Film Editor: Career profile

Film editors are storytellers, weaving separate scenes into a compelling sequence. Once, much of the evidence of the film editor's hand in a project was left on the cutting room floor. Today digital technology has overtaken the most laborious work, allowing film editors to play an even more dynamic role in the whole post-production process.

Meet a Film Editor

Film Editor

Lincoln MacKinnon, 28, is a freelance film editor. When he's not editing for others, he's working on his own projects, including a documentary for the Cambodian Kids Foundation of which he is a board member. Oh, and in case you're wondering why he looks so rock star, he's also singer-guitarist for the blues/rock band the Dead River Deeps.

Describe your job in a sentence.

Multi-platform storytelling pretty much sums it up.

What education & training do you have?

  • Bachelor of Communication (Media)
  • Certificate III in Early Childhood Development
  • Certificate IV in Music Industry (Business)
  • Certificate II in Radio Broadcasting

How has this training helped your Film Editing career?

The skills are all related to the entertainment industry. The communications degree particularly crossed a lot of areas I'm interested in, from film and film editing to publicising my own band and the Cambodian Kids Foundation charity. Now I find I can draw on all those skills and go on radio confidently, understand contracts, do interviews, write press releases, do my own film editing and video editing. And I can hold the attention of a room full of three-year-olds, which is the hardest gig of all.

What skills do you most need as a Film Editor/Director?

A lot of people go into projects hoping to stumble across some magic. That can happen, but what you really need is a good plan because even with a documentary you still need a story arc. You need to be flexible, creative and able to work in a team environment. You have to learn to evaluate the worth of your own work, because when you are freelancing people won't necessarily tell you they thought something was bad. They just won't hire you again.

What is the most satisfying aspect of the job?

It's really creative. You can totally rejig a story in the editing room. But just to know you were a small part of a team that helped produce something like Dirty Business: How Mining Made Australia, which I worked on as an assistant film editor in my final year of uni, is great. I was pretty stoked to get a message from my dad congratulating me the first time he saw my name in the credits.

What is the most challenging part of being a Film Editor?

You find yourself sometimes taking a gamble financially and might not get paid until the end of a project in a lump sum. It often involves long, odd hours working to meet deadlines.

What advice would you give other aspiring Film Editors?

Start creating things yourself. You are going to make bad films, it's inevitable. So get them out of the way. That's what film & television courses are for – making mistakes and learning from them, because you are generally not getting paid for those projects. Get in some practice with different forms of compression with YouTube clips because that's an insanely good skill to have. Volunteer to work for a company you are interested in. Websites like Film Victoria, Screen Australia and the Australian Screen Editors' Guild are helpful for contacts.

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