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How to Be a Video Editor that Directors Want to Work With

Joe Frederick

Want to get more repeat video editing business from directors you respect? These tips will help.  

So many of us aspire to be the go-to video editor for the best directors. But, we rarely stop and quiz them about what they look for in their chosen video editors. I caught up with award-winning director Greg Fromholz to get his thoughts. Here are nine attributes that he, as a director, looks for in a video editor.

1. They Contribute Creatively and Candidly

Be Creative and Honest

Don’t just say “yes” to everything, come up with your own original ideas. Image courtesy of Greg Fromholz.

Fromholz recounted a story of working with an editor who agreed with everything he said. This individual would say, “Whatever you want, you are the director.” This is the opposite of what he’s looking for.

Collaboration is his favorite part of the filmmaking process, so he prefers He an editor who contributes creatively and speaks up when they disagree with him.

He uses the phrase, “The best idea wins.” If your idea is better than the director’s, it’ll get used. A good editor, apparently, is one that makes a director look good — bringing thoughtful creative opinions to the table is a great way to do this.

2. They Understand the Editor/Director Dynamic 

While it’s desirable that an editor speaks up confidently, it’s also essential that they understand that the director has the final call when it comes to creative decisions.

So, yes,”the best idea wins.” Just remember that, ultimately, the director gets to decide which idea is best.

3. They’re Punctual and Prepared

If the work day starts at 9:00 AM, then the editing starts at 9:00 AM. Not turning on your machine. Not checking emails and installing software updates. Editing.

On one occasion, Fromholz traveled abroad to work on an edit. He arrived at the studio excited and ready to grind. The editor turned on his computer — and then he turned to Fromholz to inform that they’d have to wait three hours while he updated his operating system. Obviously, this is no way to impress a director. Be prepared. Be professional. Be ready to work when the work day starts.

4. They’re Enthusiastic 

Be Enthusiastic

Have a positive attitude toward your job and the people you work with. Image courtesy of Greg Fromholz.

According to Fromholz, “Nothing beats someone who’s excited about the project.”

The mood of the editor will often come through in the final video. Negativity won’t get you anywhere in this business — except placed at the top a list of people that nobody wants to work with.

5. They’re Honest About Their Skills 

Clear, honest communication is everything.  Don’t be the person who is so eager to please that you overpromise or stretch the truth. 

Fromholz recently worked with an editor who disclosed that he was also a proficient graphic designer, therefore he could handle that side of the project, as well. After two hours of work, he produced a severely substandard design. In his attempt to please a director, he wasted everyone’s time, with no results to show for it.

If there are gaps in your skill set, be upfront about it so those parts of the project can be outsourced. 

6. They’re Organized

There’s nothing better than an editor with a well-ordered storage system. It’s definitely not the most exciting part of the job, but it’s essential. With an efficient system, particular clips or project files can be pulled upon demand. You’re not getting paid to spend your day searching through stacks of poorly labeled hard drives.

7. They’re Polite

Be Polite

Politeness goes along way when working as a team. Image courtesy of Greg Fromholz.

It might not sound revolutionary, but good old-fashioned politeness is a vital if you want to be a director’s go-to editor. When you spend every day in a dark room with someone for weeks at a time, politeness make the whole experience far more enjoyable.

Polite thoughtfulness is a delightful quality. If you’re heading out for a coffee, offer to grab one for the director, as well. Little things like this make such a difference. 

8. They’re Willing to Learn

One thing that makes an editor fantastic to work with is an openness to learning new skills. Fromholz recalled a story about an editor who was upfront about not being able to create certain desired visual effects. (Remember tip #5?)

A few hours later, the editor came back after leveling up with a crash course that taught the effect Fromholz wanted. It was a clear sign of the editor’s motivation and work ethic, and it saved Fromholz the cost of outsourcing.

9. They Take Criticism Well

Takes Criticism Well

Consider criticism as an avenue to learn more about your trade. Image courtesy of Greg Fromholz.

Stop being so sensitive. Keep your ego out of it. Pro attitude matters. Don’t take criticism personally. Be brave enough to take it for what it is, and see it as an opportunity to learn. Responding thoughtfully to criticism is a fantastic way to grow creatively and up your editing skills.

This is a tough industry. You’re going to get criticized. Letting yourself get offended is a choice. It’s also a sign of your emotional and professional maturity. Shake it off, turn it into something positive, and get back to work.

Personally, I found these insights absolutely fascinating. I’ll definitely be reflecting upon these regularly when working with new directors.

Here’s a challenge for you: Ask a director you know what they look for in an editor. You just might discover some gems that improve your career.

Want to learn more about the business of video? Of course you do! Start here:

Images courtesy of Greg Fromholz.