TV/Film Editor

The Job and What's Involved

TV programme's and movies are usually put together from a huge amount of footage. Editors work to turn this raw material into a satisfying finished product.

The choices made by the editor determine what will appear on screen and shape the viewer's experience. This process takes place in post-production, which can take longer than the filming itself.

Editors use their creative and technical skills to combine:

- Camera footage
- Dialogue and/or narration
- Sound effects
- Music
- Graphics and special effects

Besides movies and TV shows of all kinds, they may also work on corporate and training films, advertisements or music videos.

An editor may:

  • Take a brief for the film or programme and discuss the overall vision with the director.
  • Assemble all the footage and store it on computer.
  • Select the best material for each scene, to achieve the desired effect in terms of drama, impact and continuity.
  • Digitally cut the files into sequence.
  • Create a complete rough cut of the film.
  • Revise the content to ensure a smooth, coherent flow.

Editors use digital technology and specialist software. Occasionally, they may use the traditional method of cutting film strips manually.

Depending on the project, editors may work alone or with a team. In some cases, the director works alongside the editor. On large projects, editors may be aided by an assistant editor, and sometimes other colleagues specialising in music and sound effects.

On feature films, editing can take place alongside the filming, with each day's rushes delivered to the edit suite. Editors may work on scenes out of their final sequence, so they need to have a clear picture of the overall structure.

The job can be highly pressured. Editors often have to work to tight deadlines. They may need to come up with creative solutions to rescue poor material.

Editors' hours vary. Those working in-house may work Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm. However, long and unpredictable hours are common to meet post-production deadlines.

Many editors work freelance and are employed on a contract basis for specific projects.

The work is based in edit studios. It often involves intensive work on computers for long periods.

Freelance editors with their own equipment may work from home.

Salaries may start at around £18,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Around 11,000 people are employed in UK post-production roles.

The main employers are:

- Independent production companies
- Companies providing post-production services
- Broadcast companies
- Computer software manufacturers
- Film companies.

Many jobs are in London, but there are employers in most cities.

Competition for posts is fierce. Jobs often go unadvertised. It is important to establish contacts in the industry and to be able to demonstrate enthusiasm and some work experience, often unpaid. A show reel of work is helpful.

Some vacancies can be found in national and trade press, such as Broadcast and The Guardian (Mondays), and on employers' websites.

Education and Training

Editors generally enter the industry at a more junior level, often as runners. After some experience, they may seek edit assistant posts and start to develop their editing skills.

The Diploma in creative and media may be relevant for this area of work.

No specific qualifications are required. Some TV/film editors hold a foundation degree, an honours degree or a Higher National Diploma (HND). This may be in a relevant field, such as film, media studies or IT, or in an unrelated subject.

As a guide, minimum requirements for entry on to a foundation degree or HND course are normally one A level and three to four GCSE's (A*-C), or equivalent; for a degree course, the minimum requirements are normally two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C), usually to include English and maths, or equivalent.

Several training providers offer short courses in editing for all grades. Postgraduate courses are also available. Entry requirements vary; competition for places can be keen. It is a good idea to check that courses offer opportunities for using the most advanced equipment, and for gaining work experience and contacts in the industry. Skillset and the British Film Institute (BFI) both list courses on their websites, and in the Media Courses Directory.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Editors train on the job. They generally start as assistants and learn by observing skilled professionals while developing their own work.

Skillset has set up a network of Media and Screen Academies across the UK, offering centres of excellence in television and interactive media, and institutions that the UK film industry has identified as those offering the highest quality of skills training for film. They offer a range of courses, summer schools, work placements, master classes, online learning resources and a talent scout programme.

The BBC, some independent companies and Regional Screen Agencies run training schemes for new entrants. The following companies in England run new entrants' schemes supported by Skillset:

- FT2
- The Production Guild
- Screen Yorkshire (Regional Screen Agency based in Leeds)

It is worth checking all the Regional Screen Agencies, who operate throughout the UK, and who occasionally run training or new entrants' schemes.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A TV/film editor needs:

  • Creativity.
  • A strong visual sense.
  • An understanding of story-telling techniques.
  • Confidence with IT and mastery of common software packages used in editing.
  • Attention to detail.
  • To work well under pressure.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Patience.
  • Self-motivation.
  • The ability to build good relationships with industry colleagues.
  • A balance of self-confidence and tact, to handle creative differences within the team.

Your Long Term Prospects

Progression depends on establishing a strong track record and good contacts. This is particularly true for freelance editors, who advance by taking on more ambitious or prestigious projects.

With experience and further training, editors may become directors. In larger companies they may move into management roles.

Get Further Information

British Film Institute (BFI),
21 Stephen Street, London W1T 1LN
Tel: 020 7255 1444

BBC Recruitment HR Direct,
PO Box 1133, Belfast BT1 9GP

BKSTS - The Moving Image Society,
Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath SL0 0NH
Tel: 01753 656656

Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematographic
and Theatre Union (BECTU),
373-377 Clapham Road, London SW9 9BT
Tel: 020 7346 0900

Film and Television Freelance Training (FT2),
3rd Floor, 18-20 Southwark Street,
London SE1 1TJ
Tel: 020 7407 0344

ITV, ITV Network Centre,
200 Gray's Inn Road, London WC1X 8HF
Tel: 0844 881 8000

The Production Guild, N & P Complex,
Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath SL0 0NH
Tel: 01753 651767

Screen Yorkshire, Studio 22,
46 The Calls, Leeds LS2 7EY
Tel: 0113 294 4410

Skillset, Focus Point,
21 Caledonian Road, London, N1 9GB
Tel: 020 7713 9800

Shooting People,
PO Box 51350, London N1 6XS

UK Film Council, 10 Little Portland Street,
London W1W 7JG
Tel: 020 7861 7861

For UK Screen & Regional Agencies
see the UK Film Council website.

A free UK Network for Film Crew & Video Production Freelancers - the Video Collective.


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