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This story first appeared in the May 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
In 1980, fresh out of Whittier Law School, Eric Capogrosso and his boss at IDC — at the time one of Hollywood’s only payroll companies — decided to launch an ambitious project: a guide that would detail with mathematical precision precisely who should make what in Hollywood. A year later came The IDC Hollywood Labor Guide, a 400-page tome published by The Hollywood Reporter (which at the time had a small book publishing unit) that not only outlined wages but also the complicated rules governing guilds, unions, residual payments and more. It was the first of its kind, and 2,000 copies were sold for $50 apiece.
The book has been published periodically ever since, though in 1995, Capogrosso sold its rights to Media Services for $50,000. The payroll firm grew the book to 800 pages and dropped the price to $39.95 but in 2015 decided to make it free online to anyone in the industry.
Though poring over arcane union rules probably isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, comparing the first edition of Capogrosso’s book with the most recent one can be an eye-popping experience. For example, an assistant photographer made $7.28 an hour in 1981, but today it’s $46.60, while a key grip who earned $12.28 an hour then would make north of $30 now. Today, a makeup artist could earn $51.17 hourly instead of $12.29 then, and an art director who made $203.06 a week in 1981 probably would get at least $2,700 nowadays.
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