What Would It Cost To Have a Documentary Film Crew Record a Real Workplace Like in The Office?

The Deadliest Catch
How much does it cost to film a show like The Deadliest Catch?

Photo by Rick Gershon/Discovery Channel/Getty Images

This question originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by Ken Miyamoto, professional screenwriter:

Well, you’d have to break it down into the production cost per episode that will show. Most reality shows that have a similar documentary structure run for an hour per episode. If you look at shows like The Deadliest Catch and such, it’s a similar type of programming. 

“You can still make a good hour of unscripted for $300,000 to $500,000,” says John Ford, who has held top positions with TLC, Discovery, and National Geographic Channel. “That’s a huge difference. And you can get really good ratings for it.”


Ford gives you a taste of what to expect, budget-wise.

Generally though, with a high rated show like The Deadliest Catch, production costs per episode can climb to $1 million per hour of television, mostly due to the addition of signing the “cast” of real characters, some of which make some pretty good money with contract renewals.


Then you have the more simple shows to consider, too.

The famous TLC show Trading Places cost only about $90,000 per episode when it first came out. Chances are it climbed a bit as the years went by, but that type of show can be pretty cheap.

So those are your ballpark figures to consider for a fantasy version of The Office.


Consider anywhere from $300,000 to $1 million per hour episode. Likely on the lower side of that, since they waited 10 years to debut it, thus the “cast” of “real” office workers wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of contract renewals after the consideration of ratings success. It could even be as low as that $90,000 to $100,000 per hour of television, which maybe equals one week of production per episode.

So the final total for the 10-year project depends on the amount of time the crew was shooting. Such shows often just shoot for a few months and then break for a couple to a few more.

I’m thinking something more along the lines of $10 million to $20 million for all 10 years of production would be more realistic.

Anyway, that gives you some general ball park figures to consider.

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