Tea Leoni plays a better-dressed version of Hillary Clinton on CBS’ Madam Secretary. Each of these actresses is being paid $150,000 an episode, the going rate for bringing a big-screen name to the tube, that $3.3 million for 22 episodes. Way more than the $15,000 to $25,000 per episode an unknown actor is offered a series regular role. Established TV actors with virtually no big-screen experience can do very well. Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting make $1 million an episode on The Big Bang Theory— or about $45,000 a minute.
COMMERCIAL VOICE ACTOR $3K-$1M AN AD
More and more top stars are lending their voice to TV and radio commercials. Big names like Morgan Freeman and Queen Latifah can command more than $1 million for an ad, which usually requires only a day’s work.
But major stars account for only about 20 percent of the voices you hear in commercials. The other 80 percent — non-celebrity voice actors — don’t make nearly that kind of dough. Typically, they’ll earn scale, which works out to about $3,000 to $5,000 an ad.
REALITY STAR: $0-$200K AN EPISODE
If you’re a Kardashian — you can make millions (like Kourtney and Kim’s reported $40 million, three-year deal with E!. Even D-list celebs who go on Wife Swap can make decent money: $10,000 to $20,000 an episode. But for the vast majority of reality show performers — Bachelor contestants and other run-of-the-mill reality hopefuls — jury duty pays better. You’re given a minimal stipend to compensate for missed wages, and that’s pretty much it.
The real money, in reality, comes with an entrepreneurial spirit the way Housewives star Bethenny Frankel managed to land that $100 million Skinnygirl deal in 2011. Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino spun six seasons on MTV’s Jersey Shore into $9 million from endorsements of products including vitamins, clothing, jewelry, and sunglasses. If you’re a young hot-ish reality star, you can pick up an easy $5,000 to $10,000 just for showing up for paid “appearances” at bars and nightclubs.
EXTRA $148 A DAY
But there’s a “bump” of $50 a day for wearing a hairpiece, or if you’re working in challenging conditions (rain, smoke). There’s also overtime — a full day of pay for every hour after 16 hours — which has been known to happen on movie sets.
GAME SHOW HOST $1M-$10M
Quiz masters make between $25,000 a week (for a syndicated show) to upward of $75,000 a week (for a primetime program). Unless, of course, you’re Jeopardy!’s Alex Trebek — in which case you take home the $10 million-a-year jackpot.
LATE-NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST $3M-$30M
Late nights hasn’t changed the pay all that much —The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart remains the top earner at $25 million to $30 million a year. Seth Meyers barely can afford an applause sign at $3 million.
SOCIAL MEDIA CELEBRITY
When Swedish gamer PewDiePie — YouTube star, with 48 million followers — revealed he made $4 million in 2013, it seemed like a lot of money for an internet personality. Today, he’s probably earning three times that much. Elite online talent makes up to $15 million a year nowadays, partly through advertising but also through brand sponsorships, with companies paying as much as $75,000 for a single video that features its product prominently. More complex deals, with multiple videos or cross-platform promotion, can reach high six figures. And new moneymaking opportunities are constantly popping up — like Facebook recently paying YouTube star Ray William Johnson $224,000 over 5½ months to provide video content for its new Facebook Live feed.
STUNT PERSON $50K-$1M
How much would you charge to jump a motorcycle over a wall and into a swimming pool? How about driving a semi tractor-trailer 65 miles an hour off a ramp and 30 feet into the air? Tom McComas, 44, who has done all that and much more as a stunt person in The Dark Knight and Mission: Impossible movies, earns about a half-million dollars a year, and some make even more.
The AFTRA rate for stunt work is $889 a day. That’s about $50,000 a film, assuming one works every day during a three-month shoot. And work, by the way, is getting harder to come by in L.A. thanks to productions moving to Louisiana, Georgia and other low-cost states, where local stunt workers grab most of the jobs. The average working stunt person makes only $50,000 to $100,000 a year.
Bonuses are the name of the game in the management business. They’re tied to commissions — one big client can be worth millions. Starting managers make $50,000 to $60,000 and are expected to bring in two to three times their pay in commissions. Top partners can pull in seven figures. And unlike agents, managers can produce projects, bringing in additional fees.
Like everyone in Hollywood, the talent agencies have been tightening their belts. Salaries commonly tied to what an agent brings in. Generally starting agents can expect to earn $50,000 to $65,000; while senior agents make around $200,000; partners make $400,000 to $700,000; and board members can earn as much as $10 million. Tracey Jacobs at UTA is said to be earning upward of $9 million repping Johnny Depp.
AGENT’S ASSISTANT $10-$13 AN HOUR
At most agencies, you start in the mailroom, hope an assistant’s desk opens up, then dream of ascending the assistant ladder so you can be on the receiving end of middle-of-the-night email rants from top agents. At CAA, though — where Richard Lovett has five assistants and Kevin Huvane has four — you start as an assistant and move up to the mailroom agent-training program.
CINEMATOGRAPHER $5K-$30K A WEEK
Top directors of photography, of which there are probably about 10 to 15 in the industry, can command $25,000 to $30,000 a week on movies that shoot up to 12 weeks — maybe even a little more. According to insiders, on a big-budget studio movie — say, $80 million or more — an experienced cinematographer can expect to earn $10,000 to $20,000 a week. On a low-budget indie fare, DPs often take home $2,000 to $5,000 a week. On TV productions, the range is $5,000 to $8,000 a week.
FILM DIRECTOR $250K-$20M A PICTURE
“The middle range doesn’t exist anymore,” one studio executive says of the current financial landscape for feature film directors. “Either you’re paying for a modern master, or you’re paying a lot less. Mid-level directors like Paul Greengrass or Ridley Scott make between $7 million and $10, more if the film is considered a hit. Christopher Nolan made $20 million against 20 percent of gross for Interstellar. The backend is otherwise rare these days for the non-A-list. On the other end of the scale, emerging directors can expect $250,000 to $500,000 for their first big studio feature.
TV DIRECTOR $25K-$42K AN EPISODE
TV directors, of course, are an entirely different species, and get paid differently. The base DGA rate is $25,145 for a half-hour episode and $42,701 for an hour. Some big-name pilot directors get an executive producer credit and a stake in the show, which is how Bryan Singer is said to have made tens of millions for directing the pilot of House M.D.
ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER $2M-$6M
Maybe more, if you’re Skip Brittenham, who is rumored to take home $10 million a year. After a practice builds up, a lawyer can receive 30 percent of what the firm earns from his or her clients. With a big enough list, that easily can add up to millions. But even first-year attorneys can do OK, earning $135,000 to $165,000 (enough to pay off law school).
The number of producers whose fees top $2 million — such aces as Jerry Bruckheimer, Scott Rudin, Brian Grazer and Neal H. Moritz — can be counted on two hands. Moritz now tops the list, with his rich Fast & Furious 7 deal. Rudin is said to have a quote of $2.5 million against 7.5 percent of first-dollar gross. The PGA does not share producer salaries, but a newbie typically earns $250,000, while a famous actor making a foray into producing earns $500,000 to $750,000 with some backend.
Established actors with successful producing track records can take home considerably more — like Adam Sandler, who earned $5 million to produce Grown Ups 2 (not nearly as much as the $20 million he received to star in the film).
Unlike agents, managers, and lawyers, PR reps typically are paid a monthly fee, not a percentage of income. That makes a big difference. A partner at a large firm makes $200,000 to $300,000, though some of the bigger flacks are rumored to pull in nearly $400,000. Publicists with A-list clients earn $100,000 to $150,000 (though fees vary depending on how many clients are “on,” or paying monthly fees), while midlevel reps (five to seven years of experience) take home $50,000 to $80,000. The entry-level flack at the red carpet and premiere parties who can’t find your name on her clipboard makes $27,000 to $35,000.
FILM WRITER $100K-$1M A DRAFT
Feature film writers’ incomes continue to slide. According to the WGA West, screenwriters in Hollywood earned a combined total of $331 million last year, down nearly 25 percent from 2009. But some of them are doing pretty well. A screenwriter who sells a draft to a major studio can earn about $100,000, and a hot writer can score $1 million or more. Super scribes such as Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Simon Kinberg pull in as much as $5 million annually in writers’ fees (more when you add in residuals and producing earnings), while other top screenwriters earn closer to $2 million.
TV WRITER $3K-$6K A WEEK
In a gloomy Hollywood climate, the WGA says things are looking relatively bright for TV writers, who took in a combined total of $668.5 million last year, down just 6.2 percent from 2012. And TV residuals are booming: Last year, WGA members received $233.7 million in TV residuals, up 55 percent since 2012. Most staff writers work on 20-week contracts, at a rate of about $3,800 a week, though more senior writers earn about $6,000 a week. The real money is in writing an entire episode on one’s own. That pays $24,788 a script, and considerably more if you create your own series.
ART DIRECTOR $134K
ASSISTANT ART DIRECTOR $101K
BEST BOY $92K
BODY DOUBLE $33K
BOOM MIC OPERATOR $87K
CAMERA OPERATOR $96K
COSTUME DEPT. SUPERVISOR $91K
CRAFT SERVICES FOREPERSON $74K
DOG HANDLER $54K
DIALECT COACH $125K
FIRE SAFETY ADVISER $73K
FIRST ASSISTANT DIRECTOR $192K
FOLEY ARTIST $88K
LIGHTING TECHNICIAN (ENTRY-LEVEL) $53K
LOCATION MANAGER $112K
MAKEUP ARTIST $100K
MUSIC MIXER $111K
PAYROLL ACCOUNTANT $66K
PERSONAL ASSISTANT FOR A CELEBRITY $80K
PROP MASTER $59K
PUBLICIST (STUDIO) $93K
SCENIC ARTIST $81K
SCRIPT SUPERVISOR $62K
SET DECORATOR $104K
SOUND EFFECTS EDITOR $88K
TEACHER (ON-SET) $88K
TRAILER EDITOR $81K