Personnel working in TV production are typically divided into two groups: above-the-line and below-the-line. Technical staff members such as camera, audio, TD, VTR, grip, and gaffer are categorized as below-the-line, whereas creative staff members such as producers, writers, directors, and actors are categorized as above-the-line.
The distinction between “creative” and “technical” professions may appear to be made here, but it is really just for budgetary accounting for TV shows. While above-the-line employees typically work on negotiable wages that are significantly more than their union’s minimum wage, below-the-line employees are typically paid a fixed salary or set rate based on their union’s contract. Almost any camera.
An operator or audio technician will roughly cost the same amount, but the pay for a specific actor or director will depend on the salary that actor or director can demand. As a result, the below-the-line costs of a TV production can be calculated fairly simply based on the number of technical personnel required for the production, whereas the above-the-line costs of the same program can vary astronomically depending on the specific actors, directors, and writers hired for the program.
Henry Winkler would not be paid as much as Marlon Brando to star in a show. Judith Krantz would be paid significantly more than the writers of Merose Place to pen a TV miniseries. Similar to how Steven Spielberg would charge a significantly larger fee than the director of the “Maxercise Creme” advertisement.