How to Get Started as an Editor


Post originally posted on Cameraman Hong Kong

There are a few ways to have a career in editing for the film, video, and new media industry. Film school could give you the training, you could assistant edit for the assistant editor for a certain amount of years unpaid until someone dies and you move up, or you could grind out your friends’ music videos for $500 until someone takes a chance on you, etc. All very available routes, although I’ll be discussing a different approach.

Just start editing.

You don’t need a camera, 4K footage, an animator, etc. If you’re learning and you want to get your hands dirty, just start ripping footage from the internet and practice. Get creative with the assets you use to create a new story. Take some “Friends” TV show footage and make a horror trailer from it. Use a Spongebob scene for a Heavy Death Metal song (this exists btw).

Be Creative.

Having a hard time being creative? Do some research. Immerse yourself in the edits you like. Learn the pacing, timing, openings, closings, framing, dialogue, patterns, etc. Reverse engineer the edits like a forensic detective. Scene by scene, sometimes shot by shot. Each scene should have a purpose and your job is to find what that purpose is. You’ll start to see patterns from episode to episode or from movie to movie. Learn the patterns well so when you start your own edit, your unconscious mind will put you in a rhythm that seems familiar and natural. Your thoughts will be focused on the creative part instead of technicalities.

Edit constantly.

Your mind is a muscle that needs exercise. The more you stay active, the faster you’ll see real progress. To prove that anyone can become an editor, I’ll share an anecdote from my time in college studying Graphic Design (not film, I’m an editor now). One of the best projects to help push me forward was the 100 Piece Project. The idea was to create 100 different paintings, sketches, drawings, etc. ALL different in a short amount of time. You don’t have time to polish things and make them perfect, nor do you have time to really think about what to do next. You just do. Not everything looks good but in the end you’ll have 10-20 unexpected pieces (more if you’re good) that surprisingly make you proud. The same goes for Editing. Crank out a lot of work quickly and see what sticks to the wall. Gravitate towards the styles that you like and repeat the process until you feel like you have a style you’re proud of. At this stage, if you haven’t been sharing your work, it is time young padawan.

Sharing your work is crucial.

Get it out there for your friends and family to see. Put it on forums and get feedback. Enter it in film contests. Put it on the internet for trolls to destroy you. It doesn’t matter, just get it out there because your work will attract the people you want to work with. Your style and branding is your identity to the working world. Once you have an identity to distinguish you, let it distinguish you. Stand out, be good at what you do, and take pride in your work. It will show to the right people. They will find you. It’s just a matter of time.


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