February 15, 2024

Story Producer Rates in Unscripted

Loring Weisenberger
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How much should you pay (or be paid) for a story producer salary? Whether you’re hiring a story producer or filling the position yourself, it’s important to know the industry standards for fair compensation.

In this post, we’ll demystify reality show salaries for story producers. We spoke to a seasoned professional with credits at networks like TLC and National Geographic about their experience in the role. 

Below, we’ll leverage their insight to break down the typical story producer salary, as well as qualifications that can raise the rate and best practices for reality TV salary negotiations. 

How much is a typical story producer salary?

At the time of publication, the average story producer salary is about $2,500 per week. However, as with most reality TV salaries, that number can dramatically vary. 

Here’s how our expert source describes the current landscape of reality show pay for story producers:

“I would say the lowest – like really low – range for a story producer would be like $2,000 a week. The average that a story producer should be making would be at least $2,500 to $2,600 a week. Depending on experience, you could make as much as $3,000 [per week] as a story producer.”

The reason for this surprisingly wide range of rates is that there is no union or professional organization representing story producers. Reality TV salaries for story producers are not currently subject to any form of collective bargaining or negotiation.

Story Producer Salary Rates in Unscripted Productions - Wrapbook - Filming
Without a union, there is no central source for story producer salaries. SOURCE

In other words, reality show salaries for positions like the story producer are not regulated by documents similar to the DGA rate sheet or SAG-AFTRA agreements

The story producer salary on any given show will instead be determined by a mix of industry norms, personnel qualifications, and budgetary priorities. Therefore, the exact amount can shift from production to production. 

The lack of union representation means that a story producer salary comes with no automatic benefits. On one hand, that means producers don’t have to budget for any union fees associated with the position. On the other hand, it also means that story producers must bear costs for healthcare and retirement contributions completely out of pocket. 

Similarly, it’s worth noting that story producers are not paid according to a day rate. In contrast with most other crew positions, story producers are paid on a weekly basis. A story producer salary is, therefore, not influenced by overtime. It’s paid as a flat fee every week, regardless of how many hours worked per day. 

Supervising story producer salary

The fastest way to get a raise is to get a promotion. For story producers, that means moving up the ladder to work as a supervising story producer.

At the time of publication, the average supervising story producer salary is somewhere between $3,300 and $3,500 per week

Keep in mind that the supervising story producer is effectively a management position, which means that there are fewer jobs available overall. Supervising story producer roles are inherently more competitive. You’ll need to optimize your professional qualifications to get in the mix. 

Let’s talk about how you can do that.  

What qualifications determine reality show pay for story producers?

Story producers are an integral part of every unscripted production. The job requires a unique blend of qualifications that savvy producers recognize and are often willing to pay for. If you want to raise your reality TV salary, the best bet is to upgrade your credentials.  

Of course, there is no guarantee that improved qualifications will lead to increased reality show pay, but a strong resume and skillset will put you in the best position to negotiate. Similarly, producers who understand the characteristics of a strong story producer will have a better foundation for hiring the best crew and building the best team. 

With that in mind, here are three characteristics that make the story producers stand out from the crowd and increase their reality show salaries. 

1. Technical knowledge

In any job, it’s important to understand the tools of the trade. For story producers, that means understanding how to work with industry standard editing software

Our insider says that currently boils down to two programs:

“The number one thing you need to know is how to use AVID. It looks like Adobe Premiere is going to be something you need to know how to use as well.”

Note that technical knowledge is a baseline qualification for professional story producers. If you can’t use the tools, you can’t do the job. Reality show salaries generally don’t increase just because a job candidate knows the basics of their craft.

Story Producer Salary Rates in Unscripted Productions - Wrapbook - Editing
Story producers have to know the basics of editing. SOURCE

However, technical knowledge can form a solid foundation from which you can leverage the rest of your resume. If your skills are sharp and up to date, you’ve already met the fundamental qualifications of the job. From there, you can use experience to make yourself stand out.

2. Volume of experience

Reality TV pays for experience. The more shows you have under your belt, the more likely you’ll be to secure a higher rate. Production veterans tend to command larger reality show salaries than beginners. 

But how much experience is enough experience? When does a story producer cross the line from fresh-faced novice to well-seasoned expert? 

Our veteran story producer told us it takes roughly five years of work experience:

“The longer you do something and the more shows you’ve worked on, that really helps. I would say you probably have to have at least five different shows [to be considered an experienced story producer] or five years of experience. Maybe it doesn’t have to be different shows. As long as it’s one successful competition show, you could easily move on to another competition show.”

A long resume is an easy way to inspire confidence, particularly if it demonstrates quality. While success in the past is no guarantee of success in the future, it does make a strong argument for your abilities. 

3. Variety of experience

Unscripted television shows come in many shapes and sizes, all of which need story producers. If you can demonstrate experience in multiple genres, you might be able to ask for a higher reality TV salary. It can also generate employment security in an otherwise unpredictable industry. 

Here’s how our insider describes the importance of variety:

“Having variety in your resume is good because you’re not just pigeon-holed into one type of show. If you can try to jump around a little bit to get different kinds of experience, that helps you in getting work.”

Variety of experience can also help you pitch yourself. It enables you to make a specific argument for why you’re well-suited to any given show. 

It’s also worth noting that, as in all corners of the entertainment industry, networking is often the key to employment. By building a variety-driven resume, you’ll simultaneously broaden your personal network. Think of it as a way to diversify your portfolio of contacts.

Best practices for negotiating a story producer salary

There is no exact science for negotiating a reality show pay rate. Reality TV salaries are often strictly determined by a show’s budgetary constraints, which means there isn’t always wiggle room. 

Nevertheless, this section will help you make the most of whatever wiggle room you’ve got. Below, we’ll break down three best practices for negotiating reality TV pay for story producers. 

1. Flex your experience

To negotiate effectively, you must be able to demonstrate your value to a production. Your previous experience is the most straightforward illustration of your professional capabilities, so you should leverage it to create a strong bargaining position. 

In other words, don’t be afraid to show off a little.

If you’ve worked on a particularly successful show, make sure the producer knows about it. If you have experience that perfectly matches the hiring production’s genre or format, don’t hesitate to point that out. The idea is to outline how your specific background will contribute a unique advantage to the show’s success.  

2. Ask about their rates first

Always ask a production about their rates before you offer your own. If you give them a number first, you may hem yourself into a less desirable position for further negotiation. The production will be motivated to negotiate downward, even if your initial offer is reasonable.

Story Producer Salary Rates in Unscripted Productions - Wrapbook - Shaking Hands
The ideal negotiation finds solutions that work for everyone involved. SOURCE

If that sounds cynical, remember that reality show pay rates are generally limited by the production’s budget. By asking that the production supply a number first, you also give the production leeway to establish a realistic baseline. You can then make reasonable counter offers in the form of appropriate rate raises or kit fees

3. Keep the work in mind

The most important principle for negotiating reality TV pay rates is to simply know your worth. At the end of the day, you have to make sure that the salary you’ll receive will be fair compensation for the work you’ll be expected to do.

The work of a story producer is demanding. It often entails long hours, tough decisions, and dealing with unexpected sources of stress. 

For example, check out how our veteran story producer describes the new challenge of remote work:

“It’s a big challenge because we used to work among our colleagues, and now we don’t know anyone. We don’t know the editors. We don’t know the producers. We don’t know anyone. So we’re coming in and every show has a different way of organizing itself. The important thing is to ask a lot of questions. It’s all on you to figure out where everything is, how to get it done, and how to get it done in a timely manner. No one ever talks about that.”

It's critical that you consider these factors when deciding what is or is not an acceptable rate of pay. Adequate compensation is crucial to managing your physical and mental health in unscripted entertainment

Wrapping up

Story producer salary rates may vary, but the current industry standard is always a good starting point. It can help you foster negotiations that are both effective and collaborative. 

For more on the reality of reality TV, check out our guide on unscripted collaboration and deep dive into how to produce unscripted television with Irad Eyal.

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Last Updated 
February 15, 2024


At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
Loring Weisenberger

Loring is a Los Angeles-based writer, director, and creative producer. His work has been commissioned by a diverse range of clients- from Havas Worldwide to Wisecrack, inc.- and has been screened around the world. Through a background that blends project development with physical production across multiple formats, Loring has developed a uniquely eclectic skillset as a visual storyteller.

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