Freelance work and using your creative and digital technology skills are key aspects of a career in film and video editing
As a film or video editor, you'll be responsible for assembling recorded raw material into a finished product that's suitable for broadcasting. The material may include camera footage, dialogue, sound effects, graphics and special effects. This is a key role in the post-production process and your skills can determine the quality and delivery of the final product. You'll usually work closely with the director to achieve the desired end result.
You'll probably be employed on a freelance basis, working on short-term contracts for post-production studios, television companies and corporate employers.
Digital technology, specialist computer software and high-quality digitisation of sound and pictures have effectively replaced the traditional manual method of cutting film. In some instances you may be given creative freedom, while in others you'll just be required to operate the necessary machines.
You may work on a variety of productions including:
Your work as an editor will involve:
Additional tasks may include:
You may also carry out online editing duties, which involve finalising technical aspects such as correcting faulty footage, grading and colouring and adding special effects.
A film/video editor is not an entry-level job. You'd usually start at a lower-paid level, possibly as a runner where salaries could be around the national minimum wage. You may then progress to assistant editor where you could expect to earn more, before reaching the full editor position.
The majority of editors work as freelancers and are paid on a contract basis. Rates vary, so it's best to check for current freelance rates with individual companies or the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU). If you get work through an agency, they will negotiate rates and then take either a percentage or flat fee.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Hours of work vary depending on the production. You may be able to do standard office hours for some employers but a 50-hour working week is likely if you're working on television or feature film projects.
Shift work may be required if editing studios are booked at night. When there are deadlines to meet, long hours and overtime can be expected.
You don't need a foundation degree, HND or degree to be a film or video editor, but it is important that you show commitment and determination to get into the industry.
You need to be able to demonstrate that you have the necessary skills, and so a degree or HND that offers film or media production experience may be helpful. The following subjects are relevant:
You'll need to be proficient in using specific editing software packages, such as Avid or Final Cut Pro. Courses that cover these applications are available at varying levels but they can be expensive, so make sure you research them fully to find a course that matches your career and training aims.
If you have experience of the very latest technology, it may reduce the competition you face. General computer literacy and an aptitude for working with digital equipment to achieve results are also important.
A postgraduate qualification isn’t essential but there are relevant courses available that will provide you with extra skills and may give you an advantage over other applicants. Search for postgraduate courses in media production.
You will need to show:
You need to be extremely determined to succeed in editing, so you'll have to show a willingness to get involved and be prepared to do the most basic of tasks. Carrying out work experience, for example in other areas of media production, will help to demonstrate this and will help you to decide if the precision and intensity of the work is for you. Learn more about the usefulness of work experience and internships.
You'll be expected to have pre-entry experience and will need to show evidence of having worked on film or video production or post-production, preferably via an up-to-date and well prepared showreel.
Film and video editors are employed by:
Some post-production companies and larger independent companies offer long-term contracts and employ a few editors in-house. Broadcast and film companies employ their own editors but they all use freelancers on a regular basis, with some companies only using freelance editors.
The television industry is increasingly project-based, and as a result, there has been a rise in the amount of freelance staff employed at all levels. You may apply for freelance opportunities to build a portfolio of work and accompanying reputation. Find out more about self-employment.
Look for job vacancies at:
Vacancies for film and video editors are rarely advertised and competition is fierce, even for entry-level jobs, such as a runner. Send speculative applications, which detail your specific skills, to as many production companies and post-production houses as possible. To help identify relevant contacts use key industry resources such as:
Getting to know people in the industry and building good working relationships are important for finding work. Once you have experience of working on a freelance basis you can also advertise your services through dedicated websites such as Freelance Directory.
Learning while you're working in the industry is the key way to develop relevant skills. A combination of observing experienced professionals and experimenting with your own work is the best way to develop the necessary technical and creative skills.
A variety of short courses are available that cover relevant topics such as:
You can search for these courses in the Creative Skillset Courses Directory.
It's also important to keep up to date with technology and new equipment. You may choose to extend your skills into camera or sound work in order to open up more employment opportunities and to maintain a network of contacts. A range of courses are available through the BECTU.
You'll typically start as a runner or trainee before working your way up to a position as an assistant editor. You can expect to work as an assistant editor for around three to four years before moving on to become a qualified editor. A proactive approach and willingness to start at the bottom are essential in order to forge a career in this fast-changing industry. If you're able to relocate for a job this may also be helpful, especially in the early stages of your career.
In post-production or broadcasting companies, progression may be from runner, digitiser or assistant editor to senior editor. Larger employers provide well-structured career paths. Experienced in-house editors may ultimately move to management roles.
For freelancers, career development takes the form of progressing from small productions to larger or more prestigious projects. It's vital to establish a good reputation and develop your networking skills to succeed. Building strong working relationships with freelance directors, production managers and producers is valuable as they're often able to take preferred editors with them onto new projects.
While relevant qualifications may be beneficial, career development is based more on experience and practical involvement within the industry, and on developing a strong network of contacts.