I work as a “video producer” with about 15 years experience in video editing, five years professionally. I do a lot of freelance work as a video editor, director, and producer, and a lot of that comes from the video games industry, cutting promos, interview clips, and so on.
I think there’s a misunderstanding a video editor is just the guy who pieces the finished footage together. That’s part of it, but it often feels more like I’m a cartoonist choosing the best moments to tell the story. I’ve been able to tell entirely new stories by editing together old video clips.
Editors are not just the guys who piece everything together for the writer and director. In my experience working on my own projects, I’ve found that editing is where the story really comes together. That’s where you have final say. I can excise entire characters or loop in dialog to change the meaning of things. Just look at reality television for an example of how powerful a good editor can be. Almost none of what you’re looking at on those shows actually ever happened.
The job itself is about a 10 for satisfaction, but monetarily, it’s becoming more and more of a part time thing. The fact is that just about anybody can handle the software these days and you don’t get hired on your technical prowess alone anymore. You need a really killer reel to find enough work to do this full time.
Film is my first love. Whether I’m putting together a short film project or cutting someone else’s video, it’s the art, the science of film that gets me going. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I used to do this with a camcorder and two VCRs back before high speed editing was made available to the general public. In fact, I’d trace this back to when I made flipbooks as a kid. I’d be doing this whether or not it paid.
If I could go back and do something differently, I think I would have approached this with a little more focus, or else I might have chosen not to do it professionally in the first place but to keep doing it as a hobby. You really need to work hard to make a living in this field.
One piece of advice I can give is this: don’t deal with nitpicky clients. If they have three dozen notes for you on the first draft, they’re going to have three dozen notes for you on the second draft, too, and on the third, and the fourth. Some clients refuse to be made happy or they’re not sure what they want in the first place, and you can’t afford to play around until they get it right.
I’ve had some strange clients, too. I’ve been asked to cut together a promo clip for a DVD on how to dance with your cat. The pay was fairly low, but the real reason I had to turn it down was that I couldn’t watch the footage without laughing. Though, some clients just give me hours and hours of dull, boring footage that I can hardly do anything at all with. The challenge of just staying away while scanning that stuff is a real chore.
I keep doing this job because I love film. That’s what keeps me going. Sometimes when I talk to someone who sees what goes into my work and really appreciates it on the level of a cinephile, I’m glad to have carved out my little niche in the world of movies and video.
Deadlines can be stressful, but this is a big part of who I am and what I love, so there’s really no worry over the stress or balancing it with my life.
I never know what amount of money I’m making on video editing projects alone. One year it might be thirty thousand for a few major projects, the next it could be five grand which I supplement with other video work, writing and photography gigs.
As for vacation, I take a week off now and then. As a freelancer you don’t really have vacation time, you have “work slowing down time.”
Especially today, certification in the newest software can’t hurt, but as long as you have a good demo reel, I find not many employers or clients really care what sort of degrees, plaques and certificates you have hanging on your office wall.
In five years, I’d like to be writing, producing and directing feature films. I have one I’m putting together on Kickstarter about an eco-friendly superhero, but you never know how those things will pan out, so in the meantime I’m happy clipping footage together and expressing myself with my own short films now and then.
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