Film/Video Editor  What They Do

Just the Facts

Film and Video Editors Career Video

Insider Info

dotMany people think film editors just cut out the bad shots. But it's more complex than that. Directors routinely shoot much more footage than they need. They might shoot a particular scene using both close-ups and long shots, as well as working from several camera angles. The film editor is the one who goes through all the footage.

dotFilm editing dates back to the late 1800s, when inventors like Thomas Edison produced short action films that were mere minutes in length.

Until recently, editors worked with actual film, cutting individual strips and assembling them in the desired order. This was extremely time-consuming, since the editor spent a great deal of time physically manipulating the film -- putting it up, taking it down, and lining up rolls to find the right footage.

dotBut non-linear editing has changed all that. Most editing is done using a computer. And since the editor is no longer working with the actual physical footage, it takes much less time to organize frames, extend a scene or make a cut.

While some low-budget films and productions still rely on traditional methods, the majority of films are completed using non-linear editing (assembling film in any order).

dotEditors work for motion picture companies, television studios, advertising agencies and corporations. The work schedule can be very irregular. An editor might work on a television series for six months, putting in long hours, then spend three months searching for another job after the series is cancelled.

"You move from production to production to production," says film editor Eileen Hoeter. "This isn't a job so much as a way of life."

dotWhile it helps to think creatively, film editing has its practical side. Technical skills are essential. "People have the idea that filmmaking is very artsy, when it fact it's very paper-based and mathematical," says Hoeter. "You need to be able to count 24 frames per second and you need to be organized."

"You're working with both sides of your brain," says Laura Kab, a freelance editor in Atlanta. "You need to be very creative one minute, but then you need to be very technical the next minute."

dotPatience is also important. Film editors must be prepared to spend hours at a time in a dark room poring through images of film on the computer screen.

Film editors work alone or in a team, depending on the size of the production. As many as 12 editors, including a supervising editor, may be needed for a major motion picture. By contrast, a single editor may have complete control over a low-budget production.

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Examine raw footage and decide what to cut

  • The work schedule can be very irregular
  • You need a lot of patience
  • Get a degree in filmmaking