Film and video editors make movies and TV a joy to watch. Each scene in a film is typically shot multiple times and on several cameras from different angles. An editor selects the most dramatic or entertaining takes and splices them together. Sometimes editors also insert sound effects or music. The best cinematic editors go beyond merely assembling footage and become artists who guide the telling and pace of the story. The hours can be long when you’re working on deadline. But at the end of your project, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy your work with some popcorn and see your name in the credits.
Expect fierce competition for jobs. Although the number of film editor positions in the United States, which was at 25,500 in 2008, is expected to grow by 3,000 by 2018, the number of individuals hoping for a job in the motion picture and TV industries far outpaces the number of openings. Only the most skilled, persistent, and adept at using technology will land salaried position or attract enough work to freelance full time.
In 2009, film and video editors earned a median of $50,790 annually, with the top 10 percent earning six-figure salaries. Those who work for the motion picture and video industries are the most highly paid, earning a median of about $69,000 each year. Freelancers may see their earnings fluctuate considerably from year to year. As with many creative fields, pay can be low until you reach a certain plateau and outlast the competition—which can take years.
Top jobs include work on major motion pictures or network TV programs, but there are also a lot of jobs at advertising agencies, local TV stations, and film and technical schools. Corporations increasingly need video editors for promotional spots or Web videos. To keep moving ahead, it helps if you’re in New York City or L.A. and know a few insiders—or have the kind of personality that helps you network your way into jobs.
A bachelor’s degree is required for most film and video editing jobs, including coursework in videography and computer technology. Employers usually seek applicants with a good eye for filmmaking, imagination, and creativity, as well as a thorough technical understanding of editing software and cinematography. The real test is your work, however—the next job is likely to come from somebody who was impressed with your last one.
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