Below the Line: life, labor & NYC’s indie film world

In the mid-1990s, I conducted ethnographic research in New York’s independent feature film world. I followed several technicians–“below the line” workers–over the course of a couple years. I watched them work. I worked with them. I went home and met their families. I invited them to my home, a tenement flat on the Lower East Side, when the L.E.S. was to New York and artists what Bushwick is now. I asked them questions about their work, their dreams, and their personal lives. Then I made a video-documentary.

Shot on the sets of three low budget films and in the crew’s various NYC apartments, Below the Line offers a slice of what it’s like to chart a creative path in film, to begin an unconventional career, and to balance a demanding professional life with a personal life.

Twenty years later, some are still in New York, one is in Ireland, one is in Berlin, a couple I’ve lost touch with, and I toggle between the US and the rest of the world. We’ve begun talking about revisiting the conversation, about a sequel…

Here’s a low-res version of the original:

Below the Line: Grip & Electric from Ashley David on Vimeo.