Film and Television Editors


Exploring this Job

Shoot your own video and experiment with video-editing software. Ask your school counselor to arrange an information interview or job shadowing experience with a video editor.

Many high schools have film clubs, and some have cable television or Internet-based stations affiliated with the school district. School-run television channels give students the opportunity to create and edit short programs. Check out what's available at your school.

One of the best ways to prepare for a career as a film or television editor is to read widely. By reading literature, you will develop your understanding of the different ways in which stories can be presented. You should be familiar with many different kinds of film and television projects, including documentaries, short films, feature films, TV shows, and commercials. See as many different projects as you can and study them, paying close attention to the decisions the editors made in piecing together the scenes. Additionally, many DVDs now have special features such as interviews with film directors, producers, and editors. By viewing these, you can get a good idea about the decisions that are made during the creation of a film or television show.

Large television stations and film companies occasionally have volunteers or student interns. Most people in the industry start out doing minor tasks helping with production. These production assistants get the opportunity to see all of the professionals at work. By working closely with an editor, a production assistant can learn television or film operations as well as specific editing techniques.

The Job

Film and television editors work closely with producers and directors throughout an entire project. These editors assist in the earliest phase, called preproduction, and during the production phase, when actual filming occurs. However, their skills are in the greatest demand during postproduction, when primary filming is completed.

During preproduction, editors meet with producers to learn about the objectives of the film or video. If the project is a television commercial, for example, the editor must be familiar with the product the commercial will attempt to sell. If the project is a feature-length motion picture, the editor must understand the storyline. The producer may explain the larger scope of the project so that the editor knows the best way to approach the work when it is time to edit the film. In consultation with the director, editors may discuss the best way to present the screenplay or script. They may discuss different settings, scenes, or camera angles even before filming or taping begins. With this kind of preparation, film and television editors are ready to practice their craft as soon as the production phase is complete.

Feature-length films naturally take much more time to edit than television commercials. Some editors may spend months on one project, while others may work on several shorter projects simultaneously. Though commercials can be edited quickly, a film project can take up to six months to edit. Editing today is done using nonlinear computer editing systems, which allows film to be converted to a digital format. A computer database tracks individual frames and puts all the scenes together in a folder of information. This information is stored on a hard drive and can instantly be brought up on a screen, allowing an editor to access scenes and frames with the click of a mouse.

Editors are usually the final decision makers when it comes to choosing which segments will stay in as they are, which segments will be cut, or which may need to be redone. Editors look at the quality of the segment, its dramatic value, and its relationship to other segments. They then arrange the segments in an order that creates the most effective finished product. Editors must choose what best brings the film to life, often relying on the script and notes from the director for guidance. An editor must have a natural sense of how a scene should progress, the best shots, camera angles, line deliveries, and continuity.

Some editors specialize in certain areas of television or film. Sound editors work on the soundtracks of television programs or motion pictures. They often keep libraries of sounds that they reuse for various projects. These include natural sounds, such as thunder or raindrops, animal noises, motor sounds, or musical interludes. Some sound editors specialize in music and may have training in music theory or performance. Others work with sound effects. They may use unusual objects, machines, or computer-generated noisemakers to create a desired sound for a film or TV show.