Film editors select which footage appears in the final version of a film. Editing is a high-level position in the film industry, particularly on films with large budgets, where editors might have assistants and film librarians working under their supervision. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expected employment opportunities in film and video editing to increase nearly 17 percent between 2008 and 2010.
Knowledge and Skills
Modern films are often edited on computers, so general computer knowledge and editing software skills are required. You may be able to increase your pay or attractiveness to employers by gaining expertise in multiple software versions, as the industry does not recognize a single standard. A bachelor's or technical degree in film studies is a good starting point for film production work, but most editors work their way up from film librarian, camera operator or assistant editor positions once they obtain a degree.
The average income of film and video editors nationwide ranges between $30,496 and $59,576 as of 2010, according to PayScale, averaging just over $45,000. The Motion Picture Editors Guild is the governing organization for union editors, and as of 2007, the union required wages of $2,575.88 per week. This represents a 56-hour workweek per union regulations and amounts to $123,642 annually for an editor who works all but four weeks per year. Not all films are subject to union governance, so low-budget film editors are paid less, reducing the average pay rate.
California is the primary source of film production in the U.S., although New York and Atlanta, Georgia, also have large film and television industries that require editors. Film editing work can be found in most major cities, but Los Angeles, California, and New York offer the most opportunities and highest pay rates in the U.S. Statewide, California reported an average wage of $43,699 for film and video editors in 2001.
Experience and building a good reputation within the industry will help you advance your career and increase your salary. Joining the Film Editors Guild may also increase your earnings, as you will qualify to work on union-controlled films. A Bachelor of Arts degree in communications is a good start to earning a solid salary as a film editor, as editors with this degree reported wages between $44,346 and $68,899. This averages more than $10,000 more per year than editors with film production degrees.
Hollywood films aren't the only work opportunities for editors. Television studios on the local and national level, independent films and private film and video firms also require editing services. Documentary and corporate filmmaking also requires skilled editors, and opportunities for these positions are not limited to the major coastal cities. Church and worship filming is also an employment prospect if that suits your skills and tastes, and film editor salaries in this arena average only slightly lower than the national range, at $30,023 to $49,359 annually.