Film Editor: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for a film editor. Get the facts about job duties, required experience and salary information to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Digital Cinematography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Film Editor?

Film editors are involved in the production of every movie, television show, television news broadcast, commercial or music video. Film editors take the images that are shot on camera and combine or alter them in a way that is intended to entertain or inform the audience. They often use special digital editing software to manipulate video footage or rearrange the order, and they work in collaboration with the director. Film editors may also be involved in adding audio to the visual files and incorporating special effects into the images. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, in 2014, 48% of film and video editors were employed by the motion picture and video industries.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree (recommended)
Education Field of Study Film, film editing
Training Required In lieu of a degree, an apprenticeship or work experience
Key Responsibilities Review, select and compile film footage; incorporate sound into film; utilize personal artistic style
Job Growth (2014-2024) 18%* (for film and video editors)
Median Salary (2015) $61,750* (for film and video editors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Responsibilities as a Film Editor?

Film editors are responsible for reviewing footage after a movie or show is shot and selecting the best shots. Using their own style, film editors then compile the footage to create a visually impressive product. In addition to film, editors also incorporate sound effects, graphics, voiceovers and music to create the final product. To achieve the best result, film editors need to understand the director's vision and know how to correctly pace the action for the corresponding scene. Many directors utilize the same film editor for each of their films and are able to build a strong and trusting relationship.

What Experience Do I Need?

Experience with digital media is important for today's film editors. Many different types of software applications and hardware are out there, and no across-the-board industry standard exists, so it is helpful to have a wide range of experience with computers and the ability to learn quickly. Though film editors spend much of their time working independently, interpersonal skills are important for working with directors, sound editors and other post-production crew members.

A bachelor's degree in film is helpful but not required for film editors. In addition to universities, many film or art schools offer programs in film editing. Acting as an apprentice or assistant film editor can help you break into the field and make valuable connections that can further your career.

What Salary and Benefits Might I Expect?

Film editors aren't only employed by feature filmmakers; they're also needed for documentaries, television programs and corporate videos. In 2015, the annual median salary for film editors was $61,750 (www.bls.gov). Salary varies depending on the industry and the state in which you are employed. The highest salaries can be found in the accounting and payroll industries (though relatively few positions exist) and the motion picture and video industries, as well as in the states of California and New York.

A majority of film editors belong to a union, though union membership isn't specifically required in the industry. Some popular unions include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Motion Picture Editors Guild and the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians. Under union membership, film editors are eligible for insurance and pensions, as well as other employee benefits.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Editors, photographers and producers all have careers with similarities to film editing. Editors may revise written content and rearrange the order of information or make other revisions to improve the final product. Photographers capture images on film, and may also use digital software to edit or enhance their images. Producers are involved in the production of television shows, movies and other filmed productions, such as documentaries. They are involved in the process of editing film footage to ensure that the order the footage is arranged is ideal for the intended product.

Editors and producers need a bachelor's degree. Although photographers do not necessarily need postsecondary training, many pursue a bachelor's degree to help them develop their technical skills and build a portfolio of their work.

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