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Film Editor


How to Become a Film Editor
Film Editor Job Description
Skills and Qualities of a Film Editor
Film Editor Salaries
Influential Film Editors
Leading Film Editor Organizations
Top Cities for Film Editor Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Film Editor

Film editing positions usually require a bachelor's degree or some other form of post-secondary training at a vocational school or photographic institute. In such programs, aspiring editors learn basic technical skills, aesthetic principles, and the flow of work in the editing industry. Many programs offer hands on experience, some with real world clients which can gain student film editors invaluable experience and exposure in the industry. Beginning film editors usually begin as apprentices to assistant editors. Assistant editor positions are often seen as a career path toward film editor positions, but many people chose to stay in the assistant position throughout their careers.

What does a Film Editor do?

Film editing is the only art that is unique to the making of motion pictures. Editors must take individual film shots, which are often separated by time and space, and put them together into a coherent whole. Assistant editors usually catalog each individual shot into a database and bring together all the elements necessary to put together the finished film. A film editor works with the multiple layers of images to create a rhythm that ultimately guides the telling and pace of the story. With the increase in digital editing, film editors are increasingly responsible for assembling all the elements of the story, including sound and special effects. Film editing is said to be an invisible art, since when it is done well, the audience neither notices nor thinks about the editing process.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Film Editor?

Film editors need to be patient people who work well as part of a team. They need to have an eye for artistic detail and the abstract concepts of emotional continuity and storytelling clarity. Film editors must also have good communication skills and be able to take direction to fulfill the vision of directors and producers.

How much does a Film Editor make?

In 2006, the median annual earnings of film editors were $46,670 with the annual earnings of the middle fifty percent earning between $30,610 and $74,650. In the motion picture and video industries, which employ the highest concentrations of film editors, the median annual earnings were $53,580.


Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Edwin S. Porter (1840-1971) was a pioneer in the film industry best known for his work with Thomas Edison. He entered the film industry the first year motion pictures were produced for large screens in the United States, 1896. In 1899 he began working for the Edison Manufacturing Company where he soon took charge of the entire motion picture production in New York. Porter knew what pleased the crowds and became the most influential film maker of his time. The Great Train Robbery (1903) had a twelve minute running time, and used the groundbreaking editing technique of "cross-cutting" to show simultaneous action in different locations. This film is still shown to film students today as an example of early editing. The success of this film was the start of commercial film making as a mainstay in American entertainment. After this film, Porter continued pushing the limits of film making, departing from the traditional framework of using a single shot for each scene. Between 1903 and 1905, Porter made successful use of most techniques that became the basic modes of modern film making.

Walter Murch is an Academy Award winning film editor and sound designer. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University he attended graduate school at the University of Southern California's film school. Murch started editing and mixing sound on Francis Ford Coppola's The Rain People (1969). Murch is an eccentric individual who works standing up when editing film and lying down when writing. He has compared film editing to both brain surgery and short order cooking, both of which are performed standing up. Murch has written a book on film editing in titled In the Blink of an Eye, and been the subject of a book titled The Conversations and a documentary film titled Murch. Murch created a film splicer that concealed the splice by using strong, narrow adhesive strips. In 1996 he won an Oscar for his editing work on The English Patient, becoming the first to be awarded for a digitally edited film.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET) is a division of the Communications Workers of America union and is devoted to aiding workers in the broadcast industry. The roots of this organization go back to 1934 when the Association of Technical Employees began representing those who worked in television, radio, and film. In 1940 the union changed to the current name, and in 1993 it became affiliated with the Communications Workers of America. Today, NABET represents 10,000 employees in the field of broadcasting.

The Motion Picture Editor's Guild (MPEG) is a labor organization that currently represents over 6,000 freelance and staff professions who work in post-production. MPEG is one of the five hundred "locals" of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, and as such is part of an alliance over 104,000 members. This gives MPEG powerful collective bargaining strength, resulting in better contracts with better benefits for its members. This organization sees itself as the industry authority, setting standards for excellence and professionalism.

What are the top cities for Film Editor jobs?

Besides the more obvious cities of Los Angeles, California, Orlando, Florida, and New York City, where there are large concentrations of television and movie studios, aspiring film editors would do well to check out the current job opportunities in Atlanta, Georgia and Miami, Florida.

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