Big box office hits can bring in bring in hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, meaning big paydays for their producers and directors. With successful fims spawning sequels, broadcast deals, and lines of merchandise, it's no wonder big-name producers and directors can easily be worth a billion dollars or more. And while the ones that produce their own films—because that is where the truly big money is found—often have much of their money tied up in new projects, we're starting to see some of them cash out, and focus more on philanthropy. So who are some of the big name producers and directors giving big?
The list of causes Spielberg supports is almost as long as the list of movies he has directed or produced. Health-related causes, especially those that involve children, have been some of the largest recipients, along with the Museum of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Motion Picture and Television Fund Foundation. Scientific discovery, disaster relief, environmental issues, and animal welfare have also seen support, though Jewish causes seem to be closest to his heart. Using the profits from Schindler’s List, he started the Shoah Foundation and the Righteous Persons Foundation, which mainly focus on historical projects related to the Holocaust. With a $3 billion net worth, there’s a good chance we could start seeing more substantial giving soon. See Spielberg’s IP Profile.
When the writer, producer and director best known for creating the Star Wars franchise sold his film company to Disney for just over $4 billion in 2012, his spokesperson said he planned to put the majority of the proceeds toward his philanthropic endeavors. So far, he’s pledged around $1 billion for the creation and endowment of the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum in Chicago, which will house his substantial collections of art and movie memorabilia. Before that, most of his previous giving had been in education, with over $200 million going to the USC Film School, and millions more to “celebrate and encourage innovation in K-12 schools,” mostly through his George Lucas Educational Foundation, and its website Edutopia.org. So it seems likely we’ll see more major contributions to educational causes in the future. See Lucas’s IP Profile.
Already worth an estimated $900 million, the producer of megahits Avatar and Titanic is big on environmental causes. His Avatar Alliance Foundation has just started making grants, and will presumably get a big boost from the three planned sequels. Cameron has pledged that some portion of the proceeds from the films will be used to support environmental causes, and if the first film is any indication, they should gross well over $1 billion each. He also recently donated the sub he had built to explore the Challenger Deep to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. See Cameron’s IP Profile.
Though he hasn’t amassed the sort of wealth some of his colleagues have, the director, producer, and creator of Castle Rock Entertainment has been a longtime supporter of early childhood education. In 1997, he and his wife Michele helped co-found the I Am Your Child Foundation to promote the importance of early childhood education, and were instrumental in passing a ballot initiative that created First 5 California, which Reiner chaired for seven years. More recently, they’ve launched an effort to rebrand I Am Your Child as Parents’ Action for Children, and were also involved in helping overturn California’s ban on gay marriage. See Reiner’s IP Profile.
Lynch has been a strong advocate of transcendental meditation since first learning the practice in 1973. Probably the most eccentric philanthropist on this list, he launched the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and Peace in 2005. Focusing on students, veterans, women, the homeless, prisoners, those living with HIV/AIDS, victims of violence, American Indians, and Africans affected by war, the foundation gives out approximately $4 million a year in grants to organizations looking to incorporate the practice and philosophy of transcendental meditation into their programs. See Lynch’s IP Profile.