The Salary of a Documentary Producer

Producers are responsible for both the creative and financial decisions.
Producers are responsible for both the creative and financial decisions. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Documentary film producers help to make films about historical events and social issues. The individuals who produce films, producers, work behind the scenes to select scripts, acquire financing and determine the budget for the documentary film. Producers generally assist in the selection of the cast and crew for a film and will hand pick the director, actors and production staff. Producers work in the stage, television, radio, video and the motion picture industries and generally earn an annual mean salary of $88,610.

Job Description

Producers work mainly in the television and motion picture industries, and make business and financial decisions involving motion pictures, television shows and stage productions. Large film productions often have multiple producers, such as an associate, assistant or line producer, who might specialize in certain areas. An executive producer generally manages these types of producers. Together, they work to coordinate the various activities related to making a movie to ensure the production is a success from creation to completion.


According to 2010 data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, the national annual mean salary for all film producers was $88,610. These individuals earned a national mean hourly wage of $42. Film producers in the bottom 10th percentile for this profession earned a salary of $32,140, or an hourly wage of $15. Film producers in the top 25th percentile for this profession earned a salary of $111,720, or an hourly wage of $53. Salary in this industry varies based on studio and geographical location.

A documentary producer's salary often depends on his level of experience. In many cases, contracts prevent the disclosure of salary amounts. You can expect documentary film producers for lower budgets films to fall within the bottom national mean of the bureau, while top budget documentaries will place the producers in a higher salary tier. Amounts also fluctuate in how the producer functions; for example, some producers may also act as the director or other roles in the film.

If you want to earn top dollar as a film producer, think about finding employment in California, New York or Washington D.C., because these are the top-paying states for this occupation. Producers working in these states earned an annual mean salary between $90,820 and $126,360.


Motion picture and video, radio and television broadcasting, state government and performing arts companies are the industries with the highest levels of employment in this occupation. The top-paying industries for this occupation include accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services; motion picture and video; advertising, public relations and related services; and independent artists, writers and performers. They all paid producers an annual mean salary between $101,240 and $121,940.

According to BLS, producers working in the motion picture and video industries earned an annual mean salary of $109,860 or $52 and hour. Producers working in radio and television broadcasting industry earned an annual mean salary of $72,030 or an hourly wage of $34.


According to projected data published by BLS, employment of actors, directors and producers is expected to grow 11 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is about as fast as the national average for all other occupations. The bureau attributes this growth to a rising demand for U.S. films in other countries and the continued development of interactive media, online movies and mobile media.

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