How to Become a Film Editor

If you think you have the creativity and gumption to become a film editor, read our guide to get a clearer idea of exactly what you need to do to kickstart your career.


What Do You Do as a Film Editor?

sound editing on a computer with green and purple bars

A film editor is in a sense a film’s first audience. They figure out how to tell a story using a bunch of loose video footage. Editors purposively tie clips from that loose video footage together into a single narrative and product, whether that is a 30-second compact commercial or a feature-length film. In doing so, they envision the story, themes, plot, and dream of the writers, directors, and producers that have gone before them to create the final product.

A film editor’s tasks include:

  • Read the shooting script and meet with the scriptwriter and director to understand the vision for the film
  • Make visits to locations during filming to understand how shooting progresses and what people are trying to get out of the project.
  • Go through all the footage in their own time, once shooting is done, and select the best scenes based on their entertainment and drama value, ability to contribute to the story, cinematographic merits, and more.
  • Trim the segments of footage into the lengths needed for the film.
  • Work with sound editors, FX editors, and musical directors to craft the perfect score and film sequence for the film.
  • Add music, dialogue, sound effects, and more using editing equipment.
  • Meet with stakeholders and present and re-edit their work according to people’s needs.
  • Unless it is a very small project, work with other film editors to prepare the final cut for release to a film house for production.

What Is Your Expected Salary as a Film Editor?

editing being done on a Windows computer and Adobe Photoshop

The average salary of a film director varies on the type of projects each director works on, and how often they find a project in which they will work. Of course, the most skilled editors will command higher pay, but they never match the superstar salaries made by the most famous directors and actors. On average, a feature film editor will earn around £60,000 a year when in their prime.

The starting salary for film and video editors is closer to £20,000, or £25,000 in London if you already have some experience under your belt. You earn slightly more if you are willing to make short-term contracts, as there is a lot of work on the market among companies who need someone for at most a couple of months at a time.


What Do I Need to Become a Film Editor?

white coffee cup with macbook on a table

First and foremost, you will need video editing skills and experience with popular software. Adobe Premiere CC, Lightwork or Avid are all highly recommended editing tools which help you cut and add effects to your productions.

To hone your skills, you need a computer powerful enough to do hardcore video editing. We strongly recommend you take a look at some of our refurbished MacBooks for sale for a laptop that will suit your needs. If you are not sure how powerful a computer you need, check out our guide to picking the right Mac for you to find what you need!

Skills with these pieces of software can be self-taught, and you should always be learning more about them and other developments in the industry. However, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in a subject related to video editing can help you to develop the technical understanding you will need to excel when creating films yourself.

Finally, over time you want to develop a showreel which is a portfolio of the work you have done over the months. As film editing is a visual medium, potential clients and employers love to see your past work for themselves. Get your Mac or Windows computer and pull together your best work, put it on a beautiful website and show potential employers your work if you want to get started!


Is Film Editing Right for Me?

video editing on a macbook with a calendar and phone

If you are looking for a steady 9-5 job without any long hours, sprint assignments or working from home to keep up with the industry, then film editing might not be the right job for you. Likewise, if you are looking for a role where you can stand front and centre and take credit for the great work you do, then you might be happier as a producer or another line of work; film editing does not get much credit, despite how important it is.

However, if you have a good eye for detail, enjoy working in the film industry, and have both technical and creative skills, then film editing is a rewarding and potentially lucrative career path with good job stability and high demand. Progression is quick for those with skills, and there is an abundance of both long and short-term jobs available for those willing to work.


Steps to Becoming a Video Editor:

  • Go to university and undertake a degree in media studies or similar.
  • Volunteer in video editing projects or freelance while at university.
  • Build up a showreel of high-quality work you have done and upload your work for others to see on a personal website.
  • Intern, shadow, or volunteer if you can for a video editing professional to gain professional experience.

Good luck with your future career path! If you need a computer powerful enough to complete video editing tasks, do check out our refurbished macs for sale online. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a message below or get in touch on social media!