Before you land your first job in feature film post-production, the world of pro editing might seem like a mysterious one filled with all kinds of gadgets and gizmos that you don’t recognise or even understand. For some of us, such mysteries might seem like a challenge to be faced and overcome, while for others, those same mysteries might just be enough to put you off before you’ve even begun. Ultimately, there’s a job out there for everyone but working out how the world of work is going to suit you and make you happy can often be one of the toughest jobs you’ll face.
Before you leap in or run for the hills, take a moment and read on.
We’ve put together the top five questions asked by newbies before they land their first job in feature film post-production. With a view toward the future, see what you can expect after putting in some serious effort and becoming an experienced full editor.
Where will I work?
Unfortunately, the rumours are true. Working in post-production means lots of time spent in dark rooms. Before you break out your vitamin D supplement, fear not, most editors are freelance and are employed to work on a variety of projects throughout their careers. Rather than imagining being locked in the same dark room for all eternity, experienced editors get the freedom to choose projects that excite them and are likely to work in a variety of post-production and facilities houses. They’ll also work on a huge range of projects like ads, feature films, TV shows, music videos – you name it, if it needs editing, there’s an editor out there to suit.
What about working hours?
This is where things get interesting. Depending on what kind of job you are working on at any given moment, you may work regular office hours, or you may work long, crazy hours if a particularly urgent deadline is looming. Because of the nature of freelance work, it’s very likely that the times when you are working on a project will be intense experiences. This can be challenging if you have people around you – young or old – who need you on hand at regular times but it isn’t insurmountable. There are editing jobs out there that will give you a regular schedule, they are just much harder to find. Of course, the flip side to this is that you will have periods of down-time – this is when you need to make the most of the outside world and get some daylight and fresh air, as well as see all the people you bailed on while you were busy and laser-focused on a job.
Who will I work with?
As an editor, you’ll most likely work much of the time on your own but with lots of time spent up close and personal with the project’s director. It’s likely that you’ll also get to work with an array of other folk such as sound effects editors visual effects artists and music editors. The most cherished of your working relationships will likely be with the assistant editor assigned to you. The assistant editor is the one who will make your life easier, your job smoother, and keep you fully fed and caffeinated at all times. Like a mythical being, you won’t even notice a great assistant editor – but you’ll certainly notice a bad one – and very quickly.
What software do I need to know how to use?
The industry standard software package that you need to know how to use forwards, backwards and inside out, is Avid Media Composer. But others like Adobe Premiere Pro and Blackmagic Resolve are making inroads in the workplace. It’s fine if you don’t know how to use them completely when you first start out, but you will be competing for jobs with people who know exactly how they work and have a show-reel full of material they’ve made themselves or have been a creative part of. The film job market is a tough one – right across the board. If you can show that you have the necessary skills such as attention to detail and a creative and burning passion for the editing process then this could be enough to get your foot in the door. Of course, you would need to find a weird and wonderful way to prove those skills, which would probably require a little editing… Once you’re inside though, you need to make it your top priority to get yourself up to speed tech-wise – and fast.
What qualifications do I need?
You don’t need formal qualifications to work in post-production but they can certainly help. Making the decision to go to film school or tough it out alone is a big one and neither option is fail-safe.
Showing commitment, determination, and enthusiasm to work in the industry will be your key characteristics at the start of your career and will benefit you throughout your working life. At the beginning, you may be expected to demonstrate that you have the right skill set and this is where qualifications can be helpful, kind of like shorthand proof of your abilities. There is also an abundance of courses out there that will teach you how to get to grips with the industry standard software and fill any gaps you might have from going solo. Such courses can be expensive and it is possible to teach yourself if you have the right mindset. What a good course should give you is a standardised method to approach managing the workflow – this is the key to success when it comes to making it in post-production.
We do happen to know of one such brilliant course that we would wholeheartedly recommend…
Now you know the answers to some of the biggest and most important questions that newbies ask, you have enough information to make a good decision based on your wants and needs. If you know you can handle a typical post-production working environment, if you know you can get your head around some fiendishly complicated software, and you quite enjoy your own company then you just might have what it takes.
So, if you’re self-motivated, dedicated to creativity and the post-production process, and you’re determined to forge a brilliant career in the world of film for yourself, jump in and give it a go – after all, what’s the worst that could happen, right?