What are Below the Line Production Costs?
Costs incurred in production are generally labeled either “above the line” or “below the line” but this can be confusing to someone that is not familiar with production budgets. Most of the expenses that are related to the creative talent involved in the film are said to be “above the line” costs. But what are below the line production costs, and how do they add up?
Below-the-line production costs are the expenses that are leftover once above-the-line production costs are out of the way. Essentially, everything other than the talent costs such as actor salaries, and screenwriting and the costs involved in securing rights to the film are considered below-the-line expenses. So, the expenses associated with filmmaking are below the line production costs.
Let’s take a look at the below the line production costs that you should expect with standard movie production.
The salaries that are paid to everyone involved in the production besides the actual cast members are included below the line. This salary is paid to various crew members including the assistant director of photography, the art director salary, the salary for the editor and designer and lighting crews as well as cameraman salaries.
Costume and wardrobe salaries and sound crew salaries are also included in below the line production costs. Additionally, hair and makeup costs and the salaries or expenses paid for “extras” that are not directly cast for the movie are also included below the line.
Money that is spent on building sets or renting props is included below the line, The budget will also include the costs associated with licensing music or the use of stock footage. Below the line production costs will also include things like trailers and craft services.
Any travel-related expenses for the crew are also included in this category. You’ll also see expenses associated with insurance included below the line. Basically, any costs that are not related to the cast, the producer, the screenwriter or the director can be included below the line.
Why the Term Below-the-Line?
The term “below-the-line” is used to define costs incurred in the order they are incurred. Above the line costs typically include all pre-production expenses. Below-the-line costs include expenses that are directly related to the production of the film and they are variable expenses that can change based on the needs of the film.
Above the line costs are generally those for the major actors, director, producer, and screenwriter which will also be listed in the lights whereas below the line costs are those related to everyone else that has a smaller “role” in the film and is not paid a fixed salary for their involvement.
However, this is not to say that below the line production costs are less than above the line expenses or that they are less valued. Below the line production costs are a major part of the total budget and typically makeup 66% of the total budget for the film.