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November 2, 2022

A Day in the Life of a Movie Trailer Editor

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Jade Chow

Jade Chow

November 2, 2022
Nearly everyone with some form of a display device has watched the trailer for an upcoming movie they were anticipating the release of, but how many of us can say that we’ve taken a peek into the unseen life of a trailer editor? Well, you’re about to be one of those who have, as we learn directly from an industry professional and uncover the less-known paths and lifestyles of movie trailer editors.
Day to day

life as a movie trailer editor

As AllAboutCareers explains, a typical movie trailer project can take up to around two weeks to complete before being presented to a client for the first time.

  • No matter the trailer, the choice of music remains one of the most important determining factors in a trailer’s success, as it acts as a foundation for the rest of the trailer elements to be built upon. So, the first thing a trailer editor will usually do is begin their search for the right piece of music, or multiple pieces of music (cues). Due to royalties, the final selection depends heavily on the project budget.
  • Still during the early stages, the trailer editor will segment the movie and compile a selection of the best shots to create a layout that effectively outlines the premise of the movie. The select reels or shots used are also reliant on other factors, like the genre of the movie and the tone or emotion the trailer should evoke.
  • In the later stages, once the client has seen the first version, it’s likely that feedback will be exchanged for a couple of weeks until the trailer has been edited exactly to the client’s liking.

As with any role, there will always be tremendous reward and fulfillment to be found, but not without its inevitable counterpart made up of unique challenges to overcome. Trailer editing is a creative process, and only in recent years have creatives found an equilibrium between freedom and standardization profession-wise.

To understand how trailer editors think and feel about their work, we asked Michael Brodner (or Mike), a Trailer Editor with more than a decade of experience at Buddha Jones, what he found to be the most challenging and rewarding aspects of his career as a trailer editor:

“As an editor, you have to be able to adapt to the client’s needs and directions even if you don’t necessarily agree with them. It’s part of a discovery process to see what works and what doesn’t. Oftentimes we have to cut out our favorite moments/music/or the thing that inspired our vision from the beginning, in order to make a more salient moment work, or to fit a better testing story beat in. You just have to bear in mind that it’s nothing personal, and to look at it as an opportunity to make the trailer better.”

The most rewarding part, in my opinion, is getting your work out there and seeing people’s reactions to it, whether good or bad.

Michael Brodner, Trailer Editor at Buddha Jones.

“It’s always interesting working on a project for such a long time and finally getting to share it with the world… to see what they find funny, or scary, or weird, or all of the above! It’s what ultimately drives me to keep doing what I do!”

In terms of compensation, the pay range for movie trailer editors in the United States can significantly vary based on experience. However, even toward the lower end, the numbers are rather comfortable:

How much do movie trailer editors make?

  • According to Comparably, movie trailer editors in the U.S. earn an average salary of $85,681, and many senior trailer editors make well over $200k a year.
endless opportunities

who can become a trailer editor?

While the path to becoming a movie trailer editor may appear elusive, no determining factor distinguishes who can become one. Of course, some requirements are in place (covered below), and depending on the studio you’re applying to, those requirements can vary. Alternatively, an independent path would require a slightly different set of skills.

That said, an endless stream of media is being produced every day, and the demand for trailer editors has never been greater — book authors, game developers, filmmakers, and production studios are looking to emblazon their names on screens around the world.

Aspiring editors might find that trailer editing is the perfect niche for them:

  • Trailer projects usually don’t take nearly as much time to edit to completion as feature projects, so if you’re someone who prefers to commit to multiple short-term projects rather than one long-term one, trailer editing could be the perfect fit.
  • In most cases, an editor’s skillset is easily transferable to be utilized across different genres of content and media, like book trailers, game trailers, and of course, movie trailers — all of which encompass the art of short-form storytelling.

requirements

According to Glassdoor, a minimum of 3 years of experience (and a formal degree) is required to secure some entry to mid-level positions as a trailer editor. Self-taught editors who haven’t necessarily specialized in trailer editing — for those who haven’t explored it as a career possibility — are sometimes recruited based on a polished portfolio (a demo reel or sizzle reel), making this a feasible route to becoming a trailer editor, especially with the current educational landscape being quickly shaped by online learning.

Another way to get a kickstart to your trailer editing career is to build connections. It is not uncommon to reach out to editors via LinkedIn or Facebook to ask for advice. Don’t underestimate the power of networking, especially in such a competitive industry as the movie industry. The right connections can get you to the right places, which is a huge factor when you eventually go big league and join the union for movie editors – the Motion Picture Editors Guild. Being a part of this prestigious network takes a substantial amount of dedication and work, as well as stellar recommendations from editors who are already part of the union.

Whether you’re an aspiring movie trailer editor or were simply intrigued by one of the film industry’s most lowkey professions, it’s good to know that the flood of media and entertainment being created each day will continue to perpetuate the growing demand for movie and game trailer editors. Along with many other skills, there are more resources available now than at any other point in time, as online education and training become increasingly popular and accessible.

Jade Chow

Jade Chow

November 2, 2022

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