FIlm editor

Film Editor

aka: picture editor

The film editor cuts together raw footage into sequences. They mainly work in post-production but can start to work on a project much earlier.

Editing is the practice of putting together shots to tell a story. Films are shot out of order, so the editor must combine each scene to create the final cut. The editor also works closely with the director, who will often repeatedly work with the same editor.

On this page, you can find a complete film editor job description. We’ll also discuss the job role skills, education, pay, and work route options.

What is a Film Editor?

The film editor uses computer software to cut the video together seamlessly. Their goal is to make the viewer so engaged in the story, that they become unaware of the editor’s work. With this purpose in mind, film editing is often called an invisible art.

As well as video, the editor will work with audio, sound effects, graphics, and VFX to create the final film. It is a key role in the post-production process, and editors have a range of skills to achieve the director’s final cut.

What Does a Film Editor Do?

Depending on the project’s goals, the film editor can even start to work in the planning stage. If so, they work with the director to decide how the final film should look. Editors can work on various project types from films, TV, social media, corporate films, and music videos.

On low-budget film sets, the editor will most likely start work after filming and work alone. However, on large projects, they can begin work from the first day of filming. The editor also works with a team of people, such as VFX staff, title designers, and sound designers.

The specific tasks of an editor will change per project. However, it is their main job to oversee the editing and complete a final cut. Some editors will also have specialties, for example, working with green screens and VFX.

Film Editor Job Description

Editor using Adobe Premiere Pro

The producer or director will hire the editor. The editor might work full-time for a studio or as a freelancer. As mentioned, the director might work with the editor during planning to discuss the film. However, more likely that they start work at a later stage.

If working during filming, the editor will receive rushes (dailies) so they can create a rough cut. Basically, rushes are a rough edit of the day’s footage for the director and producer to view the film’s progress. Although on some film sets, the assistant editor prepares rushes. 

Next, the film editor starts work in post-production. The editor will work with the director to refine the edit. The film edit will undergo many drafts (or cuts) and it can take months before the picture lock (final cut). Lastly, they work with the sound designer and composer to complete the film. 

Production Duties

If the film editor is working in production, their main task is to create daily rushes. These are edits of the day’s footage to show to the producer and director. They may also hire a team of assistant editors and work with a VFX team if the project requires it.

  • Attend meetings with the director
  • Create rough cuts and rushes
  • Hire and work with the edit team
  • Organises and assembles footage

Post-Production Duties

The film editor will assemble the footage in story order. They often work closely with the director and producer to determine the edit choices and scene pace. To help them edit, they may have notes and a lined script from the script supervisor.

In addition, they also oversee the sound design, color correction, and music editing. Their final task is to complete a final locked cut of the film and export it for viewing. 

  • Edit the film footage in story order
  • Work with the director and producer
  • Oversee sound design and music
  • Export film for distribution

Education and Skills

Editing suite with speakers

You don’t need a degree to find work as a film editor. However, it might help to study film production so you understand the filmmaking process. There are also many short editing tutorials and YouTube videos for beginners.

A typical first job for an editor is a post-production runner (or post runner). They are similar to a film runner in that they complete basic tasks such as keeping the editing suits tidy. Large companies and studios might also offer editor training.

An editor must also know how to use popular editing software such as Avid, Adobe, and Final Cut. The job will require strong communication skills as you will need to work with a team on many projects. You must also show attention to detail and patience.

  • Filmmaking, storytelling 
  • Using editing software
  • Communication, teamwork 
  • Attention to detail, patience

Sound Designer Career Route

Film editor’s work across film, TV, and media. You can either work up to this job by working for a film company or freelance. The entry-level positions for an editor are post runner and editing assistant.

Another alternative career route is to work on low-budget film projects. By working on low budgets, you can practice your skills before working up to high budgets. Film editors will also need to build up a website portfolio and a variety of work credits to show their skills. 

As mentioned, directors love to work with the same editors, so it’s important to network and make contacts in the industry. Editors can move into supervising editor roles, or specialize in color correction. There is also room to progress into VFX work as a visual effects supervisor.

Film Editor Salary

The day rate of all film industry crew members depends on the project type and budget. So, you get less pay for a low-budget indie film than for a high-end TV project. If you look at our crew rates, you can see how the rates change depending on budget and job role. Of course, your pay will also take into account your personal experience. 

The film editor’s day rate depends on whether or not you are part of a union project. The editors guild IATSE recommended a starting rate of $478 per day. So for a 5-day work week, a lead editor on a film with at least a budget of $1 million would make $2390. 

Finding Work

At the start of your career, you can find entry-level jobs on film job sites. The entry-level job roles for a film editor are post runner or editing assistant. You can also find this work by directly contacting editing houses and large studios. 

Another route is to start editing for low-budget projects within the role. That way, you can learn the job role through hands on practice and work up to higher budgets. You must also learn all elements of the job, including working with professional editing software. 

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ScreenSkills is a charity that provides industry news, training, and resources for the UK film industry. As well as, having regular training opportunities they also now have a jobs board for professional production positions.ScreenSkills is a charity that provides industry news, training and resources for the UK film industry. As well as, having regular training opportunities they also now have a jobs board for professional production positions.

Wrapping Up

To sum up, the film editor plays an important job role in film post-production. The final cut must match the director’s vision and tell the story in the most engaging way possible. It’s one of only a few job roles in filmmaking that allows you to make many creative decisions.

This job is a great career for anyone interested in working in film who doesn’t want to work on a film set. The combination of creative and technical makes the job interesting and with lots of opportunities throughout media.

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