Stimulating networks & knowledge
within the documentary sector.

User login

Enter your username and password here in order to log in on the website:
Join EDN
For full web access, discounts, Co-Production Guide, EDN Financing Guide & individual consultation

AG DOK Study proves creativity in documentary is made for a dumping price


The German Documentary Association/AG DOK has published a survey of the employment and income situation of documentary filmmakers
in Germany. The survey states that writers and directors of documentary films are paid miserably and rank at the bottom of the payment scale in the media industry.

The German Documentary Association/AG DOK has often spoken out against the disregard for documentary work. Now for the first time, the Association can support its criticism with numbers culled over the past several months from a very detailed survey of the employment and income situations of a representative cross section of writers and directors in Germany.

The results are sobering: the average net income of documentary film directors is €1380/month. Approximately 18 percent of those surveyed earned less than €636/month. A mere 15 percent stated that they can make a living from their writing and directing work. The remaining 85 percent – the vast majority – are forced to supplement their income with jobs which are not necessarily related to the film industry or are supported by their families. 

According to the AG DOK, the public service broadcasters are largely responsible for the current situation. While they are investing vast sums in licensing fees for sporting events, entertainment programs and talk shows, they are increasingly neglecting their core competency – ambitious documentaries. Documentary writers and directors have thus been uncoupled from income developments in the remaining media sector. Today they often earn only one-third of what their colleagues in the fiction branch are paid as a matter of course.

Berlin-based director Alice Agneskirchner summarizes the study: "In the face of such numbers, it's easy to see why approximately 70 percent of our colleagues view their career prospects as 'negative' or 'very negative.'" As vice-chair of the AG DOK, Agneskirchner initiated and conducted the survey. She considers it "negligent how the film and television industries are failing to offer graduates of the many film schools any kind of career prospects which are at all proportional to the expenditures involved in training them." The findings of the scientific study, which Langer Media Consulting Berlin supported and evaluated, are indeed shocking: freelance documentary writers and directors work an average of 82 days per year without payment. Even when projects they develop go into production, the writers/directors are rarely if ever reimbursed for the development costs. They are also being increasingly burdened with tasks which usually have nothing to do with directing, such as organizing shooting permits, clearing rights with protagonists and even negotiating the rights of use for the archival footage they use in their films.

Writers and directors are not included in the German labour union-negotiated "Wage Agreement for Film and Television Employees." The AG DOK study thus applied the amount of time required for the making of documentaries of various lengths to the standard fees paid. Including the particularly work-intensive feature-length documentaries, the projects analyzed in the survey yielded a daily wage of €99, or in terms of the usual working hours in the industry a gross hourly wage of €9.91! As compensation for one's labour alone, this is already a dumping price. Yet broadcasters continue to claim that this fee includes compensation for the usage of author's rights. Even with TV projects of 30 or 45 minutes length, the daily wages are significantly lower than those paid to cinematographers, editors and production managers.

"It should really be obvious to everyone that directors, who bear the full responsibility for the artistic style, content and punctual completion of a film, should not earn less than everyone else involved in the production," says Alice Agneskirchner. And she concludes: "Until this unbalance is eliminated, there can be no talk of the "fair contractual conditions" and "fair compensation" called for in the Interstate Broadcasting Agreement.


You can download the complete survey in German from the AG DOK web site.

Related links at

See links to documentary organisations in Resources

See Upcoming EDN Activities

Follow EDN on Facebook