Know Your Contract: Payment to Directors for “Soft-Prep” Services

Directors Guild of America

March 18, 2024

As part of the DGA’s ongoing efforts to educate members on recent contract gains, in this installment we’re highlighting Payment to Directors for “Soft-Prep” Services.

2023 Basic Agreement “Soft-Prep” Payment Changes

The 2023 DGA Basic Agreement addresses a longstanding economic concern by securing a new standard that requires Employers to compensate Directors for their pre-production services prior to the official start of pre-production. While these crucial "soft prep" services have been essential for greenlighting projects, Directors have historically not been paid for them, making this a top priority for feature Directors over decades. This pivotal provision establishes Directors' rightful compensation for this vital work.

As with all contract changes, these gains are only as effective as they are enforced: the Guild – your fellow members – need you to do your part by standing firm with the contract’s requirements and submitting for additional payment when it is due.

We’ve provided a brief outline of the Employer’s “soft-prep” payment obligations and some charts that will apply to different theatrical feature budget levels. If you have any questions about the application of these rules or need assistance if you think you are owed “soft-prep” payments, please contact the DGA Contracts Department at 310-289-2010 or

Soft-Prep Payment Basics

Effective January 1, 2024, Employers must pay Directors $5,000 for every week (for up to 10 weeks) the Director works on a theatrical motion picture prior to the official start of pre-production, provided the Employer is also employing 3 out of 4 specific crew members on a weekly basis. If the project has a budget of over $11 million, those 4 crew members are: 1) a freelance UPM or line producer, 2) production designer, 3) location manager or location scout, and 4) a VFX supervisor.

Low Budget Modifications

If the project is under $11 million but over $2.6 million, the crew list above is modified to replace “VFX supervisor” with “casting agent” to reflect how lower budgeted projects are typically staffed. The amount of the “soft prep” weekly payment is also lower for projects within this budget range, as is the maximum number of weeks for which such payments can be made.

If the project is under $2.6 million, the list of crew members, along with all other aspects of the “soft prep” provision, are negotiable.

Crediting Against a Director’s Salary

If a Director receives soft-prep payments, is engaged as the Director of the picture, and renders directing services after the official start of pre-production:

  • The Director must be paid no less than scale after the official start of pre-production.
  • Soft-prep payment amounts can be credited against overscale amounts only.

Pension and Health

Pension and health contributions cannot be made on “soft prep” payments unless they end up being credited against a Director’s overscale salary.

  • If soft-prep payment amounts are credited against a Director’s overscale salary, pension and health contributions should be made at the time of crediting (i.e., after pre-production officially begins).
  • If a Director receives soft-prep payments but does not end up directing the picture, no pension and health contributions should be made.

Soft Prep Payment Chart

Click here to download this chart as a PDF

Want to help other DGA members learn more about their rights and contracts? Join the Outreach Team. To find out more about the Outreach Team, please email