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How do I find standard rates of pay for...?

Internet Filmmakers' FAQ

This is one of the most common questions asked by new and independent producers, and unfortunately the simple answer is: nowhere. More than most other industries, rates of pay for those in the business of show vary dramatically, depending mainly on the skills involved and ultimately how much someone is prepared to pay for them.

In highly unionised markets (e.g. Hollywood) or sectors (e.g. actors), minimum rates of pay are set by the various unions that cover different skill sets used in filmmaking. However these are the minimum and many people will charge fees considerably higher than what the union says is acceptable. For example, under the US Screen Actors Guild (SAG) low-budget agreement principle performers on your project should be paid a minimum of $2,142 per week. Now you are unlikely to get Tom Cruise for this sort of money. The same goes for technicians and other performers.

Now producers are even harder. You may see from time to time that a producer usually takes 10-15% of the project budget as their fee and I guess there are some producers out there that do. The reality for most independent producers is that you’re the person doing most of the paying, but being the last person to be paid (if you're lucky).

Your best bet about finding out about standard rates of pay is to discuss them with the individuals involved in your project. You may find that your DP usually charges himself out at a day rate far higher than you can afford, but he may be willing to work for less for the opportunity to work on a feature (but don't always count on it).

You can also contact the various unions in your city to obtain information on the minimum award for their members, although be aware than many unions (e.g. SAG, DGA) prevent their members working on projects which do not pay at the minimum level, even if the member in question is prepared to do it.

Answer by Benjamin Craig  |  Last updated 15-Nov-2004