Film Editor

by Katy Keich
Film Editor

In filmmaking, the role of the film editor is critical in making a movie that tells a story and tells it convincingly.

The Work

It is editors who work in post-production to compose the final film by selecting the best shots and splicing them to most effectively capture the mood, pace, and drama of a particular production. Film editing that is done well is not noticeable because the cuts are seamless or done for artistic effects that move the story forward. The audience becomes so involved in the story that they do not notice the guidance of the editor.

Simply cutting and assembling images is not all there is to film editing, though that is the most basic skill. Film editors work with a variety of aspects in producing the final product -- layering sound, dialogue, music, and actor performances in a way that can enhance or even alter the original story. Film editors work very closely with directors to ensure the director's vision is met.

Before digital technologies became dominant, film editors used to work with the actual negative film -- cutting and pasting pieces of the film and then threading them through a viewer. Today, film and video editors usually use digital systems to edit the film. The negative is scanned into a computer and software like Final Cut Pro or Avid's Media Composer are used to manipulate cut lists. With the increasing use of digital film rather than celluloid all editing can be done digitally without the need to scan anything.


Film editors typically earn a bachelor's degree in film production, broadcasting, or visual communications. Some film editors get more theoretical and advanced training in master's degree programs in film and media arts.

Coursework should include practical film editing (including picture and sound editing); editorial theory covering "narrative film language", fiction writing, and documentary writing; technical skills; digital imaging; and animation. Your degree program should also give you access to the most common software tools used by professional film editors, such as Apple's Final Cut Pro and Avid's Media Composer.

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