Who is a Film Editor? - Career Guide

A Film Editor is responsible for giving face and shape to the visuals in the director's mind and thus constitutes as an extremely important part of the filmmaking process.


Imagine filmmaking to be some sort of a magic trick. This one, however, is done by a group of magicians together instead of just a single one. While screenwriters, directors, producers and cinematographers are considered to be the prime magicians, a film editor is easily a show stopper. We say this because others of the lot may be allowed to make mistakes (and in most cases, they definitely do), it is a film editor’s job to not only hide their mistakes during post-production but to present the final product in a flawless way, just as envisioned by the director.


A film editor works at the final stage of film production where the major magic happens! You can be a great director or cinematographer but all your greatness is of no use if there isn’t a good film editor to do justice to your creative vision.



Let’s learn more about this very important person (or MVP) – who is a film editor? what does their job entail? what are the skills they need to have? how to be one? - among other things.


Who is a Film Editor?



As the name suggests, a film editor is a person who edits films. To elaborate, a film editor merges the raw footage shot during the production stage, puts it in a meaningful sequence, enhances it, and adds effects to tell a visually captivating story.


A film editor is a storyteller of sorts. Their job is to not only create a sequence that justifies the director’s vision but to put it in a way that grabs the audience's attention and keeps them engaged with the film experience. Most films are for the masses and not for the director, after all. Thus, a film editor is responsible for putting together the film in a way that appeals to the audiences but stays well within the director’s creative vision.


As easy as the job sounds, it is an extremely hectic one. A film editor spends eights and tens of hours a day in front of the screen, watching and sorting the raw footage, making notes, and selecting the best out of the lot. That’s just part one of the job. Their job is much more detailed and requires a crazy amount of patience.


Let’s talk about the job of a film editor in detail now.


Job of a Film Editor


You may be aware that during the production stage, multiple shots of a single scene are taken – different angles, different perspectives, numerous takes, etc. Since a film is made up of so many scenes, it all falls on the film editor’s shoulders to watch each and every shot, and choose the final ones. With directors by their side, they sit through every single shot and make notes of the final shots. This requires watching and rewatching tons of footage again and again.


Next comes the assembly stage. More often than not, film editors sit for hours at stretch in front of the screen merging the clips, adding transitions, and playing around with the raw footage to create the final product. It’s their vision added to the director’s that gives the film the look and feel it’s expected to have. It is them that truly give the face and shape to the visuals in the director’s mind.


Their job is not merely technical. A film editor has to constantly analyze all the raw footage (first while selecting and then while placing in the sequence) in order to create the desired thematic and emotional impact of the film.


You may wonder that with the advent of easy-to-use software and even easier access to them, it isn’t a big of a deal to be a film editor today. While it is true that anyone can edit videos in today’s time and age, not everyone has the potential nor the ability to be a good film editor, let alone an excellent one.




With this in mind, let’s talk about the skills required to be a film editor.


Skills required to be a Film Editor


  • Software Knowledge and Proficiency: A film editor’s job is a mix of creative as well as technical. Thus, the first and foremost skill required to be an editor is the knowledge of film editing software such as Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro, and being proficient in it. An added knowledge of Adobe After Effects takes you a long way as a film editor!


  • Strong Vision: Making the final product from scratch requires a strong vision. Thus, much like the director, the film editors also need to have a vision of their own. The ability to envision what the final product should look like and being able to visualize the whole sequence before putting it in place are prerequisites for any film editor.


  • Attention to Detail: In putting together a film, each second matters. An editor needs to be attentive throughout the process regarding the placement of shots, their duration, the meaning they hold and the story they are telling. This is a skill that isn’t learned in a day or two. It requires persistence and practice of years before nearing perfection.


  • Patience: Patience is key to be a film editor. You can be excellent at all the above skills but they are of no use if you can’t exercise patience. Editing can be a tedious task sometimes. The software crashes, the sequence doesn’t turn out to be as expected and a lot can go wrong during the process. Thus, the job requires an enormous amount of patience to get through. It is this skill that brings you the results you wanted.


Career Scope


As tiring as it sounds, the job of a film editor is extremely fulfilling. Not only does it pay a lot, it comes with the satisfaction of contributing to something larger than life itself.


Editing is a craft in itself, but being a part of filmmaking is also a great team exercise. The job is challenging and comes with a lot of creative freedom. If your calling is to sit in front of a screen spending hours on experimenting with videos and telling stories visually by giving meaning to a bunch of related or unrelated pieces of videos, a job as a film editor is a good career option for you!


Moreover, if you are good at both decision making as well as decision taking (meaning the ability to take the director's orders), chances are you will make a brilliant film editor!


So, let’s talk deets!


Film Editors generally work as freelancers or as a part of post-production studios. They may work on a full-time or a part-time basis. An entry-level position as an independent film editor can help you earn somewhere between Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 20,000 per project. As you progress and gain more experience, you can earn lakhs per project.


According to the recent statistics by payscale.com, as of 2021, an early career Film Editor with 1-4 years of experience earns an average total compensation of ₹3,74,400 per year. A mid-career Film Editor with 5-9 years of experience earns an average total compensation of ₹17,00,000. An experienced Film Editor with 10-19 years of experience earns an average total compensation of ₹20,00,000.


What’s the job demand like you ask? Thanks to the rise in OTT consumption across the globe, film professionals are needed now more than ever! The demand for all sorts of personnel – writers, directors, DOPs, and yes editors too – is constantly rising and will continue to.


To conclude, the rising demand combined with the lucrative pay makes the career as a film editor a highly sought-after one.


Let’s jump on to another important topic – where to start?



Career Path - Where to Start?



The internet era has made it fairly easier to kickstart your career in any field. The same is the case with film editing. The first step is to obviously learn editing and procuring the necessary skills. In the smartphone world, while institutional education for film editing is advised, one can also learn the craft online if there aren’t enough means or resources to enroll in a film school. Check out our article on the best YouTube Channels to learn Filmmaking. It is very easy to learn both editing as well as the software online, and consistent practice will make you ace the craft!


The next step is to create a portfolio or showreel. Websites like Pexels, Pixabay, MixKit, etc., have tons of royalty-free videos that you can use for free. Use them and show off your editing skills by making a masterpiece out of them.


For starters, you can also collaborate with filmmaker friends – students or independent artists - and work on small projects like short films, music videos, etc. together. These projects will help you gain and improve the necessary skills required to be a film editor while also giving you first-hand experience of what it is like to be one.


To make it as a Film Editor, aspirants generally start by working as Video Editor Interns. Their work generally includes transferring digital data, assisting video assistants, and making small edits, other than fetching coffee obviously! As they gain more on-the-job experience, they get promoted to being video editing assistants who directly assist the film editors in various tasks - transcription, making notes of the final shots, assisting them throughout the editing process, etc. Once, one has gained enough experience and skills by working as an assistant video editor for years, they progress into becoming Film Editors.





Get Started - How to get a Film Editor Job?

To pursue any creative job, the first and foremost requirement is to prove that you are good at it. The same goes for film editing. You need to have a work portfolio that clearly outlines your skills and abilities as a good film editor. Your portfolio can include anything that shows your creativity and suitability to the recruiter. Thus, create a portfolio that catches their attention and presents your personality as well as skillset as an editor perfectly. Once you have it in place, you can start working as a freelance video editor and take up whatever projects you get – corporate films, wedding films, short films, music videos, anything! The idea is to gain experience and expertise. To get video editing jobs, you can reach out to production houses, apply to video editor jobs on portals like LinkedIn, Indeed, etc. (where the job postings are in plenty btw), and join relevant Facebook groups where the requirement for video editors keeps popping time and again. Furthermore, much like any other film-related job, finding work as a video editor requires a good amount of networking. Since the demand for video editors is ever rising, you’ll be able to find projects of your liking in no time. From there on, you can make your way up with persistence, patience, and expertise! This is all when it comes to a career in film editing. Have any questions? Do not hesitate to reach out to us or drop your queries in the comments below, and we will make it a point to help you with the answers!

This article was originally posted by the Indian Film Institute. You can read the original article here. Follow the Indian Film Institute for more resources and industry updates. Facebook | Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

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