Do You Need a Film Editing Degree?



7/23/2012

Perhaps you’re considering a career as a film editor, and you’re wondering whether you need to go to college and earn a film editing degree. Editing is both a technical skill and a creative one; you need to possess the patience to weed through hours of unusable footage while having a keen eye for the right footage to tell the director’s story.


That being said, while getting an education is definitely important, the short answer is no—you do not need a degree to become a film editor. In fact, while many colleges and trade schools have very good editing courses, you actually need more than a college program could give you in order to make it as a film editor. In this industry, the editors that are considered the “A” team are those who have accumulated years of work experience and industry connections—those who have accumulated a body of work that proves what they are capable of. In other words, being connected to the industry has gotten them farther than their college degree (if they even have one).


The point is, in the eyes of the film industry, all a film editing degree says is that you went to school to learn to edit film. It does not tell anyone how good you are at your job, whether you can work well with a director, or what your work is worth financially. That is why film degrees are virtually meaningless in this business. You need to get connected to this environment, and you need to be able to show people what you can do in order to gain credibility as a film editor. That is something that no film school can do for you.

So what would the alternative be?

Many film professionals feel that the best way to learn the film industry is from the inside—to get your foot in the door of a real film production company. Many people do this through internships, but interns usually don’t get the attention they need in order to grow into a real job. A better option is to become an apprentice (extern). In fact, if you want to edit film, there’s no better way to learn the skills than to apprentice (extern) under a working film editor, because doing so helps you learn both the technical and the creative skills you need—and learning in the “real world” enables you to make those all-important industry connections.  If you don’t have the means to land an apprenticeship (externship) yourself, a great way to do it is to enroll in a film school that uses the mentor-apprentice (extern) approach.


The bottom line is, while you certainly need some form of education, a film editing degree alone won’t get you where you want to go. Apprenticeship might be an excellent alternative.