The editor is the unsung hero in this industry, and always has been. Film cutting has given way to digital tools, but the essence of the job hasn't changed in 100 years: turning all those disconnected bits into a smooth, continuous narrative.
I began editing in 1991, which turned out to be good timing. The early '90s saw the advent of affordable Non-Linear Editing. NLE systems used computer hard drives to store project media, and did for editing what word processors did for writing. After starting out on Bill Ferster's EMC2, I worked with Media 100, Immix Cube, and EditDV systems. Today, I edit with Avid Media Composer and Final Cut Pro 7.
The magic of the sequence
In editing, simple changes can have a profound effect. Chris Messineo, director and writer at Off Stage Films, once asked me to review his editing on a short drama, "Letters to Penthouse." I changed two shots and added one sound effect. This created an entirely new ending, which completely altered the movie's emotional resolution. Chris was stunned, but realized my changes made his film a far more compelling story. And this illustrates a key point: editing is not just a matter of following the script. That's part of the job, sure. But editing is also an active, creative process all its own. Skillful editing can heal a wounded scene, and make a good one downright inspiring.
In documentary work, interviews are traditionally transcribed, and the producer or writer searches through this text for useful sound bites. Instead, I skip the transcripts and organize raw interviews in the edit system. I log and rate sound bites using a controlled vocabulary specific to the project. This lets me identify and locate the very best comments far more efficiently, and ultimately yields a better story.
When the coverage is good, I think editing is the most enjoyable job in this business; maybe in any business. When the coverage is bad, it's agony. But it's on those painful projects that you really find out how good your editor is.