Becoming a Film Editor
Film editors create the final cut of a film from the footage captured during a production. In addition to determining the cuts within a scene, editors also incorporate music and sound effects and color-correct images. Editors work closely with the director in order to determine the final story or which scenes to cut. They have to work alone on a computer for long hours. They also have to face unemployment between film projects. However, the median annual salary for film and video editors was $61,750, above average when compared to all occupations during May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The BLS reported prospective film editors need to earn a bachelor's degree and become proficient in software programs. Experience as an assistant is necessary before obtaining an editing position. Certification is not required to work in the field; however, software companies offer designations that ensure expertise with their programs. Editors must be good storytellers, creative, and very detail-oriented and proficient in using editing software programs.
Step 1: Bachelor's Degree
Becoming a film editor doesn't require a specific educational background. However, earning a bachelor's degree in film or television production does provide the benefit of formal training in editing and other video production skills. A Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in a Film and Video Production program also provides prospective film editors with education in the post-production process. This degree takes four years to complete and includes classes in editing, acting, screenwriting, and cinematography.
- Work on student films. While earning a degree, programs offer an opportunity to complete a student film. This provides a student with hands-on experience in all aspects of production, including editing.
Step 2: Production Experience
Prospective film editors may initially be hired as assistant editors or production assistants. Positions vary depending on the type of film or the budget of the production. These entry-level positions have various duties in a production or post-production setting, including logging footage, obtaining ambient sound, and taking notes. This is also a chance to learn various editing skills, including how to combine camera angles as well as how to align film with soundtracks and special effects using computerized editing software.
- Earn certification. Completing classes in Final Cut Pro prepares a student to become an Apple Certified Pro Level One or Level Two, each of which requires passing an exam. Courses in Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Flash, and other Adobe software programs help students pass an exam in any one of these programs to become an Adobe Certified Expert.
- Network within the field. While working production jobs, it's important to begin networking and making connections. Producers and directors need editors down the road, so it's important they know prospective editors for possible positions.
Step 3: Editing Positions
As prospective editors gain experience, they need to look for editing positions. While freelance opportunities are available on independent films, production houses also employ full-time editors. Any piece individuals have edited can also be made into a reel, which demonstrates their skills and ability to make quality cuts to tell a story.
The steps towards becoming a film editor include earning a bachelor's degree, gaining production experience, and looking for editing positions for advancement.