Below the line (filmmaking)

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Below-the-line is a term derived from the top sheet of a budget (Motion Picture, Television, Commercial, Industrial, Student Film, Documentary). The 'line' in below-the-line is the one separating the Actors, Director, Producers, and Writers from the other crew. One of the most unsung and common below-the-line crews is the Grip (job), though there are several categories of Grips in and of itself, such as a Dolly Grip, Production Grip, or Rigging Grip.

These individuals are the helpers on a Television or film set, they help diffuse light with flags and C-Stand on a production, helping the lighting crew, and also conduct light carpentry assisting set decorators and set designers with building walls and piecing them together. They hoist lights up on rafters and scaffolds 30 to 50 feet high in the air sometimes higher. Grips also assist the camera crew with the camera dolly on tracks, called Dolly Grip assuring all camera angles are smooth according to the Director of Photography (DP).

The head of the Grip department on a motion picture or Television set is the Key Grip, and his assistant is called the Best Boy whether male or female. [1] Most Grips belong to a union, the most common for Grips is IATSE Local 80.[2] There are also organizations available for those seeking training to teach those how to become an entry level Grip, or in any other below the line position, to advance their career in filmmaking.[3]

Some Below the Line film and television crews operate in Pre-Production, Production or Post-Production. As in the Film Editor, who mostly works in Post-Production, unless he or she is called to the set to screen dailies. The Boom operator, however is mostly onset because he or she has to pick up ambient noise, as well as dialogue when the actors or saying their lines when the camera is rolling.

The Director of Photography also known as the Cinematographer or DP is a major part of the camera crew and is directly under the Director he or she is also part of the Below the Line film crew. He or she is on set most of the time and is also part of a union. [4]

One of the most frequented events, held annually in the summer at Paramount studios Hollywood for Below the Line talent is the Cine Gear Expo. [5] They feature the most technologically advanced cameras and other film gear such as Grip equipment, with familiar sponsors and, screen films for contests.

The top sheet of the budget is the summary of the entire budget of the project – no matter what the size (cost).

The traditional delineations for the top-sheet are:

  • Total Above-the-line
  • Total Below-the-line (hence the term)
  • Total Above and Below the Line
  • Additional Coverage (Other)
  • Grand Total

In general, Above-the-line refers to Actors, Producers, Writers and Directors. For the most part, these are fixed costs. For example, if a scene is cut from the script, the writer is still paid the same amount.

Below-the-line crew refers to everybody else including:

Most of these crafts people are considered variable cost in the budget. Meaning, if you cut a scene from the script, potentially, you don't have to build that set, or paint it or dress it, etc.


Below the Line is also the name of a Hollywood trade publication that bills itself as "The Voice of the Crew." It focuses on the production and post-production crew working on film, TV and commercial projects.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "11 Strange Movie Job Titles—Explained!". mental_floss. April 18, 2016. Retrieved January 13, 2017. 
  2. ^ "IATSE Local 80". IATSE Local 80. January 13, 2017. Retrieved January 13, 2017. 
  3. ^ "Below the Line Film Production Training". Socialbilitty. November 5, 2015. Retrieved January 13, 2017. 
  4. ^ "IATSE Local 600". IATSE Local 600. January 13, 2017. Retrieved January 13, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Cine Gear Expo". Cine Gear Expo. January 13, 2017. Retrieved January 13, 2017. 
  6. ^ DGA 2011 Basic Agreement. Los Angeles, California: Directors Guild of America. 2011. pp. 13–15. 

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