TV INDUSTRY PERSONNEL
by Dr. George Vinovich
ABOVE-THE-LINE vs BELOW-THE-LINE
TV production personnel are usually categorized as either
Creative personnel such as
producers, writers, directors, and actors are classified as
while technical personnel such as camera,
audio, TD, VTR, grip, and gaffer are classified as
Although it may appear as if this is a delineation between
“creative” and “technical” jobs, it is actually done merely for accounting purposes on a TV show’s budget. Below-the-
line personnel are usually paid a
salary or set wage based on their union’s contract, while above-the-line personnel
usually work on
salaries that are much higher than their union’s minimum wage. Just about any camera
operator or audio technician is going to cost about the same rate, whereas the salary for a particular actor or director can vary
significantly depending on the salary a particular actor or director can command.
As such, a TV production’s below-the-line costs can be figured out fairly easily based on the mere number of technical
personnel needed for the production, where as the same show’s above-the-line costs can vary astronomically depending
on the particular individual actors, directors, and writers hired for the program. Marlon Brando would command a much
higher salary to star in a program than Henry Winkler. Judith Krantz would command a much higher salary to write a TV
mini-series than the writers on
Likewise, Steven Spielberg would command a much higher salary to direct
than the guy who directed the “
owner of the TV program
and as such, the
ultimate authority for the project.
the executive producer is merely the money or the
“bank” behind the project
and has very little creative input or
interest in the project. The main interest is
managerial concern for a financially profitable project.
producers usually hire a team of qualified producers, directors, and writers to take care of the creative aspects of
the TV program. If you were having a house built for you, you would be considered the executive producer
since you would have the ultimate authority over whom you hire as your architect, general contractor, and
subcontractors, and you are also responsible for paying all of the wages for the workers as well as all the bills for
all of the materials to build the house. Executive producers do not belong to any unions or professional guilds
because they are management.
(Try to name the executive producers of some of your favorite TV shows).