Approximately 39,800 film and television editors are employed in the United States. Some film or television editors work primarily with news programs, documentaries, or special features. They may develop ongoing working relationships with directors or producers who hire them from one project to another. Many editors who have worked for a studio or postproduction company for several years often become independent contractors. These editors offer their services on a per-job basis to producers of commercials and films, negotiate their own fees, and typically purchase or lease their own editing equipment.
The glamour associated with film and television work makes this a popular field that can be difficult to break into. With a minimum of a high school diploma or a degree from a two-year college, you can apply for entry-level jobs in many film or television studios, but these jobs will not be editing positions. Most studios will not consider people for film or television editor positions without a bachelor's degree or several years of on-the-job experience as an apprentice or assistant.
One way to get on-the-job experience is to complete an apprenticeship in editing. In some cases you won't be eligible for an apprenticeship unless you are a current employee of the studio. Start out by applying to as many film and television studios as possible and take an entry-level position, even if it is not in the editing department. Once you start work, let people know that you are interested in an editor apprenticeship so that you'll be considered the next time a position becomes available.
Those who have completed bachelor's or master's degrees have typically gained hands-on experience through school projects. Another benefit of going to school is that contacts that you make while in school, both through your school's career services office and alumni, can be a valuable resource when you look for your first job. Your school's career services office may also have listings of job openings. Some studio work is union regulated, so you may want to contact union locals to find out about job requirements and openings. Professional associations also provide job assistance to their members.
Once film and television editors have secured employment in their field, their advancement comes with further experience and greater recognition. Some film and television editors develop good working relationships with directors or producers. These editors may be willing to leave the security of a studio job for the possibility of working one-on-one with the director or producer on a project. These opportunities often provide editors with the autonomy they may not get in their regular jobs. Some are willing to take a pay cut to work on a project they feel is important.
Some film and television editors choose to stay at their studios and advance through seniority to editing positions with higher salaries. They may be able to negotiate better benefits packages or to choose the projects they will work on. They may also choose which directors they wish to work with. In larger studios, editors may train and supervise staffs of less experienced or apprentice editors.
Some sound editors may wish to broaden their skills by working as general film editors. Some film editors may, on the other hand, choose to specialize in sound effects, music, animation, or some other editorial area. Some editors who work in television may move to motion pictures or may move from working on commercials to television series or movies.
If you are a college graduate, consider applying to the American Cinema Editors internship program. Visit https://americancinemaeditors.org/ace-internship-program/internship-process for more information.
Read publications such as CinemaEditor (https://americancinemaeditors.org/ce-magazine) and CineMontage (https://cinemontage.org) to learn more about trends in the industry and potential employers.
Join a union to increase your chances of landing a job and receiving fair pay for your work.
Conduct information interviews with film and video editors and ask them for advice on breaking into the field.