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Film Editor

At a Glance
Film editors take all of the footage shot for films and TV shows and cut it together to make the final product.

Core Tasks
Assemble all of the production footage Select the best takes for each scene Join the scenes together to form a logical and smooth-running story Ensure visual consistency between scenes Monitor and alter the timing and pace of the project

Work for film companies, TV stations, and video production companies, or are self-employed Most work 40 to 60 hours a week Often work alone Work indoors in cutting rooms, projection rooms, and on shooting stages The work can be stressful

Typical Earnings Range: $20 - $120

$25,000 to $112,000 a year or more for most The median is $51,000 a year Earnings depend on experience and how much work they can find each year

Education & Training

A degree in film studies and experience in the industry A demo reel of your work is usually required

Level of Education
2-Year College or Technical Training 4-Year College or University

Attributes & Abilities

Creative Communication skills

Storytelling abilities Patient Detail-oriented

Michigan Career Pathways


Job Description
Tension mounts. The film is nearly over. The hero is being chased down a street. We hear a shot and see him fall. Cut to a hand with a smoking gun. Cut to the shocked heros face as he looks up. Cut to the hand again as the camera pans up to revealthe heros best friend. It was HIM all along! In the creation of a film, actors perform the story, cinematographers capture it on film, and directors oversee the whole process. Its the film editors job to take all of the film that has been shot and effectively cut and splice them into sequence to meet the directors vision by choosing the best scenes to tell the story. They work on films, TV shows, commercials, and music videos. The projects they work on may be animated or live action. Most of us are so familiar with the seamless way editors cut together film, whether in movies or on the news, we take it for granted. However, editors can change the way a story is told just by moving shots around or cutting out scenes. Film scenes are not necessarily shot in the order we finally see them in. The final scene may be the first one that is shot. The same scene may be shot several times and from several different angles. Working with the director, the film editor chooses the most effective shots and combines them with other scenes to form a logical and smooth-running story. When choosing shots, editors look for technical things like lighting and sound, as well as performances by the actors. Consistency is also important. If one scene involves an actor looking at his watch, the editor should check that he is wearing it in every shot. When filming a comedy, an editor needs to watch for timing. Is there enough time for the audience to laugh and recover from a scene so that they dont miss the joke in the next scene? Editors may work with the footage on editing machines or computers, depending on the project and the editors preferences. Traditionally, the film editor would physically cut and tape segments of actual film together. This was called linear editing because you could only edit the film by watching it from beginning to end. Today, however most film editing is done using non-linear computerized editing systems, such as Avid and Final Cut Pro. These editing systems allow film editors to jump to any frame of a digitized version of the film and cut and reassemble sequences. Although linear and non-linear editing machines and work in different ways, their function is the same. They enable editors to look at the raw footage and move back and forth through the film. In this way, editors choose shots and then mark frames where a shot is to begin or end. Assistant editors have many duties, including maintaining schedules and arranging screenings for directors and producers. They also supervise apprentices and provide general support to the editor. In the television industry, almost all the work is done on videotape, not film. This involves using specially designed equipment that lets the editor look at the raw footage and choose shots on one TV monitor, press some buttons to mark the shots, then look at the final edit on another screen.

Working Conditions
Film editors work for film production companies, television stations, and video production companies. Editors who work on movies are often chosen before the cast members. Hollywood executives know that a good editor can make an okay movie look terrific, or at least improve a bad one.

The hours can be long, 40 to 60 a week, and editors may spend a lot of time on their own. They work in cutting rooms, projection rooms, and on shooting stages. When they arent working at their computers or editing machines, film editors may spend large parts of their days in intensive discussions and meetings with other crew members. They work with a variety of people, including directors, producers, technicians, and production assistants. Film editors also work with music and sound editors. For example, if the director wants to use a particular piece of music for a scene, the film editor must work with the music and sound editors to ensure that the scene and the soundtrack are the same length. Editors often work under a great deal of pressure created by deadlines and high production costs. If production is behind schedule, producers often allot less time for editing, but expect no less polished a finished product. The profession is unionized and there are guidelines for location work, overtime, and benefits. Many film editors belong to the Motion Picture Editors Guild (MPEG) or the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET).

Some editors work as staff with production companies, but many work on a freelance basis. This means they sign a contract for a couple of months work on a particular project and then move on to the next. In these situations, their wages are quite high, but the downside is that they may only work for a few months a year. Editors in the television industry are more likely to be hired full-time for the run of a show, and draw an annual salary. The median annual income for film and video editors is about $51,000. However, earnings vary widely depending on experience, the industry you work in, and your ability to consistently find work. Most editors make between $25,000 and $112,000 a year. Wages in the movie industry tend to be higher than in television because of the type of editing and level of skill involved. The Motion Picture Editors Guild (MPEG) is a union that represents film editors across the country. They set minimum wage rates for their members in collective bargaining agreements with film studios and other employers. For example, minimum weekly wages for full motion picture editors on big budget films on the west coast start at around $2,900. The minimum weekly rate for an assistant editor on the same film is just over $1,700. On east coast productions, the minimum rates are a little bit lower. It is important to remember that these are minimum rates, and that editors may be able to use their skills and experience to negotiate higher salaries with film companies. Also, non-union members may make lower rates when working for employers not bound by union contracts. Overtime pay is at a higher rategenerally time-and-a-half, or double-time. Some editors sign long-term contracts with production houses. These are usually renegotiated every few years.

Michigan Wages
Occupation: Film and Video Editors

Level of Experience Hourly Annual

Entry Wage $14.71 $30,590 Median Wage $18.75 $39,000 Experienced Wage $26.65 $55,430
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov

Michigan Outlook
Occupation: Film and Video Editors


2010 2020

460 500

Number 40 Percentage 8.3

Annual Average Openings

Total Growth Replacement 12 4 8

Source: Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget, Labor Market Information http://www.milmi.org

A combination of post-secondary education and practical experience is the best preparation to become a film editor. The industry is very competitive and a bachelors degree with courses in filmmaking is highly recommended. Formal training at a film school can also be quite valuable. A bachelors degree in journalism that offers courses in editing is useful for those interested in television editing. A few colleges even offer masters degrees in the area of film production. They can give you an edge on those who just have a bachelors degree and may also offer the opportunity to work as an intern with a media company. After school, most editors work in low-paying assistant jobs for several years to gain experience. During this time they refine their skills and expand their knowledge of as many editing systems (such as Avid and Final Cut Pro) as possible. They also take this time to make connections, build reputations, and create demo reels. A demo reel is the editors portfolio. It is a collection of samples of his or her work that is designed to demonstrate his or her craftsmanship to prospective employers. A good demo reel is often the key to consistently finding work.

Related College Programs

Cinematography and Film/Video Production Film/Cinema/Video Studies Photographic and Film/Video Technology/Technician and Assistant

Other Suggested Qualifications

You should be creative, a good communicator, and have a strong sense of storytelling. Good vision is essential. As is being patient, focused, and detail-oriented. It is also important to be able to work well as part of a team or independently. Overall, employers are more impressed by a thorough understanding and flair for the editing process than any specific qualifications. Watch lots of different types of movies and programs. Pay attention to the way they are put together and see if you can come up with better ideas for how the shots could have been edited together. Try experimenting with making your own short films. If you have access to a digital camera you can go out and shoot some footage. Your friends could be volunteer actors, or you could make a documentary about a topic you feel passionately about. If your school has a film club, it would be a good idea to join.

Suggested High School Subjects

Grade 9 Grade 10

English Mathematics Science Social Studies - Geography Dramatic Arts Visual Arts Computers / Technology Health & Physical Education
Grade 11

English Mathematics Science Social Studies - History Dramatic Arts Visual Arts Computers / Electronics & Communications Technology
Grade 12

English Literature Mathematics Science Law & Government Dramatic Arts Visual Arts Computers / Electronics & Communications Technology

English Literature Mathematics Science Economics Dramatic Arts Visual Arts Computers / Electronics & Communications Technology

Check with your advisor to make sure that your course selections satisfy your graduation requirements. Courses available may vary from school to school.

Sample Career Path

People take different pathways through their careers, but no one starts at the top. This is an example of how the earnings, education and experience requirements, and responsibilities might progress for someone in this occupation.

Level 1

Sample Title Earnings

Assistant Editor Minimum wage to $30,000 a year Quick learner Requirements Bachelors degree Responsibilities Helping your editor stay organized and complete the job at hand.
Level 2

Sample Title Earnings

Junior Editor $25,000 to $50,000 a year 2 to 3 years of experience as an assistant editor Requirements Further training Responsibilities Organizing the footage; editing simple sequences for senior editor.
Level 3

Sample Title Earnings Requirements

Senior Editor $50,000 to $150,000 a year 1 to 2 years of experience as a junior editor

Level 3

Further training Demo reel Responsible for all post-production, including staffing, workflow, and budgeting; Responsibilities maintaining a client base; editing complicated sequences; remaining current on styles and techniques.

Related Careers
Here are some other occupations that you might be interested in. Click on an occupation name to learn more. Actor Art Director Broadcast Technician Camera Operator Computer Animator Director Director of Photography Editor Film and TV Crew Lighting Technician Recording Engineer Sound Technician Special Effects Technician Writer

National Employment by Industry

Industry % Employed

Information 53 Self-Employed 35
Source: O*Net Online, Browse by Industry, US Department of Labor http://online.onetcenter.org/find/industry

Other Resources
Motion Pictures Editors Guild (MPEG) This union represents film editors. Check out the link to Editors Guild Magazine for lots of great info! http://www.editorsguild.com American Cinema Editors (ACE) A professional association for film editors. See out the Education section for career information. http://ace-filmeditors.org/ Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) A professional organization for editors who work with film soundtracks, rather than images. http://www.mpse.org American Film Institute (AFI) AFI is a national organization dedicated to advancing and preserving film, television, and other forms of the moving image. Click on Programs to learn about their education programs.

http://www.afi.com Millimeter An online magazine about film production and post-production. http://www.digitalcontentproducer.com Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) The MPAA supports American films and television industries in the United States. Their responsibilities include property rights, free and fair trade, innovative consumer choices, and censorship and freedom of expression. http://www.mpaa.org Occupational Outlook Handbook Television, Video, and Motion Picture Camera Operators and Editors Career information from the US Department of Labor. http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos091.htm

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