I can’t say everyone starts their film career below the line because some people have been known to forego it altogether. But many do, and it’s not only where they learn the ropes, it’s where they meet fellow filmmakers and make lifelong professional relationships.
On the other hand, staking out a career below the line can be a very smart choice. Writing, directing, producing, and certainly acting aren’t for everyone. Some people know right away that the Costume Department is where they want to be, or that post-production sound turns them on, but not everyone has such a clear path.
It’s okay to make discoveries as you go through film school or after you land your first job on set. It’s okay to wander the departments as a Production Assistant before you know where you fit in. It’s also okay to think you want to direct and discover what you really like is production design.
Directors depend on below the line talent, and most of them expect their department heads to have a vision and are inspired by creative partners. You can have a very illustrious career below the line.
That’s why The Academy hands out the Oscars. And they may not hand out a statue for it, but I challenge anyone to make a film without an AD or a strong Line Producer. These positions are the backbone of production and hold the line for everyone up above.