Insights for Non Artists:
Adding it All Up
In a prior
column, I mentioned a past experience doing a virtual chat for
young women interested in animation. To prepare for that chat,
I researched the going salary ranges for many of the areas I cover.
Now, a year later, I decided to revisit some of the same ground
I covered regarding salaries, and look at how things are in 2002.
also did not seem to bear out any disparity between women and
men when it came to salaries in these areas, but instead solely
based on experience level, what the market generally dictates,
or amounts arranged by union contract. It all depends on the position.
Most of the salaries this column deals with (all quotes are US
dollars) I originally researched in 2001 for the chat, with the
majority updated to figures for 2002. In today's recession economy
in the United States, expect that figure ranges may generally
lean toward the low end.
track for shows basically is to write episodes, then become a
story editor (where you oversee others scripts and make sure they
conform to what the executives want), and eventually have the
opportunity to become a producer. Today, even more established
writers are finding it extremely difficult to get jobs. According
to recent figures I'm hearing, today a television script in the
United States for twenty-two minutes of animation averages $6,000,
but some of them can go as low as $5,000 (though I have heard
a report of a script sale for $7,500, but that is very rare).
A story editor can make $3,500 to $10,000 per episode freelance,
at least by 2001 numbers, and since not many story editors are
on staff I don't have comparable numbers. Starting amounts for
animated films that go direct to cable or video are quoted about
$15,000. As far as animated features intended for theatrical release,
these scripts can get paid comparable to their live-action counterparts,
but bear in mind that it is just the flat script fee; live-action
screenwriters also have the potential for additional revenue from
residuals or videocassette sales that animation writers currently
If you lean
toward voice acting and directing, as of 2001 Screen Actors Guild
rates in the United States were $617 per each recording session
for the first two voices, plus 10% for the third voice. It's a
complicated formula after that, based in part whether the piece
is less than 10 minutes, or 10 minutes or more. Generally speaking,
animation voices tend to pay at current scale. Voice directing
estimates start at $1,500 per episode, I'm informed.
track starts at practically minimum wage for Production Assistants,
but proving yourself can pay off, but I've heard quotes that average
about $26,000. The Production Coordinator level has been known
to range from $32,000 to $39,000 per year. Associate Producers
or Production Managers (which aren't used on some productions,
I learned, as we didn't have one on INVADER ZIM) I'm told comes
out to a range of about $41,600 - $78,000 yearly. Lastly, line
producers can bring in between $78,000 to $109,200 a year. However,
it ultimately depends on the company structure and what that company
is willing to pay; there are no hard and fast rules.
that I received for animation development assistant pay was $28,000
to $32,000 per year. One source thought salary could go as low
as $25,000 for a smaller, boutique company. Most jobs I've run
across in my own job searches for in 2002 match this low figure.
I did not cover in 2001 were those of timing and post-production.
Timing rates I found were $3 per foot freelance, and $1,500 per
week the last known quote I could find for a staff gig (though
sources on that hadn't done staff work timing in a while). A post-production
supervisor in animation doesn't get paid as much as a live-action
counterpart because the live-action post-production supervisor
is more involved from the beginning of the project. Also, I found
the animation post-production supervisor doesn't necessarily come
from the editing ranks; I know of cases where people came up to
the position through being Production Assistants and Coordinators.
My quote research turned up a post-production supervisor salary
range of at least $900 to $1,500 per week, possibly more, but
it really all depends on the production.
As I said,
some numbers are current while others reflect a year ago, when
the economy was better. I've made sure to indicate when rates
in this article are 2001 rates versus 2002 ones, and did my best
to obtain current rates. Take them all with a grain of salt. It
does, however, give you some idea as to what to expect in terms
of the numbers and how to plan a long-term career in the animation
industry. If you're from another country reading this, I know
this month's column may not be as helpful as some of my others;
hopefully you have at least found it educational and at least
give you a direction to do research in your home area.
is known in the animation industry for her work as a production
coordinator for Nickelodeon's Invader Zim. She also served as
a Production Coordinator for Extreme Ghostbusters and a Production
Assistant for Jumanji: The Animated Series. Muir is an accomplished
writer and often participates on panels or as a guest speaker
at conventions like Comic Con International.
to Los Angeles in 1996 from Cheney, WA (population approximately
8,000), knowing she wanted to be part of the animation business.
Since then, she's never strayed far from making that dream reality,
whether it be actively working on a production or writing articles
about the industry.
You can email
Shannon Muir at email@example.com.
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