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Filmmakers Help: What do I charge as a director fee for a TV documentary?

Hello Peter,

As a newbie in the world of directing, I would like to propose an idea and budget for a documentary to one of several networks.  However, having never produced a budget for such a large project, I am at a loss to establish what my own fee as a director should be.

I want to be fair and get paid for my work however I don’t want to indiscriminately pull a number from the clouds and hope it is accepted.  Can your readers offer any suggestions on how one comes to a figure for a very in depth documentary.


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  • Michael Fitzer July 26, 2011, 5:15 AM


    First of all, good luck with your project.

    Second, many networks have standing contracts with production houses for so many shows/finished hours per year. It might be helpful to find out who those companies are and target them as well. You might be better served to see if your concept has legs enough to be a series rather than a one-off. Most networks don’t accept one-offs from inexperienced directors. Just a suggestion.

    As for your original question, there are a hundred ways to skin this cat but there is one indisputable truth, the last thing an investor or network wants to see is on a project like this a director walking away with 10% of the budget as their salary. Come in low. Prove yourself. Establish some credibility and you have a chance to turn one contract into several. As for hard numbers… maybe 2% of your total production budget as a suggestion.

    Hope that helps.

  • B S Kumar July 27, 2011, 12:16 PM

    I totally endorse and agree with Michael Fitzer above. 2% is a great place to start, and make sure that covers at the very least your personal needs during the production. You could also suggest a backend compensation beyond a healthy point of financial success for your project. This will show that you care about the outcome and stand to gain from it’s success. A good producer will see value in that.