What Are My Career Options in Movie Editing?

In movie editing, you could work as a film editor or a sound editor. Read on to learn about these careers and their job duties, as well as to see what degrees and experiences will help your job prospects. Schools offering Digital Cinematography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Description

Movie editing focuses on creating a final version of a film from the video clips and sounds that have been recorded during shooting, or production. Most of your responsibilities will occur in postproduction, after the filming of the movie has been completed, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the majority of your work will be digital, thanks to the progression of film technology (www.bls.gov). You may spend long hours in the editing room, rearranging film clips until the director has determined that the film is satisfactory.

Important Facts About This Occupation

On-The-Job training Editors often work alongside more experienced colleagues when starting out.
Key Skills Communication skills, computer skills, creativity, detail-oriented
Work Environment Studios, offices
Similar OccupationsProducers and directors, text editors, photographers, multimedia artists and animators

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Job Options

Your job options will vary depending on the amount of experience or education you have. They'll also depend on where you live - more film editing jobs are available in the Los Angeles area, where Hollywood is located. According to the BLS, you'll likely need at least a bachelor's degree in a film related field if you want to work in editing. You may also choose to pursue a master's of fine arts (MFA) in producing.

An MFA in motion picture producing or film production will teach you all the aspects of creating a movie, from start to finish. Your required courses might include classes on cinematography, directing and the history of filmmaking. You'll also likely be required to produce some type of short thesis film toward the end of your study. If you produce a high-quality film, you may be able to show it to potential employers as a way of demonstrating your proficiency and aptitude.

Necessary Experience

According to industry experts, it's rare for someone to become a big-budget movie or sound editor right after graduation. You'll probably need to start small and work your way up to more well-known projects. The BLS reports that many of these workers start on local productions, possibly with a local news team, an independent filmmaker or a music video company.

If you've gained the necessary education or experience, however, you may have two main film editing areas that you could work in: video editing or sound editing. Whether you go into video editing or sound editing depends on the area on which you focused during your studies or previous work experiences.

Working as a Video Editor

If you find employment in video editing, you'll be responsible for editing physical or digital film to the director's specifications. Using editing equipment - most of which is computer-based - you'll splice and arrange film segments to tell a story. You'll also work with other editors to add sound effects, music and other special effects to the final version of the film.

According to the California Employment Development Department, one of your main responsibilities as a film editor will be maintaining the continuity of plot points and visual elements within the film, or making sure that the story you're telling makes sense and has an internal logic. Within a scene, there are usually many shots from a variety of camera angles, and it's your job to make sure that the elements of the scene remain the same in every shot. For example, if an actor is wearing a flower in her hair in one shot, but the flower is gone in the next shot, it would be your job to let the director know that parts of the scene need to be reshot to preserve continuity.

Video Editor Job Outlook and Salary

The BLS reports that jobs for film and video editors are expected to grow 17% from 2016-2026. Competition will be high, especially for those without experience in the field. Job prospects are expected to be best for those seeking employment in the motion picture industry. According to BLS, Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta have the most job opportunities for editors.

In May 2018, film and video editors earned a mean salary of $86,830, according to the BLS. Most editors made between $31,940 and $170,040 per year. The motion picture and video industries employed a large number of these workers, with professionals earning a mean wage of $94,860 yearly. While those working in California earned $112,530 on average, New York offered an average wage of $92,170.

Working as a Sound Editor

If you work as a sound effects editor, you'll work with the film editor to incorporate sound effects into the film, including voiceovers, dialogue and music. Because there are different types of sound editors, you might have a specialization. For example, you could be a music editor - a sound effects editor that specializes in adding music to a film. Or you could focus on editing and cleaning up the dialogue - if an actor's line is unintelligible, you're the one who has to tell the director that the line needs to be reshot. Similarly, if the director decides to change a line of dialogue, you're the one who has to re-insert the new dialogue into the film.

Sound Editor Job Outlook and Salary

The BLS states that sound engineering technicians can expect a 6% job growth from 2016-2026. Since there will be a lot of competition, the BLS recommends pursuing a college degree and gaining work experience.

Sound engineering technicians made a mean salary of $63,500 in May 2018, reported the BLS. Most of them earned between $25,680 and $117,600 a year. While the motion picture and video industries offered a high mean wage of $80,320, the sound recording industries offered a much lower wage of $56,680 on average. Radio and television broadcasting paid sound engineering technicians an average wage of $63,750, while performing arts companies paid them $57,280 on average.

According to the BLS, California and New York were the top states for sound engineering employment in May 2018, and while California's estimate was not released, those in New York earned $82,030. Additionally, New York ranked among the five states with the highest average salaries for this profession in the country.

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