Following a career in a competitive industry like film can be hard. There’s only a handful of actors that make it to Hollywood, and even fewer scriptwriters that manage to make a name for themselves. But it’s not impossible!
And if you don’t want to be on the big screen, there are many other career options you can pursue that are just as exciting.
To help you choose a career that is right for you, we’ve created a list of the 30 most popular jobs in the film industry.
Average salary: $50,990 (£38,918)
If you have a passion for performing, you can make a script come to life through your interpretations. To get a head start in your career as an actor, you’ll need to first gain professional training and work on building your network of industry contacts. Hollywood actors and actresses sometimes make it big and can earn millions for a single movie.
2. Location manager
Average salary: $49,545 (£37,815)
Location managers are responsible for finding the perfect location for specific scenes and getting approval from the property owners to film on the premises. They also arrange for all the necessities during filming, including snacks, power supplies, dressing areas and parking. To succeed in this role, you’ll need to have a likeable personality and excellent negotiation skills.
3. Set decorator
Average salary: $53,051 (£40,494)
As a set decorator, you’ll be responsible for ensuring that sets appear exactly as they are described in a script. You will create in-depth designs that may only appear once throughout a movie and will need to source all decorations (including vehicles and animals). Although no formal training is necessary, previous experience in interior design may be beneficial.
4. Key grip
Average salary: $80,000 (£61,063)
A key grip manages all the equipment that is used to support cameras, tripods and lighting. Although the lighting team will take care of setting up the lights, the gripping team will ensure the light is cut for cinematic quality. To succeed in this position, you’ll need to work well under pressure and have good physical stamina as you’ll be working with heavy equipment throughout the day.
Average salary: $54,738 (£41,785)
The gaffer is the head of the lighting department and works closely with members of the gripping team. A gaffer is responsible for creating adequate lighting in the preproduction phase and working to quickly adjust the lighting on set throughout the different scenes. A keen interest in electrical equipment is essential for this role.
6. Film editor
Average salary: $49,365 (£37,683)
A film editor works with the director to cut down the movie after all the footage has been recorded. It’s one of the most essential parts of a movie, as the editor needs to find the best way to create a captivating story. To succeed, you’ll need to have great attention to detail, as you’ll be focused on the minute details of the overall project.
Average salary: $71,821 (£54,825)
If you have leadership qualities and want to be the next Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino, then you should follow a career as a director. You’ll need to ensure that the story is being told correctly through the actors’ eyes and ensure that all creatives are correct, both post and preproduction.
8. Executive producer
Average salary: $70,180 (£53,572)
An executive producer is to a film what a COO is to a company. They are the head of the business, ensuring that everything is in place and is running smoothly. A producer can be involved in budgeting, hiring a crew, fine-tuning scripts — whatever is necessary to produce an award-winning movie.
Average salary: $63,000 (£48,091)
If you have a wild imagination and a way with words, you can become a screenwriter and create the entire concept and dialect of a film. Although this is a lucrative career, you will need to work extremely hard to get producers to pick up your script.
Average salary: $38,480 (£29,374)
A runner will work with various departments carrying out administrative tasks to ensure that the running of the film is smooth. The jobs can vary from arranging props to setting up locations and getting coffee. You’ll need to have good stamina and a bubbly personality to enjoy and succeed in this job.
11. Programme researcher
Average salary: $54,995 (£41,978)
Programme researchers are responsible for carrying out in-depth research to ensure that the factual references that are shown in the film are accurate. You’ll also need to get copyright clearances for music used in production.
Average salary: $30,584 (£23,345)
As a hairdresser on a film set, you’ll need to ensure that each actor and actress’s hair suits the era that they are portraying, as well as the age and scene that they are in. You will be required to create numerous styles throughout the day and be on standby when the actors are shooting.
13. Makeup artist
Average salary: $60,753 (£46,373)
A makeup artist will need to create different looks, including special effects. This type of work could take hours, and makeup artists will be expected to work long shifts to ensure that the actors look authentic in their roles.
14. Casting director
Average salary: $68,000 (£51,901)
If you think you have a good eye for talent, you could follow a career as a casting director. But there’s more to it than hosting auditions and placing actors in the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ pile. Instead, you need to spend a lot of time breaking down the individual characters and understanding how they will work together before you can arrange castings.
15. Props manager
Average salary: $34,521 (£26,348)
If you have great organizational skills and a keen eye for details, you should consider becoming a props manager and sourcing all the objects that actors use throughout their filming. They will need to be stored and placed correctly to ensure everything is set for filming days and reshoots.
16. Costume designer
Average salary: $56,927 (£43,450)
As a costume designer, you’ll be responsible for creating all the looks in the movie. As there are hundreds of scenes, this will involve many late nights. Before you begin, you’ll read the script and meet with the film director to create a mood board for approval. To succeed in this career, you’ll need a degree in fashion design and relevant work experience in a fashion house.
17. Production designer
Average salary: $51,391 (£39,220)
A production designer leads the art department and is responsible for the visuals of the film. This includes color palettes, location options, lighting and costumes. The production designer will plan out all the visuals with other departments before filming begins to ensure the director’s visions are brought to life.
18. Sound designer
Average salary: $54,113 (£41,298)
A sound designer manages all special effects in postproduction. They will add music to the film to enhance the feel of a certain scene and effects to increase the aesthetics. Sound designers are usually given a deadline, so they can manage their own schedule and work on multiple projects at the same time.
19. Visual effects artist
Average salary: $63,127 (£48,177)
Explosions, fires, falling buildings, floods — they’re all the handiwork of visual effects artists (or VFX artists) who create effects that can’t be handled on set. So, if your inner child is calling to create cool visuals, you can succeed in a career creating captivating visuals.
Average salary: $58,544 (£44,679)
A cinematographer is essentially the head of the film crew. They use both technical and creative knowledge to ensure the director’s vision is logical through careful planning and preparation. They are essentially the eye behind the camera, making all visual elements come to life.
21. Stunt coordinator
Average annual salary: $42,500 (£32,432)
If you ever watch an action film and wonder how they perform all the stunts, you can thank the stunt coordinator. Also known as the head of stunts, this occupation consists of planning, managing, and choreographing dangerous scenes in motion pictures and television series. These professionals also need to make these scenes as realistic as possible. When done right, this job is perhaps one of the best careers in the entire film industry.
Average salary: $42,000 (£32,050)
Many motion pictures and television shows try to maintain a distinct look. This could be the dark palette of David Lynch films or the grand scale of Christopher Nolan movies. The colorist is in charge of this component, essentially defining and creating the mood and look of the artistic project, which is achieved during the pre- and post-production designs.
23. Storyboard artist
Average salary: $66,000 (£50,365)
The storyboard artist maintains a critical role in the production of a motion picture. This position is vital since it produces a visual representation of what the director wants before turning on a camera. The storyboard artist will create multiple panels of images to plan the shots and make certain that there is continuity throughout takes.
24. Foley engineer
Average salary: $62,053 (£47,353)
The post-production process can be an arduous and even expensive part of creating films and television shows. Enter: Foley engineers. These professionals are situated in the sound department and are in charge of recreating and adding sounds to the movie or TV episode so consumers can hear everything that might have taken place during the filming process. Is it one of the most glorious careers in Hollywood? No, but it is a vital part of Tinsel Town.
25. Concept artist
Average salary: $51,449 (£39,262)
If you are a great sketch artist, then familiarize yourself with the role of a concept artist. The job's primary responsibility is to produce fast and detailed 2D and 3D drawings and paintings of scenes, including buildings, characters, props and the overall environment, that emanate from the mind of the director.
26. Camera operator
Average salary: $48,696 (£37,161)
Did you enjoy the erratic style of the Jason Bourne films? What about the unique nature of Carol Reed films back in the day? Quentin Tarantino employs superb filmmaking techniques. Well, the next time you stay for the credits, look for the camera operator by name, because he or she was likely responsible for your enjoyment. The camera operator's chief responsibility is to capture what is happening in front of the camera, and it could be argued that it is one of the best jobs in film.
27. Line producer
Average salary: $63,984 (£48,759)
A line producer is a crucial individual in the production process. This role consists of gathering the necessary crew, transferring money to specific parts of the production, and ensuring that the project is completed on time and on budget. Indeed, the line producer, who will report to the producer, is the lifeblood of any film or TV show.
28. Best boy
Average salary: $92,000 (£70,207)
The best boy, also described as the first assistant to the grip crew, is essentially a jack-of-all-trades individual who takes care of everything throughout the production. From the mundane process of scheduling to rigging up lighting, best boys help grease the wheels to make everyone's life a bit easier. It is a lot of work, but it pays well.
29. Boom operator
Average salary: $44,827 (£34,208)
No career list for filmmaking is complete without the boom operator. Everyone knows that the boom operator is the individual operating the microphones over the heads of the actors and capturing dialogue. But this imperative member of the audio production crew also selects and installs radio microphones and takes care of the equipment during the entirety of shoots. This role has dramatically expanded since the introduction of sound during the talkie era.
Average salary: $53,299 (£40,673)
The composer establishes and conveys the mood of the movie or TV show with a soundtrack. From the iconic (and plagiarized) stylings of John Williams to the blockbuster sounds of Hans Zimmer, composers make these artistic endeavors for what they are — and it could make or break the motion picture. Can you imagine Nolan's Batman films with a different score?
While a career in the film industry isn't for everyone, there are numerous roles available for all personality types, from the shy and introverted to the fabulous extroverts. Whatever path you choose, it's recommended to take career test like the one at CareerHunter, so you get a better idea of what roles suit your personality, skills and interests.
If there's a specific area you're interested in, look into learning opportunities in that area, whether that's a degree or an online course. Networking is also a great way to get into the industry, so make some contacts and you might just find a mentor in the process.
Are you interested in working in the film industry? What role do you think sounds the most interesting? Let us know in the comments below!
Salary information compiled using PayScale, BLS, Glassdoor, Salary.com and CareersInFilm. Currency conversions provided by XE using the exchange rate on 30 March 2022. This is an updated version of an article originally published on 26 February 2019 and contains contributions by Andrew Moran.