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Is the term "Below the Line" hitting below the belt? (Part One)

Are YOU Below the Line?

Would you ever eat at a place called Below The Line Sushi?


Feels like more of a “hmmmmm?” than a “mmmmm!”, right?

Below the Line Babysitting??

Below the Line Surgery??

Sounds scary, right?

Seriously, what does that term “Below The Line” evoke?

Subpar? Less than? Mediocre? etc?

So if you are an Editor in Hollywood, you are considered Below The Line Talent.

Um, what?!

What the f*** did you say?

It's true, the category for people in Hollywood who Edit are doing a skill that is considered Below the Line...

Now, I EDIT. If you're reading this YOU probably EDIT and you all may know the Below the Line editor, Zack Arnold. (see, it even sounds dickish just writing that doesn't it?)

Over the past year Zack has started an awareness, action, and goal program/endeavor/challenge called FITNESS IN POST designed for people like US.

The idea being, WE as EDITORS sit in room for maybe 15 hours a day. WE are at a computer sitting all that time. OUR health. OUR mental well being. OUR quality of life is being lessoned and that seems to be par for this course.

We need to start taking care of OURSELVES.

As Fitness in Post started, talking in groups about our experiences became common place, and very common themes were looooong hours, poor food concerns and lack of appreciation or concern for our well being as humans in said conditions by people who employ us.

We allow ourselves to be disrepected and mistreated by the productions and by ourselves everyday.

I find it ironic because from where I sit, EDITING is the creative job that more often than not --- is a big part of the VOICE of the movie.

That's even where the term Fix it in Post came from. Everybody else can mess up their jobs all through a production pipline but YOU can't mess up in Editing.

It is the final period at the end of sentence that we call a film.

The delema upon us is that Below The Line quickly became a "status" on the Hollywood Food Chain and not just the "accounting" term that is was based upon.

There is a historical backstory to this - and it has little to do with being a status.

What does BELOW THE LINE actually mean?

In a simplied sense, if someone was putting together a film budget, a director would negotiate a deal to direct a film.

One sum of money.

An actor or writer gets one sum of money.

These values are more or less a constant sum of an outgoing money/expense.

These expenses in accounting terms called Above the Line items. Things we can't change.

They cost this much.


Actors, directors, producers, writers, composers all basically get a solid agreed upon fee for their work on a film.

Now, items that could fluctuate expense payouts based on on number of days or hours for instance were in the accounting sense called Below the Line items.

Below the Line are the expenses where you could cut and therefore save money in the budget.

A production wouldn’t pay the actor or writer less than their agreed upon fee for cutting out scenes from the script which they now didn’t direct or act in...


they could save money by not building those sets or (in our case) Editing less days as a result of those cut scenes.

If we cut these scenes the Editor won't have to cut them and we can release the Editor two weeks early and not have to pay their weekly rates.

So, in those terms Above and Below the Line all that made sense on paper in the accounting room...

...but, Above the Line talent soon became a term of "status" - - “the major players on a film” -- the ones that have a strong important creative and talent contribution to the film.

Those guys are Above the Line. Get them what they need.

It wasn’t meant to have a social status involved with them…. but this has happened.

Famous Editor Walter Murch has done Below The Line work on many acclaimed movies in film history.

This year, Tom Cross just won an Academy Award for his Below The Line work on "Whiplash".

Sounds incredibly goofy right?

But is it goofy because you have insight? Ask yourself how many people don't have insight.

How many people don't know that Below the Line Sushi has the best yellowtail in all of Los Angeles?

A couple weeks back on Post Chat Facebook page, this took place.

Now I posted these Below the Line thoughts and theories a couple years back on my old blog - and a very prominent Film Editor I respect repsonded that I was being to sensitive because Film Producers know the EDITORS value on a film and it doesn't matter to the rest of the world.

I can sometimes agree with part of that....

Those peticular producers may know your value on the project you just worked together on, but you are now tied to those producer's projects moving forward to recieve that same value and respect.

The title Editor anywhere else is still seen as Below the Line and this is why I brought it up.

That Below The Line status/attitude has now trickled down to every production that exists - Union Non-Union; Simple cable cooking shows to even a backyard web series; Assistant Editors to Sound Mixers.

Most of these producers today aren't people who came up through years of film and production work nor understand what the Editors contribution actually is.

Many just know who they can yell at... and I promise you, it isn't people with the status of Above the Line.

What would you think if a movie trailer came out and it had a card in the trailer that read:

Is that weird? Take a second and think on it.

You've NEVER seen it before.

Seriously, does it feel weird, inappropirate or incidental reading it?

Is it meaningless?

Is it more or less weird, inappropriate or incidental if it read:

How bout' that one? Thoughts?

This second one is actually REAL, yet what does it really mean? We are the Library that has books inside that you've liked before?

You've heard of a Self Fullfilling Prophecy, yes?

Self Fullfilling Prophecy:

Positive or negative expectations about circumstances, events, or people that may affect a persons behavior toward them in a manner that he or she (unknowingly) creates situations in which those expectations are fulfilled. In other words, causing something to happen by believing it will come true

____ Example 1: An employer sees a new employee and automatically expects him to be disloyal. The employer then treats the employee in a way to elicit the very response he concluded. Example 2: Labeling someone a "criminal," and treating that person as such, may foster criminal behavior in the person who is subjected to the expectation, thus creating a self fulfilling prophecy

In Fitness in Post we talked about changing our habits, how we treat our bodies and how we need to change our attitudes.


There's a common analogy that I use in narrative editing. Untrained people try to point out why a cut isn't working. Test audiences for instance do this.

"I didn't like this part", they say. "Cut out that part to make it better".

More often then not where they point out as a problem is a symptom, but the cause it something else that isn't obvious.... Producers ask you to fix the symptom and it just keeps moving around from place to place. The cause is still there.

As an Editor (or lets just start calling it one of the filmmakers) I look for what isn't the obvious....

The common conversation with Editors is that we work long hours... We usually don't get to take care of ourselves like we are valuable and if we're really good at this job we do, we can lose sight of that most important task.

What the hell caused this?


The simple?

The phrase (and the mentality of) Below the Line needs to go the "F" away...

#belowtheline #editing #fitnessinpost

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