Job descriptions and industry overviews

TV/film editor: job description

18 Jan 2024, 11:41

TV and film editors put together raw footage captured on set and turn it into a sequence to best portray a director’s vision.

girl editing film footage

What does a TV/film editor do? How much money do TV/film editors make? | Who employs TV/film editors? | How to become a TV/film editor | Key skills

Editors are responsible for selecting, cutting and putting together video footage and turning it into a cohesive sequence that tells the story as the director intended. Most of an editor’s work comes in the post-production stage, but they are involved in every stage of the production.

Typically, they will:

  • analyse the script with the director and discuss the vision for the project
  • plan how the editing will work (this includes working with people in the post-production team – such as the sound designer and visual effects supervisor, to figure out which scenes may need visual/sound effects)
  • make shot lists – the editor usually works with the director and the director of photography (DOP) to create a shot list that outlines the planned shots and camera angles for each scene
  • review dailies (the raw footage that is shot on each day of production)
  • select and assemble footage – this is the start of the post-production phase. The editor reviews all of the raw footage shot by the crew during production and selects the best takes to include in the final product
  • create a rough cut of the film/episodes
  • revise and refine the final cut. Based on the notes shared between the director and other crew members, the editor revises and refines the rough cut to improve the pacing, continuity and overall feel of the project
  • add visual and audio effects to the footage
  • work on colour grading
  • work with the rest of the post-production team to finalise the edit and export the final version of the footage in the relevant format.

An editor will spend the majority of their working hours in an office or studio. Working hours depend on the production they’re working on, but editors often need to work long hours – especially if there are deadlines to meet. The post-production phase is generally a long process. For example, an editor we spoke to reported that they spent between six months and a year in the post-production phase for a TV series. The editor will work with the director (and sometimes other members of the team) to go through the footage and reach the desired vision of the project.

How much money do TV/film editors make

As with most jobs in the TV/film industry, pay typically works on a project-to-project basis and varies depending on the size and scale of each project, the location and your level of experience. Those starting out may work as editing assistants or runners, where the salary is usually between £18,000 and £25,000.

As you gain experience and take on more projects, you will see your pay increase. According to job site, the average salary for an editor in the UK is £35,000. But those at a more senior/experienced level, especially those working on big, well-known TV shows and films, will naturally earn a higher salary than this.

Who employs TV/film editors?

TV and film editors are typically employed by:

  • film companies
  • television companies
  • advertising companies
  • independent production companies
  • gaming companies
  • animation companies
  • broadcasters.

Some of these employers may offer long-term contracts to editors (this is more typical of independent companies), whereas others employ editors on a freelance basis – as and when they need them.

How to become a TV/film editor

Unlike some other jobs in the creative industry, there is such a thing as a ‘traditional’ career path for a TV/film editor. Typically, you’ll start out by finding work as a post-production runner or trainee, before going on to become an assistant editor. Lots of people work as an assistant editor in lower budget productions and then move on to feature films.

However, there is no one route to take. You could…

Browse editing job vacancies

You should keep an eye on post-production companies’ websites for editing job vacancies that are suitable for your level of experience. And if you can’t find any current job opportunities on their website, you could try applying speculatively .

Look for training schemes

Lots of big names in the TV and film industry offer training schemes. Each year, they recruit people looking to work in different areas of film and TV and give them professional training, insights from experts and opportunities to create new work. Sometimes, a job is offered at the end of the scheme, too.

Apply for an apprenticeship

You’ll receive on-the-job training and get paid while you work on building a portfolio of work. There are apprenticeships that focus at least partly on editing: Creative and Digital Media or Post Production Technical Operator are just two examples.

Put yourself in good stead

Whichever route you decide to take, there are things you can do to help you forge a successful career in TV/film editing. You could:

Complete a degree. Video production, filmmaking, broadcasting and media communications are all relevant degree subjects you could study. Although a degree is not essential to become an editor – and certainly doesn’t promise you a job – gaining a qualification in one of these subjects does equip you with valuable knowledge, skills, experience (especially if the degree includes any kind of work placement) and potentially some industry contacts that can be beneficial when it comes to looking for work in the industry.

Try volunteering. Work experience is key if you’re looking to become an editor. Whether it’s editing student film projects, creating and editing films for charities or community productions, or completing work experience as a runner in an editing facilities company, these are the sorts of experiences that are great to add to your portfolio and mention on your CV.

Work on your editing skills in your spare time and build on your portfolio . It could even be something as simple as editing clips on iMovie and uploading them to YouTube. This is still valuable practice that employers will recognise.

Network, network, and network some more. Connecting with other people in your industry is vital, as it could lead to all kinds of opportunities. You could create a LinkedIn profile and connect with creatives, join ‘groups’ on other social media platforms or find communities of people looking for editors. It’s also common for film institutions and production companies to host ‘networking nights’ – so try to go to as many of these as possible.

Skills needed to become a TV/film editor

Some of the most common skills needed to become an editor are:

  • knowledge of film and video editing software
  • knowledge of visual effects and editing software
  • knowledge of video and audio formats
  • creative skills
  • an eye for detail
  • problem solving skills
  • the ability to take feedback and criticism onboard
  • the ability to work well under pressure and meet deadlines
  • communication and teamwork skills
  • collaboration
  • flexibility and an openness to change
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • patience.

More advice on the creative industry

For more insight into what goes on behind the camera, take a look at our article on off-screen roles in film, TV and video production as well as our general overview of different careers in film .

To see more content geared towards the creative arts, create your free targetjobs profile and tell us what your career interests are. You’ll get access to tailored content including advice, events and career opportunities.

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