Actors and Directors

If you dream to be the next George Lucas or Johnny Depp, what is the salary or wage that an Director or Actor make? Find out paychecks, working condition, unions and job opportunities for Directors and Actors.

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Actors and Directors

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  • All Actors – $11.28 per hour (In May 2004)
  • Actors (Broadway) – minimum weekly salary of $1,422 (As of June 30, 2005)
  • Actors (Off Broadway) – minimum weekly salary ranging from $493-$857 (As of Oct. 1, 2005)
  • Actors (Screen and TV with speaking part) – minimum weekly (5 days) salary of  $716-$2,483 (As of Oct. 1, 2005)
  • Annual Salary – Not Available due to the extreme variations in hours worked. Acting does not garner steady employment, employment often ranging from one day to a number of weeks.


  • Just like Actors’ salaries, directors’ salaries can vary greatly depending on how many jobs they can get during the year. For members of the DGA (see below), there are minimum wage levels depending on the size of the project.
  • Freelance low budget (any project costing less than $500,000) - $9,173 per week. The director should also be given a guaranteed employment time of 8 weeks, preparation time of 2 weeks, and cutting allowance time of 1 week.
  • Medium Budget ($500,000-$1,500,000) - $10,122 a week, 10 weeks guaranteed employment, 2 weeks preparation time, 1-week cutting allowance time.
  • High Budget ($1,500,000+) - $14,597 a week, 10 weeks guaranteed employment, 2 weeks preparations time, 1-week cutting allowance time.
  • For more information on these, or other minimum wage standards for directors, see


  • SAG – Screen Actors Guild represents actors of Motion Pictures, including TV, commercials, and film actors. (
  • Equity – The Actor’s Equity Guild represents stage actors. (
  • AFTRA – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists represents television and radio studio performers. (
  • DGA – Directors Guild of America (
  • Actors may benefit from joining multiple unions depending on whether their work crosses over into different fields of acting.


    Positions that Actors are Employed In

  • Motion Picture Actors (Includes television, movies, and commercials)
  • Voice Over Artists (Dubbing, animated features, narration)
  • Live Actors (On and Off Broadway shows, theme parks, cabaret, nightclubs)
  • Teaching (High School or College Drama, acting conservatories, or public programs)


    Positions that Directors are Employed In

  • Motion Picture Directors (Includes television, movies and commercials)
  • Stage Directors (Theatre directors)
  • Teaching


   Working Conditions

  • Unreliable employment – Actors and Directors are hardly ever employed for periods of more than 6 months. A job can last one day, or a week, or two weeks, depending on the scale of the project.  Because of the unreliable employment, most face constant pressure to find their new job, even while completing their current project. Patience and commitment is needed to persevere, especially since the chances of “making it big” in the industry are very slim. Often second jobs are needed in order to make ends meet while attempting to break into the industry.
  • Hours – Hours are often irregular, and long. Stage actors and directors may be required to tour with their show, taking them all across the country, and even the world, creating stressful traveling situations. Those working on motion pictures may have to work on location, forcing them to constantly move around the world to do their job.
  • For Stage Actors especially, since the primary goal of the industry is entertainment, they will be most busy when the public is not. This means weekend and nights are a regular part of the actor’s work. Furthermore, scenes that require shooting in the dark will be shot at night, and some locations may only be available at certain times during the day.
  • Because of these stressful conditions, actors must be in good shape in order to handle the uncertainties that come their way. Long workdays result in very little sleep, heavy costumes will wear down an actor, and the ability to deal with unexpected issues is a must.
  • Directors too have their fair share of stress, having to deal with every single aspect of the movie or play. From which camera angles to use, dealing with unforeseen circumstances such as weather.

    Education and Training

  • Acting Conservatory or University program is not required, though it will make it easier to land jobs.
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA) also available.
  • Most important is creative instinct and innate talent, as well as a devotion to acting and the determination to handle the stress and pressures of being in an industry which gives hardly any job security.
  • Actors can attend workshops at conservatories, or get a drama coach to help with their character development, poise, and stage presence.

    Getting a Job (Actors)

  • Agents – Many actors will rely on agents to find acting jobs for them. Agents usually take a percentage of the earnings as their reward.
  • Casting Agencies – Similar to agents, but on a larger scale
  • Determination – Be prepared for disappointments. Only a few actors make it big, and for many it takes a long time to gain recognition.

    Job Outlook

  • Employment is expected to grow at an average speed of about 9-16% until 2014.
  • The employee pool is very fluid since many actors will drop out soon after starting their careers.
  • Competition will be very tough, with supply in actors greatly outnumbering the demand.
  • However, the industry is constantly expanding with the continuous expanse of media outlets, especially the cable and television markets, and online, which will lead to more job opportunities.


Learn More about becoming an Actor/Director

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Article on how to become an actor

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