How Much Do Wildlife Filmmakers Get Paid?

Wildlife filmmakers are not just sole camerapeople. Their ranks include researchers, production assistants and coordinators, producers, editors and sometimes an actual crew. Each of these positions earns a different salary, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) charging through snow
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Directors and Producers

As of 2013, motion picture directors and producers earn an average annual salary of $109,470, according to the BLS. Television directors and producers make substantially less, averaging $69,330.

Actors or Narrators

Voice-over narration is common for a wildlife documentary, and each actor might command a different fee based on factors such as if the actor has box-office draw, or whether the film is a feature for movie theaters or a half-hour documentary for television. The BLS lists the mean hourly salary for motact picture and television actors as $49.30, as of May 2013. Their wages are strictly determined by their union, the Screen Actors Guild.

Editors

BLS listed a mean annual wage of $76,230 for film editors, and $48,790 for television editors, as of May 2013. Most editors work sporadically. Benefits of union membership allow film editors to have medical insurance and other benefits, especially if they contract with a production company or studio that produces several wildlife films a year.

Cinematographers

The BLS lists the median annual wage for cinematographers, or camera operators, at $60,190 for motion picture and $41,130 for television, as of May 2013.