A Day in the Life of an Editor

Posted on: Aug 25, 2022

An African American editor working on a video using multiple screens.Photo Credit: DC Studio / Shutterstock.com

By Cat Elliott

Veteran editor Walter Murch once described being an editor as “a cross between a short-order cook and a brain surgeon.” For this installment of A Day in the Life, we’re going to explore the complex art that is editing. Editor Josh Salzberg is known for his work on Netflix’s Ibiza and Welcome to Me, starring Kristen Wiig. Salzberg took time from his busy schedule to give a window into the world of editing, as wells as tips on how actors can make the editor love them. 

What does an average day of work look like for you? 

The job changes every two months, which is something I really like. Each stage of the process is different. Editors come in on the first day of production, or if we’re lucky, we have a few days before to get ready. During production, we visit set, watch dailies, and start to cut scenes. After production ends, we get an assembly cut together, which is always a feverish process to get done in time. We work with the director on their cut, which is where they have to see what they actually shot versus what’s in their head. From there, the producers will get their notes processed. And then there will be screenings to get audience feedback. A lot of times there will be re-shoots or pickups to close some story gaps. Then, once the picture is actually locked and things are set, we really get into the sound mixing, coloring, and finishing up of visual effects.


How do you feel you’re able to use your creativity as an editor?

Every editor is different – there’s no one way to do it. But, the creative part of editing is really about getting inside the head of the character and getting inside the point of view of the movie, and you find the emotion and the story from that point of view. I try to live in that space when I’m cutting. For me, that’s the most fun part.


What can actors do to make the editor love them?

Give the editor options. That’s a lesson I learned editing Kevin Kline on the movie Dean. In the film, there’s a really emotional scene of him that we only had enough time to get three takes of when we were shooting it. He gave something completely different on all three takes. Having those options to work with made all the difference because we didn’t know what was needed for that scene until we’d laid out the rest of the movie. It was a gift that he gave us. As much as an actor can really feel the moment and [nonverbally] react is so helpful because one look could replace 10 lines of dialogue. Being a scene partner when the camera’s not on you is the greatest thing that an actor can do for the overall movie. You might not see the difference on set, but when you get into the edit, you can tell if the scene partner is phoning it in. You can tell because it affects the other actor’s performance and then we’re cutting together performances that don’t belong together.


According to Salzberg, his experience as an editor prepped him for writing and directing his first feature, which is currently in development. “When I sit down to write, I can already see the scene in my head and what I need to get, based on what I want as an editor,” says Salzberg. “The same thing is true with directing – I know what I need to shoot because I’m trying to make the editor in me happy.” No matter what area of the industry in which you find yourself, take Salzberg’s words to heart. If you keep the editor’s needs top of mind when making your own choices, it will help everyone get the best final cut.

This interview has been edited and condensed. Originally published on Casting Networks. Written by Cat Elliott.

Ready to look for your next gig as an editor? Staff Me Up has the latest editing jobs that you can apply for today.

You may also like:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *