How to become a film editor

What does a video editor do?

Editors are part of a ‘post-production’ team that joins together material recorded by the camera and sound crews and adds any extra effects. You could work on projects from feature films and TV programmes to corporate videos, commercials and music videos.

Depending on the type of films or video footage you are editing and the size of the project, your job would include some or all of these tasks:

  • agreeing a finished ‘look’ for the final footage with the director
  • transferring film or video footage to computer
  • checking the footage and deciding which shots to keep and which to cut out
  • cutting and joining shots using editing software
  • keeping a clear idea of the storyline, even though you may be editing scenes out of sequence
  • creating a ‘rough cut’ from the chosen material
  • digitally improving picture quality
  • using computer software to add titles, graphics, sound and any visual effects
  • putting all the elements together, in order, for the final version
  • creating DVDs or formatting footage for streaming online

On larger projects, you could be one of several editors with different jobs and specialisms. You could create the ‘rough cut’ as an offline editor, produce the final version of the footage as an online editor, or edit the sound effects.

What do I need to do to become a video editor ?

There’s no fixed entry route. Employers usually value your technical skills and personal qualities, like patience and creativity, more than formal qualifications. It’s common to move into video editing in film or TV from an entry level role like a TV production runner.

Experience is highly valued and would give you a taste of what it is like to work in the industry. It could also help you to gain practical skills. Getting experience is also a great way to meet new people and make contacts who already work in the industry. Not all jobs are advertised, so your contacts could help you find longer term paid work later on.

You could get relevant experience from:

  • editing student or community film productions
  • working for an editing equipment hire company
  • creating and editing films for charitable organisations
  • work experience as a runner in an editing facilities company

A qualification is not essential but it could help you gain practical skills, like using editing equipment and software. You could study towards a course in film, video or media production. The most useful courses include work placements and the chance to build contacts in the industry.

Is becoming a film and video editor right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

Still unsure if becoming a film and video editor is the right career path? Take the free CareerExplorer career test to find out if this career is in your top matches. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a film and video editor or another similar career!

Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.

How to become a Film and Video Editor

Those wanting a career as a film and video editor should be interested in the movie industry in general. Students who have either shown an interest in movies or have been involved in the drama club in their high schools will find this career path interesting. Students wanting a career as a film and video editor should have great organizational skills, be able to work on a tight deadline, and be creative.

There are several paths to enter the field. Students who are interested in a career in the industry can prepare for their professional adult career by attending an art high school that offers film editing courses. Some general high schools also offer elective courses in film and video editing. By taking these electives, an aspiring film and video editor will receive training and find out if this career meets their talents.

An older path that is less frequently used in today’s high tech society is to work as a journeyman or apprentice, working for a film, production, video or movie studio. The prospective employee works under a professional film and video editor.

With the advent of computer graphics and advanced technology, a technical or college degree may be one of the best routes for those wanting to pursue this career. Vocational schools and art institutes sometimes offer technical degrees in the film industry. These degrees range in time from a year to two years. Some of these degrees result in a certificate, while others result in a two years associate degree in arts.

A bachelor’s degree is the preferred educational route for those wanting to be a film or movie editor. Various degrees lead to a degree in film and editing including film production, video editing, film editing and drama. Many future employers prefer that employees received training during college in their school’s drama or film department to gain hands-on experience in the field. Not all schools are equal in quality or reputation, so research schools to enhance your chance for a career.

This career field relies on training, education and hands on experience in the work world. Some gain this experience and training as a journeyman, some through a technical degree, while others get a four-year degree. Film and video editors are not required to have a certificate or state license.

Schools range from technical schools to film schools to traditional colleges and universities. Degrees often run the gamut from technical training to a master’s in the field. Degree programs go by different names including film production and cinematography. Degrees are often listed under varying departments. Search film production, technical degrees, computer degrees and various other areas for degrees in the field. Research various schools to locate the top schools in film and video editing.

Frank Frumento is a movie trailer editor and works on a range of projects, creating the trailers, teasers and TV spots you see in the cinema and on TV every day. Quite a cool job, right? Yes. Good.

We quizzed Frank on how he made it as a movie trailer editor and what advice he has for those wanting to enter the film and media industry.

How and when did you decide that you wanted to follow a career in the film industry?

Since I was a teenager I have always had a passion for creating media, whether it be music, video, or film. The process involved in creating media is extremely satisfying for me, so it made sense for me to further my studies of the arts at university, and broaden my perspective on the industry.

Where did you start out in your career and how did this help you land the role you’re in now?

While I was still studying, I worked in live television as a vision mixer. Once I graduated a position opened up at as an assistant in Create Advertising’s Los Angeles trailer house, and I took the job! Since, I progressed up through the company to Senior Editor and previously worked at the London office.

After my initial interview, my then boss told me that one of the main reasons he hired me over other candidates was because I had had experience in a high-pressure environment before. Having diverse experience in the field undoubtedly gave me more credibility as a potential employee.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve ever worked on?

Let’s see… can’t offend any clients, so… every project is as exciting as last one! But seriously, trying to make a smaller, indie film seem bigger and more important is just as exciting as working with a summer blockbuster that has loads of visual effects.

Describe a day in the life/typical of a movie trailer editor?

A typical day for me depends on what stage of a project I’m on. Initially, I’m searching for music and breaking down the film into select reels (the best shots, etc.) to expedite the editing process.

From there, I’m laying out the rough structure of the story, then filling in the pieces to make a complete edit. A two minute trailer will usually take up to two weeks to complete for first client presentation. After the initial version has been presented, a trailer can go back and forth through many versions until the client is fully satisfied.

What next for Frank Frumento?

I am currently transitioning into creative directing and producing, so in the future I hope to use my skills and experience to bring out the best of other editor’s ideas.

What advice would you give to students wanting to break into this industry?

Experience is the best way to get a job in most film roles. If you want to learn how to shoot or edit, do so independently even if your school doesn’t offer classes in film or video. Cameras and editing software are very accessible and cheap now. Also, find people that have similar artistic interests as you and work with them.

On top of this, try to get yourself into professional environments before you’ve graduated by undertaking work experience or internships. If you can walk into an interview with a reel of work, and experience on set or in an edit bay, you’re a step ahead of everyone else.

By: Diane Dannenfeldt | Updated: Feb 19, 2021

Becoming a Film Editor

How to become a film editor

­If you’re eager to become a film editor, you probably need to slow down and start with some schooling to learn about the industry and the technology used in film editing. Beyond that, you’ll need to gain experience working in the movie industry. And if you want to become an established feature film editor, you’ll need to start in a more modest film-editing job and work your way up.

Movie editors have to know the art, the business and the technology of filmmaking. One way to get the knowledge you’ll need is to attend a two- or four-year college that offers programs focused on the filmmaking industry. There you’ll find classes in other aspects of the business, such as directing, cinematography and movie production, as well as film editing.

Schools also offer the chance to work on student projects and job assistance through placement and internship programs. And many schools provide editing systems, like Avid and Final Cut Pro, and equipment that you can use to become more experienced.

For many years, film editing meant cutting film apart and then taping it back together and threading it onto a Moviola, a machine that had a viewer and could hold multiple reels of film with a viewer. The process of reviewing, cutting and reassembling miles of footage was tiring and time consuming.

Now the process has shifted to digital editing technology using computers and digital systems. The Moviola Co. even offers courses on using these systems. Moving, interchanging and adding sections of footage are easier electronically, as is altering or adding animation or special effects to individual frames.

Being adept at using this technology is an important skill for a film editor. Beyond simply learning today’s technology, you’ll need to keep up with changes. That means continuing taking courses and shifting to new technology throughout your career. Even assistant editors need strong computer skills.

With your education behind you, the next step is paying your dues. That may mean working as an assistant in the film industry during school, or it may mean dues literally — as in union dues. Hollywood film editors usually are members of the Motion Picture Editors Guild.

The guild may be a place to find an apprenticeship as the first step rung on the editing ladder. It also offers career information on film editing, a magazine, wage information and advice.

Another organization, American Cinema Editors, is an honorary society for film editors, whose members are allowed to list “A.C.E.” after their names in film credits. While you’ll be years from becoming a member, the society may help you as a beginner through seminars and the student competition that’s part of its annual Eddie Awards.

To start, you’ll need to build a video resume of your work. You’ll also need contacts ­you’ve made to get a first job. That first job may have nothing to do with editing. You may find yourself a production assistant, an animation-editing assistant or an assistant to an editor.

From there, with contacts, skill and luck, you can work your way up from assistant editor to associate editor and finally film editor. Many film editors build a team of assistants to take from film to film, and directors also like to keep using the same editors. So building relationships will definitely have a positive impact on your career [source: The Princeton Review].

For lots more information about film editors and related topics, see the links below.­

A film editor cuts together raw footage into sequences. To put it another way, editing is the practice of assembling shots in the order in which the story unfolds. This post-production role is regarded as both technical and creative. In this article you will learn further essential details about the film editor career.

What Does A Film Editor Do?

To begin with, the film editor is either hired by the producer or director. Generally film directors prefer to work with the same editors repeatedly. Occasionally during pre-production the director may work together with the editor to discuss how the film could be shot. Although on many productions these days this initial cooperation happens less often.

During production, the editor will receive rushes (dailies) so as to create an assembly edit. In short rushes are rough cuts of the day’s footage. Often these are viewed at the end of every shooting day by the director and also the producer. On some film sets however it is the assistant editor that prepares rushes.

Significantly the film editor’s job starts during post-production. Now that shooting is completed, the director’s full attention will be on the edit. The editor will work closely together with the director to refine the edit. The film will undergo many alternative cuts and therefore it may take months before picture lock (final cut). Afterward, music and sound are added, a process the editor will oversee. Additional revisions may be made such as to meet desirable length and certification. For this reason the producer will also be keeping a close eye on the edit.

Summing up it is the editor’s job to make sure that the footage cuts together seamlessly. The goal is to make the viewer become so engaged that they become unaware of the editor’s work. With this purpose in mind, film editing is often called an invisible art.

Education And Training

How to become a film editor

There are several ways you could start your film editor career. Firstly you will need to gain practice as well as work experience. You also may choose to make and edit your own short films. Luckily for upcoming editor’s software can now be downloaded online for free too.

Many film editors traditionally begin by becoming post-production runners and then editing assistants. Generally runners help keep the editing suits tidy, make tea and also run errands. You might find a runner job by asking post-production companies directly or through trainee schemes such as Screenskills Trainee Finder. Additionally, explore job sites such as Shooting People, My First Job In Film and our own film job pages.

At the present time it’s typical for editors to have higher education. Many universities offer full-time courses in film production as well as media. Furthermore film schools will also have workshops that focus specifically on the editing discipline. For example the NFTS has a two year masters in editing.

How to become a film editor

Finding Paid Work

How to become a film editor

Another alternative film editor career route is to work on low budget productions. This will give you hands-on practice as well as introducing you to upcoming film producers. You will find low budget production work on film job sites and during film networking events.

Typically you will need to build up a portfolio of work and also create a filmmaker CV. This may mean from time to time working for free to gain experience credits. In reality, often filmmakers have part-time jobs when they first start working in film.

Finding work in the film industry is overall about who you know. With this in mind networking and making relationships with filmmakers is important. To sum up, the main ways to find work are film job sites coupled with networking. Other post-production roles that you may be interested in are colorist but also visual effects supervisor.

Salary Expectations

When you first start out as either runner or assistant editor you might only get paid minimum wage. Current UK minimum wage rates are £6.15 – £8.21 per hour. Your salary will increase depending on your experience and the overall production budget. Film editors might charge by the hour however, in general they charge per project. Furthermore details on how much UK film editors should charge can be found on the BECTU website.

Wrapping Up – Film Editor

In conclusion, the film editor career requires both creativity and technical expertise. It will take many years to become trusted to work on major budget productions. Nevertheless the journey working towards this career will be both interesting and rewarding.

Film and television editors edit and assemble films and videos from raw, unedited footage (‘dailies’ or ‘rushes’), taking into account the mood, pace and climax of films or television productions.

Personal requirements for a Film and Television Editor

  • Artistic flair and interest in visual media
  • Patience
  • Attention to detail
  • Able to work as part of a team
  • Able to take direction
  • Lateral thinking

Education & Training for a Film and Television Editor

You can work as a film and television editor without formal qualifications. You will probably get some informal training on the job. Entry to this occupation may be improved if you have qualifications. You may like to consider a VET qualification. Applicants may be required to attend an interview and/or submit a folio of work. As subjects and prerequisites can vary between institutions, you should contact your chosen institution for further information. You can also become a film and television editor through a traineeship. Entry requirements may vary, but employers generally require Year 10. Alternatively, you can become a film and television editor by completing a degree in creative arts, media, screen production or film and television. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education with English. Applicants may be required to attend an interview and/or submit a folio of work. Institutions have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.

Duties & Tasks of a Film and Television Editor

Film and television editors:

  • View processed film and video with production personnel to analyse, evaluate and select scenes and to decide which scenes need to be improved or reshot
  • Trim film and copy video segments to specific lengths, arranging and joining them in sequence as a final product or for inclusion within a subsequent broadcast or longer production
  • Import, compile and render digital audio and visual footage on a computer to enable the content to be presented with maximum effect
  • Select and incorporate visual effects and transitions for maximum effect
  • Select stock shots from a film library and edit and incorporate them into film or video.

Tasks

  • Views film and video tape to evaluate and select scenes and determine which scenes need to be re-shot..
  • Plans and organises the preparation and presentation of programmes..

Working conditions for a Film and Television Editor

There is often a need to work long or irregular hours. Work may need to be carried out on location.

Employment Opportunities for a Film and Television Editor

Film and television editors work for film companies, television stations and video production houses. They may also work on a freelance basis. Competition for jobs is very strong and interstate and/or overseas experience is often needed to enhance employment prospects. Completion of a course will not guarantee entry to this occupation. Employment and advancement depend on the person having considerable experience and talent.

Specializations

Film and Television Editor

Film and television editors edit and assemble films and videos from raw, unedited footage (‘dailies’ or ‘rushes’), taking into account the mood, pace and climax of films or television productions.

Frank Frumento is a movie trailer editor and works on a range of projects, creating the trailers, teasers and TV spots you see in the cinema and on TV every day. Quite a cool job, right? Yes. Good.

We quizzed Frank on how he made it as a movie trailer editor and what advice he has for those wanting to enter the film and media industry.

How and when did you decide that you wanted to follow a career in the film industry?

Since I was a teenager I have always had a passion for creating media, whether it be music, video, or film. The process involved in creating media is extremely satisfying for me, so it made sense for me to further my studies of the arts at university, and broaden my perspective on the industry.

Where did you start out in your career and how did this help you land the role you’re in now?

While I was still studying, I worked in live television as a vision mixer. Once I graduated a position opened up at as an assistant in Create Advertising’s Los Angeles trailer house, and I took the job! Since, I progressed up through the company to Senior Editor and previously worked at the London office.

After my initial interview, my then boss told me that one of the main reasons he hired me over other candidates was because I had had experience in a high-pressure environment before. Having diverse experience in the field undoubtedly gave me more credibility as a potential employee.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve ever worked on?

Let’s see… can’t offend any clients, so… every project is as exciting as last one! But seriously, trying to make a smaller, indie film seem bigger and more important is just as exciting as working with a summer blockbuster that has loads of visual effects.

Describe a day in the life/typical of a movie trailer editor?

A typical day for me depends on what stage of a project I’m on. Initially, I’m searching for music and breaking down the film into select reels (the best shots, etc.) to expedite the editing process.

From there, I’m laying out the rough structure of the story, then filling in the pieces to make a complete edit. A two minute trailer will usually take up to two weeks to complete for first client presentation. After the initial version has been presented, a trailer can go back and forth through many versions until the client is fully satisfied.

What next for Frank Frumento?

I am currently transitioning into creative directing and producing, so in the future I hope to use my skills and experience to bring out the best of other editor’s ideas.

What advice would you give to students wanting to break into this industry?

Experience is the best way to get a job in most film roles. If you want to learn how to shoot or edit, do so independently even if your school doesn’t offer classes in film or video. Cameras and editing software are very accessible and cheap now. Also, find people that have similar artistic interests as you and work with them.

On top of this, try to get yourself into professional environments before you’ve graduated by undertaking work experience or internships. If you can walk into an interview with a reel of work, and experience on set or in an edit bay, you’re a step ahead of everyone else.

Film editing is the ability to skillfully determine the sequence and duration of events captured and depicted by filmmakers. While the art of film editing formerly involved manually manipulating celluloid; today it is a digital process done with sophisticated computer software. Although the most common perception connects film editing to the entertainment business, it is also found in a wide variety of career categories such as science, education, and law.

What Is a Film Editor?

A film editor works with the raw footage of a film, cutting and placing footage together to create the final sequence of the finished film. A talented film editor is able to make the transition from one scene to the next very natural, so the audience doesn’t even register it as they’re invested in the television show, commercial, movie, etc. In some instances, the film editor is responsible for more than just editing the film; they may handle some music, sound and visual effects. They work very closely with the director of the film or project, as well as other department heads, to help realize the collective vision of a project.

Because the technology in the film industry is always changing, a film editor needs to stay up to date with the tools and software available. If you want to become a film editor, you should have a strong background in film or broadcasting, and computer courses can also be incredibly helpful since most applications and tools are computer-based these days.

Film Editor Education & Training Requirements

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends that individuals interested in a film editing career obtain at least a bachelor’s degree in a broadcasting or film-related field. Numerous colleges and universities offer courses in film editing. Film editors may benefit from taking courses that will beef up their portfolio, such as courses teaching music, sound and visual effects. Although many film editors will eventually specialize in a specific type of software that they prefer, it’s best to be familiar with various types. This will make the professional well-rounded, and make their resume more impressive to potential employers.

Where Do Film Editors Work?

Most film editors will work in studios, typically in an area where they have access to multiple computers and editing equipment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 59,300 film and video editors employed in the US in 2017, and about 24% of editors were self employed. Self-employed editors often do freelance work for smaller budget films, commercials and other projects. Freelancing allows professionals to set their own schedules, although they often work based on a project’s deadline.

Freelancing comes with risks, including some difficulty finding steady work and steady pay. The good news is that there are numerous industries hiring film editors full time, including the industry with the largest employment of editors, the motion picture and video industry. This particular industry was responsible for 10% of employed film editors in 2017.

Film Editor Salary & Job Outlook

Salary

Film editing can be a very lucrative career, but like most other careers, the salary of an editor will be dependent upon many variables. The BLS reports that the median annual wage for film and video editors was $58,210 in May of 2017. The top 10% of earners brought home more than $119,000. Typically, those living in an area with a more film-friendly culture will earn more money and have more job prospects. States with the highest pay for film editors include California ($109,070 annual median salary), New York ($84,510), Florida ($43,030), Georgia ($58,130) and Texas ($55,990).

Job Outlook

Because the film editor career is lumped together with the camera operator career in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data , the published information shows that the job growth is faster than average – about 13% through the year 2022. However, this probably is due to the fact that the growth for camera operation jobs is slowing significantly. Editing jobs, however, are on the increase because of the demand for new movies and television shows, not to mention commercials for advertising and other projects. States with the highest levels of employment for film editors include California (13,900), New York (4,590), Florida (1,540), Georgia (1,330), and Texas (1,270).