Here’s a little inside scoop for you: Regardless of what type of video you’re watching, the odds are pretty good that there’s been some editing involved. For 15-second TikTok videos, short films, feature-length movies, and everything in between, the work doesn’t stop when the camera shuts off. The movie magic only continues! In fact, film editors lend a movie magic all their own to the filmmaking process.
Film amateurs and content creators can certainly pick up some of the necessary tools of the trade if they’d like to edit video of any length, but it’s film editors who really know how to handle the art of editing from start to finish. If you’re passionate about movies and are willing to master the technical aspects of movie editing, a film editor job might be a perfect fit.
What does a film editor do? Keep reading to find out and to learn more about how to be a film editor.
What Is Film Editing?
It’s tough to answer this question in a matter of paragraphs—or even pages!—but generally speaking, film editing is the process of assembling pieces of video into a sequence that will make sense to viewers (and also looks good!). Based on guidance from directors, producers, and others on the team, a film editor is responsible for linking up shots to fit the narrative of the film. They are also often tasked with adding in music and other sound cues, creating smooth transitions between scenes, and even using more advanced techniques to create special effects.
Film editing is necessary for all kinds of video content. While you might think of them more in terms of full-scale movie productions, a film editor might also be hired by a content creator to put together short videos for social media or websites. As we become more reliant on (and obsessed with) watching videos in a variety of contexts, film editors are bound to become that much more in-demand across industries.
Film Editor Job Description
No matter the project, a film editor’s job begins in post-production. What is post-production? Post-production is the phase of the filmmaking process during which footage is edited, visual effects are added, and music is laid in. It starts after the cinematographer has captured all of the necessary video. Think of that video like a puzzle: In post-production, each member of the crew uses their expertise to put the pieces of that puzzle together into a film that will match the director’s vision and appeal to audiences.
Here are a few of the specific tasks that are included in a film editor’s job description:
- Meet with the director and other crew members to understand the overall vision for the project. A film editor plays a major role in bringing any film project to life. In order to make this happen, they’ll need to work closely with the whole crew at every stage of the filmmaking process. If the film editor doesn’t understand how the director envisions the project coming together, it will be a challenge for them to deliver the best possible finished product.
- Cut and rearrange shots. Once filming is complete (or partially complete), all footage is passed along to the editor. Here’s where the real work of film editing begins! The editor will use editing software to cut, splice, and rearrange pieces of video. It’s through editing that scenes, sequences, and storylines really begin to take shape.
- Help tell the story! Film editing is undoubtedly a technical process, but it’s also an art. A film editor’s music choices, cuts, and other touches can go a long way to set the atmosphere of a project. Plus, the editing choices a professional editor makes impact how a film’s narrative unfolds. Film editors are storytellers!
- Work with directors and producers to make the film’s final cut. A film editor will likely get lots of feedback from other crew members as they go through various stages of editing. Filmmaking is a team effort. An editor should be prepared to take that constructive criticism and synthesize it to assemble a final cut that accounts for the concerns of the entire crew. This final cut is essentially the best possible version of the project!
As you can see, working as a film editor has both technical and artistic elements. No two days—and no two projects—as a film editor will be the same.
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How to Become a Film Editor
Intrigued? There are a few paths to a career in film editing. Some editors find their way into the industry after pursuing a film editing degree, but plenty of others take different routes.
Consider a Film Editing Degree
If you’re passionate about film, there are many ways to pursue an educational path that puts you on track to working in the industry. Film school is always a good option! At film school, you’ll have the opportunity to delve deep into every aspect of the filmmaking world—including editing and post-production, more generally. Attending film school will give you exposure to every function on a film set, which is bound to serve you well in the future.
If you opt to go to a larger university or liberal arts college, you might also consider studying communications. There are often film editing courses available in these programs.
A film editing degree may also be an option at certain technical schools or photographic institutes.
And while taking online classes isn’t the same as getting a film degree, it can help you develop the knowledge necessary to work in film editing or to hone your skills once you get started. There are many film editing classes easily accessible to you right here on Skillshare.
Gain Film Editing Experience
A film editing degree is definitely a plus, but employment in the film industry is usually based on experience more than education. Hands-on experience is your single best commodity as an aspiring film editor. If you can find your way to an internship or apprenticeship that allows you to work directly with a film editor, that will look fantastic on a resume.
You can work your way up to a film editing job with other kinds of experience as well. Practice editing films for TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. Volunteer to help friends and family members put together video content for their personal and business platforms. You can also practice your editing skills by capturing video of just about anything and cutting it together without posting it to social media. As long as you’re building a portfolio that you can share with prospective clients, you’re in good shape.
Student films are another great way to get experience with film editing. Call around to local colleges and universities and inquire about projects that might be in the works. Once you develop those connections, you’ll have access to lots of potential editing gigs.
Film Editor Salary
According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for a film editor in 2021 was $59,095. This equates to roughly $28 per hour.
With that said, a film editor salary will vary substantially based on the setting in which the editor is working. A person editing films for a local business, for example, will make less than someone editing movies with a blockbuster budget. And there’s lots of variation in between!
Film Editor Jobs
Here are a few places or individuals who might have film editing jobs available for qualified candidates:
- Local businesses
- Colleges and universities
- Student films
- Non-profit organizations
- Content creators/influencers
- Short/independent films
- Big Hollywood productions
Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list. Our lives are increasingly driven by content—specifically, video—which means that film editor jobs will continue becoming available in all fields.
The demand for skilled film editors isn’t going anywhere. If you’re interested in working in post-production for any type of film project, there are jobs out there for you. Lights, camera, edit!
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