What Does A Film Editor Do?


By Janelle Ashley Nielson

How many times have you been in a movie theater and when the title "film editor" came up, you had no clue what that meant? In the old days, film editors were rarely given solo main title credit and most people thought they were more of a pair of hands that pieced the film together. As the decades have passed, the role of film editor has become increasingly more publicized and with the invention of computers and digital editing, more and more of the general public is aware of what it takes to edit a movie.

Film editors are the people who take the raw footage shot on a movie set, and select which shots, angles, performances and more to use, and then cut them together to form a cohesive and interesting story. The key to film editing is that there are a million choices of how to cut a scene, but a good editor will have a strong feel for pacing, rhythm, and storytelling. Editors also add music, visual effects, and sound effects to their cut sequences to add even more depth to a scene. Usually an editor will work closely with directors, writers, producers, and composers to finish a film to perfection.

Film editing is not something that can be automated and done completely by computers. Many people assume that if they purchase an editing software program that they will become an expert in film editing. Similar to how a word processing program will not make someone a best-selling author, digital editing programs like Avid or Final Cut Pro take not only technical skill but creative talent. While learning the technical part of the software will help you to cut a project, there is also valuable knowledge that comes only with experience and practice.

If you are thinking about a career in film editing, I would suggest finding a school or university that offers both theory classes AND hands on production, with editing equipment available to learn on, free if you are a student. I have found that having a technical background, in addition to being educated about the classic forms of cinema, where the rules of film language were born, and the history of film, has always given me an extra advantage that a lot of people don't have. I have several friends who have attended film programs at Columbia, UCLA, USC, NYU, and more, and all have loved their schools.

If you are not sure which area of production that you would like to go into, you might consider getting a very broad education in film and then if you decide to specialize in film editing, you can supplement your knowledge later with continuing education or Avid training camps or Final Cut Pro courses. Digital editing has become the norm for cutting films, and there are many programs available to practice with right at home on your own computer. You can purchase Final Cut Pro, Avid Express, and more simple programs like iMovie and others to get started on your editing career.

If you don't want to spend 4 years in a university or college setting, there are specialized film editing schools that you can attend through various editorial companies and training camps. These programs can be costly, so if you can manage the tuition, you can usually get a very quick hands-on training in a short amount of time. The downside to these types of training "camps" is that they teach a lot of technical basics that can't compensate for the actual reality of how a cutting room is operated. Sometimes, there is no comparison to cutting room experience! If you do decide to be a film editor, ask to sit in with professional editors to get an idea of how films are cut!

Janelle Ashley Nielson is a Film Editor in the Television and Motion Picture Film Industry. Her experience is in editing feature films, cable movies, television series, reality television, and animatics. To visit her website and view her editor credits and editor's reel, go to TheFilmEditor.com - http://www.thefilmeditor.com

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Submitted by support on April 6, 2006 - 11:28pm.

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