Surprise? “Honest Movie Credits” Breaks Down The Low Pay You Can Expect Working in Film

by Bret Hoy3 Comments

When we think of Hollywood, we think of big movie stars, Spielberg and the Oscars. We think of all that is glitzy and glamorous.

What’s far more often the case is something that’s a bit disheartening, even if it is a bit expected. The majority of the people that work on a film are basically just breaking even.

Why is this a surprise? Well, it’s like running a 5 star hotel. While your top people are being paid exorbitantly, or at least reasonably well, those at the bottom of the totem pole still don’t end up with much. Lest we forget that making a film really is like running a business.

These rolling credits of what each cast and crew member makes (based on an estimated budget of $200 million), gives you a pretty decent idea of how it all breaks down. Even if it’s not entirely accurate, it’s close enough for you to be able to see the trends. It certainly might make you watch the credits of the next 200 million dollar blockbuster differently.

If you’re in this business, most likely, it’s not because of the money!

Honest Movie Credits Reveal How Little Most Of Hollywood Makes

Via Fast Company:

To show what it’s really like to work on a Hollywood blockbuster, Vanity Fair created this cutting credits sequence.

Movie Credits image

How Much Everyone Working On a $200 Million Movie Earns | Vanity Fair

In the video above, Vanity Fair present the credits of a hypothetical $200 million movie, with each staffer’s estimated salary listed next to his or her title. It’s a gut-punching visualization, to see the production assistants who pocketed $14,000 just a stone’s throw away from the actors who made literally 1,000 times that for a similar amount of work. And because it uses the language Hollywood has already ingrained in us—the credits themselves—there’s no mental hurdle needed to decode some infographic-y graph or chart before the message sinks in.

Read this article at Fast Company “Honest Movie Credits Reveal How Little Most Of Hollywood Makes”

Note: it is our policy to give credit as well as deserved traffic to our news sources – so we don't repost the entire article – sorry, I know you want the juicy bits, but I feel it is only fair that their site get the traffic and besides, you just might make a new friend and find an advertiser that has something you've never seen before

(cover photo credit: snap from Fast Company)

Bret Hoy

Bret Hoy is a filmmaker, photographer and writer based out of St. Louis, Missouri. Mainly focused on documentary and experimental film, he has produced, directed, shot and edited many short films and a few long form works.

He shoots a lot and often.
Bret Hoy


  1. Before we start to cry “unfair,” let’s acknowledge that saying PA’s and Lead Actors do a similar “amount” of work is a poor way of describing the disparity of income. The star of the movie is likely the one who is ensuring that everyone else on the film makes money at all. Without the star and his/her drawing power, there is no job for the PA. (Thank you, movie star!) Most stars did not just “luck” into their position. They have trained, performed, competed and acted in films (often for nothing) since they were small children–many of them with the commitment level of an Olympic athlete. Almost all continue their education and training their entire life–even while performing at a high level.

    By contrast, the requirement for becoming a PA is minimal. Some have no real preparation going in–other than perhaps a workshop or two. Without disparaging the important work they do on-set (and I realize that there are very experienced PA’s who keep things operating very smoothly), it is important to note that a film’s revenue is not impacted by the presence or absence of any particular PA. If a PA quits, it is generally not difficult to replace them.

    My only real point is that this is not a matter of “amount of work,” but of one person having a more “marketable” skill than another. Experienced PA’s with exceptional talent and the drive to excel are not making $14,000 anyway–they have moved to producing, directing or higher-paying roles within those departments. With that understanding, we should be comparing PA income ONLY with lower-level or less-experienced actors who are not bringing as much revenue-generating potential to the table.

    Again, the PA role is important and necessary for a film to be completed, but lead actor’s are worth whatever money they can command and should be congratulated for their significant contribution to a thriving industry.

    1. You make some great points. I might add that we shouldn’t think of them as annual salaries either. Movies typically don’t grab someone for an entire year.

      1. Correct. While an actor (and most definitely producers/directors) may be involved in pre-production months and even years in advance, most PA’s are only working on the production days. They could work several movies a year if things align correctly. Those who are attached to long-running tv series have the most reliable income, although they may not have the same potential for overtime pay that features bring. Either way, you can make a good living at it.

        Good stuff. I did think the breakdown of rates was very informative. Thanks for passing it along.

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