Earnings of workers in the motion picture and video industries vary, depending on education and experience, type of work, union affiliation, and duration of employment. In 2002, median weekly earnings of workers in the motion picture and video industries were $653, compared with $506 for workers in all industries combined.
On the basis of a union contract negotiated in July 2003, motion picture and television actors who are members of the Screen Actors Guild earn a minimum daily rate of $678, or $2,352 for a 5-day week. They also receive additional compensation for reruns. Annual earnings for many actors are low, however, because employment is intermittent. Many actors supplement their incomes from acting with earnings from other jobs outside the industry. Some established actors get salaries well above the minimums, and, of course, earnings of the few top stars are astronomical.
Salaries for directors vary widely. Producers seldom get a set salary; instead, they get a percentage of a show’s earnings or ticket sales.
Unions are very important in this industry. Virtually all film production companies and television networks sign contracts with union locals that require the employment of workers according to union contracts. Nonunion workers may be hired because of a special talent, to fill a specific need, or for a short period. Although union membership is not mandated, nonunion workers risk eligibility for future work assignments. Actors who appear in filmed entertainment-including television, commercials, and movies-belong to the Screen Actors Guild; those in broadcast television generally belong to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Film and television directors are members of the Directors Guild of America. Art directors, cartoonists, editors, costumers, scenic artists, set designers, camera operators, sound technicians, projectionists, and shipping, booking, and other distribution employees belong to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (I.A.T.S.E.) or the United Scenic Artists Association.