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Film and Theater

Earnings Potential

The earnings potential for someone in the field of film and theater varies according to the specific job. According to, Median hourly earnings of actors were $11.28 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $7.75 and $30.76. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $6.63, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $56.48. Median annual earnings were $15.20 in performing arts companies and $9.27 in motion picture and video industries. The most highly paid actors make much more money, however there is a misconception because of that. People believe that acting in generally a high paying job when it is not for the average actor or actress. According to Equity, the minimum weekly salary for actors in Broadway productions as of June 30, 2005 was $1,422. Actors in Off-Broadway theaters received minimums ranging from $493 to $857 a week as of October 23, 2005, depending on the seating capacity of the theater. Regional theaters that operate under an Equity agreement pay actors $531 to $800 per week. For touring productions, actors receive an additional $777 per week for living expenses ($819 per week in higher cost cities). New terms were negotiated under an “experimental touring program” provision for lower budget musicals that tour to smaller cities or that perform for fewer performances at each stop. In an effort to increase the number of paid workweeks while on tour, actors may be paid less than the full production rate for touring shows in exchange for higher per diems and profit participation. Median annual earnings of salaried producers and directors were $52,840 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $35,550 and $87,980. Median annual earnings were $75,200 in motion picture and video industries and $43,890 in radio and television broadcasting. Many stage directors belong to the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers (SSDC), and film and television directors belong to the Directors Guild of America. Earnings of stage directors vary greatly. According to the SSDC, summer theaters offer compensation, including “royalties” (based on the number of performances), usually ranging from $2,500 to $8,000 for a 3- to 4-week run. Directing a production at a dinner theater generally will pay less than directing one at a summer theater, but has more potential for generating income from royalties. Regional theaters may hire directors for longer periods, increasing compensation accordingly. The highest-paid directors work on Broadway and commonly earn $50,000 per show. However, they also receive payment in the form of royalties—a negotiated percentage of gross box office receipts—that can exceed their contract fee for long-running box office successes.

Facts at a glance

  • As noted above acting is not a sure thing, many actors have to deal with intense competition, frequent rejection, and long stints of unemployment.
  • In order to make a living many actors take other jobs.
  • Many people in this field use experience to get jobs as opposed to formal education. 

Summary of what this career entails

An actor performs in plays, movies, radio shows, or television shows. He or she works off a script in order to entertain and/or educate audiences. They recite dialogue and use body language to convey emotion to said audiences. Producers for movies handle the business aspect of a piece of cinema or television. They also approve scripts, select directors, and negotiate pay for workers depending on union agreements. Producers in television decide what airs whether it is news, a program or a particular episode within the program. Directors make creative decisions on scripts and the look of the production.

Examples and or details of work

There many examples of actors, the people who perform in plays are actors. You see actors on television shows like CSI or Law and Order. WWE wrestlers are actors because most of what they do was planned out beforehand. Movie stars like Tom Cruise, Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts have become famous through their careers in acting. An example of the kind of problems producers face is the fact that the film Death of a President has been rejected by most major theater chains.

Degrees that lead to this career

Degrees that could lead to a career in this field include: film, drama, and theater.

Specific Career openings in this field

Specific jobs in the field include actor, producer and director.