Film Editor Job Description
Film editors work in the post-production process of filmmaking. They take all the shots from filming, and edit them until the finished product matches the director’s vision of the film. Assembling a cohesive story from small pieces of film can be extremely challenging, and becoming a successful editor requires a lot of time, practice, and patience.
Editors normally work very closely with directors, who help them decide which footage should be cut, how the scenes should be arranged, and where music or other sounds should be added. These days, most films are recorded digitally, and editors use computer software to edit the film. This software can be very complex, and extensive training is normally required to learn how to use it well.
Film editors normally have one or more assistants who help them keep track of each shot. Sometimes assistants will do some of the editing, but their roles are normally a little bit more administrative in nature. Many editors work for years as an assistant before they get the experience they need to move on to a senior editing role.
When filming is complete, editors and their assistants make what is called a decision list. This list outlines the content and length of each shot, and editors frequently reference it while assembling the scenes.
Nearly half of film editors work in television broadcasting and the motion picture industry. Though the jobs are technically very similar, they can be very different in practice. Some television editors assemble film to tell stories just like film editors do, while others spend their time editing in station identification, public service messages, news teasers, and other promotional spots.
Long hours are often required for those who work in broadcasting, as these editors are under constant pressure to meet deadlines. Editors who work in the motion picture industry may be required to work very long and irregular hours during filming and post production, but then experience a long stretch of unemployment while they look for their next job.
Most film editors work full time.
How to Become a Film Editor
Most film editors have a bachelor’s degree in film studies, cinematography, television production, or a related field. A good program will teach editing theory, and will provide practical experience using editing software like AVID or Lightworks.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have access to state of the art editing software. You can still learn the fundamentals of storytelling through film by editing on very cheap (or even free) software. It may not have all the bells and whistles, and the processes may be more time intensive, but there is still a lot that you can learn without spending a lot of money.
This is a very competitive occupation to break into, and having an education in film doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to find employment in the field. When it comes to getting a career as a film editor, the two most important factors are what you’ve done and who you know.
It is extremely rare for college graduates to jump directly into a position as a film editor. Many start out as an editing room assistant before moving on to role as an assistant editor. With years of experience and the right personal connections, they may get an opportunity as an editor.
To get experience, many editors start out by working on films with little or no budgets. These can be very valuable experiences, even if the pay and recognition are both on the small end.
Because it can take so long to break into a career in this occupation, editors have to be passionate about their work if they hope to be successful. Without a strong passion, it can be hard to find the motivation to keep pushing forward.
There are currently 31,600 film editors in the United States, with 730 new film editor job openings created each year.
Film Editor jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Film Editor Salaries
Film Editor salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most film editors make between $36,000 – $81,200 per year, or $17.32 – $39.04 per hour.