Does passion pay off? The socio-economic position of directors and screenwriters

1. Profile


The respondents from the film sector are relatively young: one quarter is younger than 35 years and 60% is younger than 45.


Directors and screenwriters are predominantly male (71%). However, the percentage of women decreases less significantly with age compared with the other disciplines. In the 65+ age group the share of women is still 19%. In the under-35s age group this figure is 35%.


The film-makers were the best educated group of respondents in this study. 93% have a higher education qualification. 58% of them obtained an artistic qualification (Art Secondary Education (KSO) or art higher education). Compared with the other disciplines more of the screenwriters and directors hold a General Secondary Education (ASO) qualification and a master’s degree.


Almost half the film-makers that participated in our study consider themselves (more) to be recognised. 30% (more) as up-and-coming.


In 2014, 45% of the directors and screenwriters (jointly) worked on a documentary, around 37% worked on fiction for television, and the same percentage worked on fiction for short films and feature films. A quarter of them worked in just one genre, a quarter in two genres and one fifth in three genres.

2. Activities, remuneration and time allocation


When mapping the activities of the film-makers, a differentiation was made between the directors and the screenwriters. Around 90% of the directors stated that they worked on research, prospecting and concepts in 2014. In 57% of cases this work was not remunerated. Pre-production and recordings of their own work are the next most common activities performed by directors, remunerated respectively in 60% and 50% of cases. In contrast commissioned recordings are generally remunerated.

90% of the screenwriters also performed research and prospecting activities, for which half of the respondents were remunerated. Writing treatments or scripts on one’s own initiative and as commissions are next in the list of the most common activities. 85% of these commissions were remunerated and 57% of the work performed at the screenwriters’ own initiative was remunerated. Commercial commissions and head writer/writer room commissions were invariably remunerated.


Almost half of the screenwriters and directors give lessons. The most common contexts in which the lessons are taught are higher (art) education and private lessons/workshops. Other common film-related activities for directors and screenwriters are providing advice and editing services for others, and montage.


Film-makers are also active in other art forms. This applies to half the respondents. The most common activity performed is in the visual arts, followed by music. Conversely other artists are also involved in film-making: performing artists in particular and to a lesser extent visual artists that also focus on directing and filming (whether remunerated or not).


One quarter of the directors and screenwriters stated they have another, non-artistic job. These jobs are primarily found in the art, amusement and recreation and education and training sectors.


Screenwriters and directors spend 53% of their time on artistic activities as a screenwriter and/or director. On average they devote 88% of their time to professional activities within the arts.

3. Income profile


29% of the film-makers surveyed stated that they performed their activities as a film-maker in paid employment. 39% worked as an employee via an employment agency or Social Agency for the Arts (SBK). 32% worked under the main occupation self-employed status. Only writers worked more often under the self-employed status.


In 2014, half of the film-makers that worked under the main occupation self-employed status earned a net annual income of €26,700 or less. A quarter earned over €50,000. Among the film-makers that combined paid employment with the secondary occupation self-employed status, half earned €25,000 or less from paid employment and €7,500 or less under their self-employed status. The median of the net annual income of the directors and screenwriters that performed their diverse activities as an employee was €18,000.


This group’s wage increases over time more than in the other disciplines. On average, the 55-64 age group earned €63,000. We previously established that the film profession is extremely masculine, with a marked, large proportion of men. However, the wage gap between these men and women is the smallest of the various disciplines. It is greatest in the 45-54 age group and on average men earn €5,000 more than the women.


We already mentioned that the directors and screenwriters could spend 53% of their time making films. They earned an average of 44% of their income from these core activities as an artist (type 1). 71% originated from art-related activities (types 1, 2 and 3). 20% of the directors and screenwriters earned all their income from making films. This percentage is considerably higher than for the other disciplines. 50% earned all their income from art-related activities (types 1, 2, and 3). Together with the performing artists they are least dependent on a job outside the arts.


16% of the respondents stated they could fall back on benefits via the artist status and 9% on a different unemployment benefit.


22% of the respondents stated they received subsidies in 2014, amounting to an average of €12,900. The income film-makers received from copyrights, was – with an average of €12,880 – very high compared with the other disciplines. The median (€3,037) makes it clear that the average is influenced by a number of highly successful projects. Among the next group, the musicians, the average was €5,050.


The main professional expenses incurred by directors and screenwriters relate to costs for rent, materials and equipment, and recording. In 2014, their average professional expenses were €14,500, which is close to the expenses incurred by writers and performing artists.

4. Job satisfaction

Overall artists are extremely satisfied with the content-related aspects of their job. Film-makers are no exception in this respect. Over 80% stated they were (very) satisfied with the content-related challenges and artistic aspects of the job and approximately 80% with the possibilities for personal development and developing their practice.

Screenwriters and directors were more satisfied with their total wage than other artists, although here too approximately half the respondents were dissatisfied. Job security in particular was a concern for screenwriters and directors: 63% stated they were dissatisfied with this aspect.

15% of the film-makers indicated that it is difficult to combine their job with a family. 54% found it easy to combine film-making with a family.

48%, or almost half of the film-makers, stated they never consider giving up film-making. This is – along with the performing artists – the group of artists that considers giving up most.

5. Support

Screenwriters and directors are, just as the other artists, predominantly satisfied with the possibilities for further artistic education. They are slightly more satisfied than artists in other disciplines with regard to the opportunities for business-related further education. Compared with the other groups film-makers are more likely to be a member of a representative organisation and their greater satisfaction with the support available thus relates to this. 20% are members of the Flemish Scriptwriters Guild (Scenaristengilde) and 15% of the Flemish Directors Guild (Unie van Regisseurs).

Three-quarters of the film-makers are affiliated to a management company.

Fellow film-makers represent their main source of advice and information. This is followed by their accountant or management company. 30% of the respondents stated they turned to the VAF (Flanders Audiovisual Fund) for advice.

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