Filmmaker Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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Learn about a filmmaker's job duties, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of this career to decide if becoming a filmmaker is right for you.
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The Pros and Cons of a Filmmaker Career

A filmmaker, also referred to as a director, may direct cable and subscription programming, radio and television broadcasting and performing arts. Continue reading for the pros and cons of this career.

Pros of a Filmmaker Career
Allows for creativity*
Around 15% of filmmakers are self-employed*
Perform a job you are passionate about*
Potential to earn a high annual salary*

Cons of a Filmmaker Career
Long, irregular work hours, including evenings, weekends and holidays*
Regular work may be inconsistent*
Due to the high demand to work in the entertainment and video industry, this is a highly competitive field*
Can require working outside in severe or extreme weather (filming in rain, snow, freezing temperatures, or high heat locations)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

The director oversees the entire production and is responsible for the casting, filming, set design, costumes, lighting and sound. You will also work with the editors to complete the final cut of the film. Depending on the size of the production, the director may work with the cinematographer to operate the camera and shoot scenes.

Job Outlook and Salary

From 2012-2022, the employment outlook for producers and directors is 3%, which about the average rate for all jobs in the U.S., according to the BLS. However, the demand for positions will outnumber the available openings, making a career as a filmmaker highly competitive. According to the BLS, the annual mean salary for a producer and director was around $90,000 in May 2014; those working in the motion picture and video industry earned about $106,000 per year.

What Are the Requirements?

Although the career often begins with a 4-year degree in film or a related field, experience is highly preferred. An undergraduate degree in film and television or theatre production can teach you about costume design, lighting, sound, acting, directing and management. Students may also have the opportunity to work on film sets and gain experience.

Skills Employers Want

The film industry is highly competitive, so it is essential to acquire both creative and technical skills. Besides experience, employers seek candidates with strong oral and written communication skills who can work with different types professionals. An internship can help you gain additional skills and experience in the industry.

Job Postings From Real Employers

Most job postings for filmmakers or directors are contract positions. Contract positions run from the beginning stages of a production through the editing process. Here are some real job openings for directors in April 2012:

  • A Miami-based employer is looking for a full-time video creative director/editor to lead its creative team. Job duties include writing, editing, presenting and creating fitness videos. A bachelor's degree in film and eight or more years of experience in developing commercials, industrial films and music videos are required. Management and strong communication skills are preferred.
  • A Florida production company needs a director for a short dance film. The position is contract only. Production experience is a plus, and all candidates should be creative and highly motivated.
  • In Los Angeles, CA, an independent director is needed for the production of an indie movie production. The ideal candidate will be experienced in feature film production, have previous festival work experience and strong leadership skills.
  • A production company in Philadelphia is looking to contract an experienced director for a 1-hour TV pilot. The director should have experience in one feature film or two short films. Interested candidates should submit a copy of their demo reel.

How to Beat the Competition

Because of the keen competition, standing out among other directors is important to earning a job and working as a director. Applying to a training program, continuing your education and joining related guilds and associations will help you get your foot in the door and begin your career.

Apply to a Training Program

The Directors Guild of America offers an assistant directors training program that accepts a limited number of trainees per year. While you must be at least 21 years old, it's recommended that applicants have a 4-year degree. The program is two years and provides on-the-job training as an assistant director; educational seminars are also available to supplement the training. The program does not cost anything, but upon starting, you must reside in New York City.

The program requires individuals to complete a minimum of 350 days of on-the-job training in order to qualify for graduation from the program. Upon graduation, you become eligible to join the Directors Guild of America as a second assistant director. Working as an assistant director for several years can lead to work as a director.

Continuing Education

A graduate degree in film and television can also increase your chances of getting work as a director. Graduate programs provide intensive instruction in film and build upon your undergraduate coursework. These programs allow students to write, direct and edit their own films. While completing the films, you will learn about the different aspects of the production process.

Other Career Options

Film and Video Editor

A film and video editor works with directors and producers to create the final, edited copy of the film or video. To work as an editor, you need to be proficient in using specific editing software and have a strong understanding of graphics and storytelling. According to the BLS, the annual median salary of a film and video editor was around $53,000 in May 2011.

Multimedia Artist

A multimedia artist works with computer graphics, animations, and other forms of digital art for television, movies, video games and other media outlets. You need a bachelor's degree in computer graphics or a related field to work in this field. In May 2011, the median annual wage was around $61,000.

Art Director

Art directors create and design the concepts that are used in the visual communications field; this may involve broadcasting and print work. Career opportunities may be available with magazines, newspapers and video productions, and a 4-year degree is often required for this position. In May 2011, the annual median salary was around $81,000, according to the BLS.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

      • BA in Digital Film - Screenwriting
      • BA in Digital Film - Production
      • Bachelor of Arts in Digital Film with an Emphasis in Editing and Visual Effects
  • Campus and Online Programs
    2. Full Sail University

    Program Options

      • Master of Science - Film Production
      • MS - Entertainment Business (Campus)
      • Entertainment Business Masters - Campus
      • Entertainment Business (Sports) MS
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
      • Film Production Masters - Campus
      • B.S. - Show Production
      • Business Bachelors with Entertainment Business Concentration - Campus
      • B.S. - Digital Cinematography
      • Audio Arts Bachelors with AP Concentration - Online
      • Business Bachelors with Entertainment Business Concentration - Online
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma
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Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • BA in Digital Film - Screenwriting
  • BA in Digital Film - Production
  • Bachelor of Arts in Digital Film with an Emphasis in Editing and Visual Effects

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • Master of Science - Film Production
  • MS - Entertainment Business (Campus)
  • Film Production Masters - Campus
  • B.S. - Show Production

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

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