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What does an editor do?

The editor puts together (cuts) the pictures (rushes) as they come in from the set (or lab, if the drama is being shot in celluloid). Films tend not to be shot in the order in which the story unfolds, so editors might be working on scenes from the end of the film before the beginning. Their job is to take scenes in non-story order and edit them bit-by-bit into a whole.

In pre-production, editors work closely with the director to decide how to make the most of the script. Once filming starts, they look at the rushes each day, checking technical standards and the emerging sense of story and performance and editing it into a series of scenes. By the time the film wraps editors will have spent hours reworking scenes and cutting them together to create a rough assembly.

During post-production, the editor and director will work closely to refine the assembly edit into a director’s cut, which must be approved by producers, until they achieve picture lock (known as final cut).  After that, the music and sound are added to the mix, a process that editors will oversee.

What’s an editor good at?

  • Storytelling: understand how to use pictures, rhythm, pace and tension to tell a tale
  • Visual awareness: have a good eye, know what look fits the style of the film
  • Using edit software: be adept with tools like Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premier, Final Cut and Lightworks
  • Communication: work well with the director, and share the process with the edit assistants and the script supervisor
  • Attention to detail: be patient, show attention to detail and good organisational skills, often under pressure

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