Yesterday I received this email:
I just found your blog and really admired your story and was wondering if you had any suggestions for someone who really wants to have a career in editing and film making. I love editing and would love to take on projects and create my own reel and get things going, it's just a difficult process to start, I don't know what to show to people to prove I have skills as an editor. I just did an internship with a friends parents acting class and did a short little movie, but have since moved away and am saving up for film school. Thanks for reading my email, have a great day.
First of all, I want to thank you Rob for your email. I think your question isn't at all uncommon, which is why I asked you if it would be alright to respond to your question publicly. I won't pretend I have all the answers, but I'm happy to share a few of the things that helped me get going when I was just starting out.1. Editing for yourself.
Whether you're shooting your own footage, editing home videos, or using found footage from your favorite movies, the best way to improve your work and make impressions with your editing is to create - and create A LOT. Challenge yourself with varying styles. Edit a music video, cut a promo reel, recut an original trailer for a movie you like. Editing isn't simply about the task of combining clips on a timeline, it's about versatility and your awareness of how others will respond to the visuals and sounds you present before they've even seen them.
Don't stress yourself out by thinking that everything you create has to be brilliant. Treat your projects as exercises and use them to get a taste of different strategies. These editing variations will also go a long way to highlight the way you handle different styles, which is exactly the broad approach that you want to take when you're just beginning. You'll know you're on the right track if you're able to genuinely surprise yourself with what you come up with.
Others respond to dedication and persistence. If you want people to know that you're serious about pursuing this as a career you have to be willing to keep at it even when you're not receiving gratification for your efforts. It's what separates those who are professional editors, and those who just call themselves one.
2. Sharing your work.
Show friends and family what you've done, upload your work online to be criticized, and find contests and student film festivals to give you new goals and specific feedback. Everyone doesn't have to like what you do, and my best advice for being in any form of media is that it's best to develop a thick skin early on.
Sharing your work with those close to you is also a great way to let people know about your film making and editing goals. As a teenager, the projects I shot with friends translated into some of my first paid gigs filming seminars and weddings. Don't expect to make big bucks doing this. You're likely being hired as much because of how cheap you are compared to everyone else, as you are because of how enthusiastic you are to get the opportunity. But, do take advantage of these early opportunities to diversify and create a reel for yourself. Feeding on experiences will help shape your path and give you more choices.
Networking with friends and family is as simple as it gets, and you never know when they might know someone who wants a simple web video or someone to capture some footage of their function. When you're trying to get into something new, the old saying 'beggars can't be choosers' is never more relevant.
3. Creating an online business card.
For me, Editing Luke has become a bit of everything. It's a video portfolio, recap of some of my experience, and a place to share inspiration. Ultimately, it's a well maintained presentation of who I am (and how I want to be viewed).
While I haven't used my site as a direct advertisement to attract freelance work, I've used it as backup to prove how dedicated I am to what I do. On a personal level this site has helped me build connections, has attracted several film festival invites for my work, and has given me a forum to promote projects in competitions. Getting this to happen has taken a lot of effort on my part, but some of the achievements that have resulted have ended up on my resume and are great talking points when convincing someone to hire you.
When I was looking for work fresh out of film school, the impact of this site also stood out when I asked people to have a look. It proved I was a real person with some character, because lets be honest, when you're just starting out your potential is probably more exciting than your previous work history.
In short, to work full time as an editor you have to push to make it happen. The two editing jobs I currently do didn't exist before I came along. However, their creation also didn't just occur overnight. The right connections, a series of varying experiences to draw examples from, and a diverse reel to show that I was adaptable to a variety of styles all played a big part.
When you're starting out you have to latch onto anything even remotely related to what you want to do and excel at it. You'll be surprised how many people will take chances on you when you can spark their interest with what you're really interested in doing. For me it's been a long chain of small events and chance meetings that have helped me progress further into what I want to do. My approach is still evolving (and the work isn't always enriching) but to be able to fully support myself through editing and photography is one dream realized.
The good news is that there are so many unique ways to get you to where you want to go that you shouldn't feel limited. The arts are complicated, but those who succeed in a day to day sense (working for themselves that is) are those who learn how to bridge their creative ambitions with practical applications. The web has transformed the market, and plenty of companies are looking to utilize video.
For more, check out a few of my older posts Advice For Aspiring Filmmakers and Basic Film Portfolio Skills. Best of luck!