Without editors, films would never be made. They are one of the most integral roles of a film’s creation. Like cinematographers, editors are part technicians and part creatives which broadens their responsibilities. What does a film editor do in a film’s production? In this article, we’ll take a look at the role and responsibilities of an editor and what it takes to become one. 

What Does a Film Editor Do in Cinema?

First, let’s define film editor

An editor is one of the unsung heroes of a film. When done well, their work often goes unnoticed. Before we take a deep dive into the individual responsibilities let’s look at the film editor definition. 

FILM EDITOR DEFINITION

What is a film editor?

A film editor is primarily responsible for the assembly of a film’s raw footage into the final cut of a film. Most of an editor’s work is done during post-production. But many editors will begin to assemble scenes and sequences during production as well. Many call the edit of a film the final rewrite of the story. Editors are responsible for cutting, arranging, and assembling the shots of a film in a way that best serves the film’s story and director’s vision. 

What does a film editor do in cinema?

  • Collaborate with the director and producers to understand the vision of the film
  • Cut, splice, (re)arrange raw footage to create scenes, sequences and more
  • Make choices that affect the film’s pace, atmosphere, narrative, etc.
  • Collaborate with sound designers, colorists, and VFX supervisors in post-production

Film Editor Job Description

What does an editor do in film?

Most of the film editor duties fall within the realm of post-production. But the editor of a film is involved in the creative process from the very beginning. What does a film editor do in each phase of production? Let’s take a look. 

Pre-production

During pre-production, an editor is given materials to review and understand thoroughly. These are materials like the film’s screenplay, storyboards, outline, etc. Understanding the story of a film is an essential part of being a successful editor and this is where it all starts. 

An editor will also meet with a film’s director and producers to better understand their vision for the film. This gives editors a clearer idea of what they are signing up for from the very start. This CrashCourse video dives into the role of an editor and the importance of their collaboration with directors.

What do film editors do  •  Crash Course Film Production 

Production

During the actual production of a film, editors may be involved in creating rushes or dailies. Dailies in film are the raw, unedited footage (usually) shot from the day before. The director, cinematographer, producers, editors and sometimes actors, watch the dailies in a theater or screening room, to see how the film is progressing.

Depending on the scale of a film’s production, editors may be involved in organizing footage into a system that supports the film’s post-production process and efficiency. 

Sometimes, editors will visit a film’s shooting locations to check in on the progress of the film. It's not too uncommon to have the editor set up on or near the location so they can begin cutting right away. 

Post-production

Like we mentioned earlier, post-production is where most of an editor’s job lies. Once production wraps, an editor will take the reins in collaboration with the director to do the film editing which entails assembling, arranging, and cutting the footage to tell the story. 

Cutting a film involves selecting the best takes of a shot based on performance, cinematography, or other criteria. Editors are also responsible for creating the pace of a film through their edit which impacts a viewer experience of the film. 

In addition to the actual cutting, an editor collaborates with sound designers, colorists, VFX supervisors, and other post-production roles to help bring the edit closer toward a final cut. 

Getting Started

How to become a film editor

Becoming an editor does not entail one specific path. While some successful editors find success in pursuing formal training through film school or bachelor’s degree, it is not absolutely required. Here are our picks for the best colleges for editing.

What is required, however, is a solid understanding of film theory, film grammar, and story. This can be achieved through film school and programs, but resources like StudioBinder also provide in depth lessons that dissect key editor skills. 

For example, check out this video breaking down six essential techniques.

Essential Film & Video Editing Techniques Explained  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Editors are part creatives and part technicians. This means that in addition to understanding the theories of film and storytelling, you should also have a comprehensive understanding of the industry standard editing softwares. These include Adobe Premiere Pro vs. Final Cut Pro, and Da Vinci Resolve.

Once you are able to develop more skills both creatively and technically, it’s important to get actual experience under your belt to become an editor. 

This means getting your foot in the door as a post-production PA, assistant editor, or post-production runner. From these entry level gigs, you’ll be able to grow your network which will eventually lead to more gigs. 

How Much Do Film Editors Make?

Film editor salary

According to Glassdoor, the average film editor salary in 2021 was $52,155. Like most film jobs, editors work on a gig to gig basis which can lead to large fluctuations in a film editor salary. 

Film Editor Jobs Resources

Find film editor jobs

Like we mentioned above, one of the best ways to find jobs as an editor is through your own professional network. Continue growing your network by taking on gigs within a post-production role and opportunities will come. 

In addition to this, keep a consistent eye on online resources such as Craigslist, Glassdoor, and Indeed for editor or assistant editor gigs. 

Up Next

Discover more filmmaking roles

Editors are one of the most integral roles to creating a film. To continue through our series of the various filmmaking roles and positions, you can explore similar jobs like cinematographer, director, or producer. Or you can jump over to our Film Crew Index to browse the entire range of filmmaking roles. Understanding what everyone’s role on a film set is will help make you a better overall filmmaker and a more efficient crew member.

Up Next: Explore more crew positions →
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  • Kyle DeGuzman graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Television, Film, & New Media. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado spending his time writing, filmmaking, and traveling.

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