Behind The Scenes: A Look at Camera Department Salaries in the Film Industry

Camera Team Working With An Arri Alexa How Much Does A Camera Operator Earn

When it comes to working on a Hollywood movie, one of the most highly sought-after positions is that of the camera team. This skilled group of professionals is responsible for capturing the visual elements of a film and bringing the director's vision to life. But just how much do camera team members earn for their hard work?

The answer to this question varies depending on a number of factors, including the individual's level of experience, the specific role they play on the camera team, and the budget of the film they are working on. However, it's worth noting that many camera team members in the film industry are members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).

IATSE sets minimum daily rates for various positions within the film industry, which can provide a general idea of what camera team members can expect to earn. The camera team belong to the IATSE local 600 (which is why the camera team is always on channel 6 with walkies)

For example, according to the IATSE, the minimum daily rate for a camera operator is $527. The rate for a first assistant camera (1st AC) is $382, and for a second assistant camera (2nd AC) is $284. These rates are for a standard 8-hour workday and do not include overtime pay.

Now, you have to remember that most feature films operate on a 12 hour day minimum. This puts the rates at:

Camera Operator: $922.25

First Assistant Camera: $668.50

Second Assistant Camera: $497

It's worth noting that these are the minimum rates set by the IATSE, and many camera team members earn more than the minimum depending on their experience and the specific project they are working on. For example, a camera team member working on a big-budget Hollywood film may earn significantly more than someone working on an independent film.

In addition to the IATSE rates, camera team members may also earn additional pay or perks such as per diem, housing, and travel expenses not to mention things like meal penalties, turnaround time penalties, and kit box rental. 

Overall, being a part of the camera team on a Hollywood film can be a highly rewarding and lucrative career choice. However, it's important to keep in mind that the camera department is highly competitive. Most people in this department either start as a Production Assistant on large scale projects or kick off their career working at a camera rental house such as a PanavisionKeslow Camera or Lens Works.

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