Those looking to get into the field of video production and editing would do well to head to California, as L.A. and Southern California make up a massive hub for the entertainment and film industry. Attending school here could be a good idea because of the connections you could make in the industry, which may make it easier to find entry-level work after school.
California Film and Video Editing Schools
California offers a variety of undergraduate- and graduate-level programs for prospective film and video editors, but those just getting started in the industry might want to take a look at the following two-year schools and institutions:
- Allan Hancock College: This institution offers associate degrees in film and video production, as well as applied design and media animation.
- El Camino College: Here you can pursue an associate or certificate program in film and video. Students can also choose to undertake an independent course of study.
- Butte College: This school offers an associate degree in radio, film, and TV, specifically focused on video. production. Students engage in both coursework and fieldwork throughout each program.
- College of San Mateo: This Northern California school offers an associate degree in digital media and video production, as well as a multimedia internship.
- Berkeley City College: Here, they offer an associate degree in multimedia arts, and a certificate program in digital video and animation.
Keep in mind that while L.A. is popular for film students, both Northern and Southern California may be good places to pursue a film career. Northern California is home to Pixar Animation Studios, as well as a huge amount of web-based companies that may be looking for a video editor to help with short online videos.
What to Expect from Film Schools in California
Every film school is different, and your experience may vary depending on what type of film program you're interested in. For film editor specifically, there are a couple of different options for postsecondary programs:
- Certificate programs will generally focus on video production, creating animations, and utilizing various production software.
- Associate degree programs usually focus more on learning how to edit video and implement proper lighting and audio techniques.
Remember that while a postsecondary education is really useful on paper, the most important part of your training will be hands-on experience. The best way to prepare for your film career is to make lots of films, or even set up a website or YouTube channel to post your videos and just have a platform for creating. Many video editors can even start small using the free programs available on your phone or Mac, but here are some of the skills and courses you should take or get familiar with:
- Final Cut Pro - This is the Macintosh-compatible video editing program that most editors know very well. You may be able to find classes or certifications online or at a community college.
- Adobe Premier Pro - Similar to Final Cut, this program is compatible on most operating systems, including both Mac and PC. It's a must-know for most film students who are interested in editing.
- Screenwriting - All film students should get experience in screenwriting. Even if you're not a great writer, get to know the basic structure of visual storytelling, and learn how to read and interpret a script.
- Photography - Some film students may find it useful to take photography classes, to get a more robust background in visual arts and visual media.
California Film and Video Editing Certification
As mentioned above, you have a few options when it comes to gaining the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in your video editing career.
- Certificate programs vary in length, and some can even be completed at the student's own pace. While some may be able to complete such coursework within a few weeks, others may take up to a year to do so.
- Associate degree programs generally take two years of study to complete. Again, depending on the student, they may finish sooner or later than the two-year average.
After completing a certificate or associate degree program, students will be equipped with the skills and abilities needed to enter a four-year degree program offering certain specializations in video and film editing.
To learn more about this industry and the challenges facing film and video editors in California, we reached out to an expert source in this field. Jason Klamm, film and video editor and CEO of StolenDress.com, offers his expert insights below.
How has the film and video industry changed in the past ten years? How do you think it might change in the next ten years?
The film industry itself has changed less than it actually should have in the last ten years. The assumption is that, since technology changes exponentially, any industry using that technology changes at relatively the same pace. But that isn't true. The internet, as the public thinks of it, is twenty-plus years old, now. The industry has caught up in one way -- they know they have to have an online presence -- but they still haven't figured out exactly how to distribute online in a uniform way. It's one thing when a group of people gets together and agrees, "Okay, we're all using blu-ray now, here's the standard we all have to follow," because that's a physical medium everyone has to invest money in -- it's nothing but tangible. How do you tweak your perspective with something like the Internet, which seems nebulous at best? Coming up with a standard in that world is almost impossible, which is why everyone is distributing their own stuff. That's the biggest change -- that so many independent people and companies have a way to distribute feature-length productions. Ten years ago, it was just short films. I was even asked to create shorts for cell phones with screens a quarter of the size we're used to.
This new and changing distribution model actually bodes equally well and poorly for independent companies like myself, who are often stuck distributing our own films through whatever channels we can make cheap or free deals. The more outlets there are to show what you've made, the more a consumer has to wade through to find you. Even if you can get your video up on every video site there is, unless you have a massive, multi-million-use subscriber base, people have to find you. Our first feature film, "Looking Forward," was a fake documentary that we pitched around for years, and then eventually decided we'd throw it up on YouTube for free. We haven't had nearly the amount of views we could have, because we couldn't afford to seek out the users, meaning advertise. Traditionally, that's not the purview of the production company, anyway, but adapting to the idea that you have to be your own PR company as well as production and distribution has been difficult to catch up with. Our next feature film, "Lords of Soaptown," which is a documentary, is actually much more saleable, but we're still relying on a separate company to get it to other distribution companies and do a minimal amount of advertising, because we absolutely need them. So, while you can do everything yourself now, it's easy to spread yourself thin, especially if you're only an expert (as most are) in one part of the industry.
In the next ten years, the film and video industry is going to figure out how it has to settle in to the digital world. While hardware speeds, size and capabilities will change, the essence of what many have thought digital entertainment can be is already here. It's just a seed, but it at least gives us an idea of what to expect. The industry has to find a way to mix free and paid content, or free and sponsored content, in a way that makes them still viable. Frankly, what they need to do is go back the roots of programming, which seems counter-intuitive. StolenDress.com is also a podcast network, and we're seeing the way that the biggest podcasts out there are melding advertisement into their content, and that's becoming standard-issue, the same way radio did it in the 20s, when it was new. TV might need to find a model more like they had in the 50s - whatever keeps a new audience involved and watching. Younger audiences are becoming so hip to seamless integration, though, that it might behoove the industry to just do it outright - have the stars of Modern Family eating Burger King, between scenes, and talking about it. Don't pretend it's part of the program, but don't deny the reason the audience is watching in the first place. Crassness might have to end up being the new subtlety.
What should students look for when considering film & video degree programs?
I went to Columbia College Chicago, which gave me the nuts and bolts training I needed to understand the kinds of things I thought I wanted to do. At the time, directing was my interest, which turned into writing and eventually acting, all things I'd already been doing and loving. They trained us on story, then gave us (actual film) cameras to shoot our short films on, and we made films. While a film student now doesn't need to be looking for a school that uses actual film (much as I miss it), they should aim for something diverse. I went out of my comfort zone, from a village of 200 in Upstate New York, to Chicago. I was scared witless, but I learned to cooperate, which was one of my least favorite things, at the time. You need a good-sized school, with a good reputation. Columbia College Chicago is honestly a great place to start.
One critical thing not to miss - and something I didn't know to look for at the time - was making sure the school offered plenty of classes on the varying aspects of a production. If you're stubborn, like I was, and you "only want to be a director," you're not looking at producing classes. And you might have teachers who don't know that you might need this other exposure. It wasn't until my "Semester in LA," my last weeks of school, where I finally learned what producing was, how to pitch, how to promote yourself, how to option the rights to something - all the stuff that, as it turns out, would be critical in the digital age that hadn't quite made it's mark. And I learned all of this two years after producing one of the first viral videos in history. It shows that you can be extremely lucky, as I was with that video, but then discover what you actually had much, much later, when you finally know how to do something with it.
What is the most rewarding thing about your industry? Why do you enjoy it?
The most rewarding thing about working in film is that I have a voice in a way I didn't have before. This has a great deal to do with the Internet, but it also specifically has to do with the way bigger companies are slowly opening their doors to voices they aren't familiar with. I can make what I want the way I want it - much of the time out of pocket - and hope it appeals to someone. If it does, more work will come. If not, I've still made something I've proud of. And the stuff I'm not so proud of I get to talk about on one of my podcasts (Dan and Jay's Comedy Hour), which is all about my sketch group's attempts at recorded comedy, going back to 1993.
Why do you think film & video has become a popular discipline for today's college students? What draws them in?
I think the biggest draw for new filmmakers is the apparent promise of fame and money. I won't pretend that wasn't part of my interest when I first started film school, but I was also under the impression that I could still make a living doing what I wanted with my degree, right off the bat. Not understanding the struggle that comes with any art degree is something that happens to a lot of us, when we're excited to do something that we hope will be fulfilling. Another draw is that many people equate the simple act of recording a video with producing a video. They aren't the same thing. I know, because I've done both. You can be famous with a vlog, but you can't to go to school to learn how to do that, because most vlogs are successful because of personality, the subject matter, or luck. I think a lot of people go to film and video school thinking they can learn how to make something "viral." That's like saying you can learn how to win at roulette. There are also people who purport how to teach that, which I think is worse.
Most students, though, are probably drawn in more by the possibilities in the medium than they were when I started film school. Behind-the-scenes things were common, and what got me interested, but even the act of going behind the scenes and filming it is now its own industry, so some of the nuts and bolts might be second-nature to people, and they might want to learn to master the medium.
What are the most important things students of film & video should learn by the time they graduate?
Since I graduated film school, things have flipped around entirely. One had passion for film, went to film school, and hopefully learned self-promotion and distribution. Now, self-promotion is an everyday activity and distribution is potentially as simple as something your phone can provide. This isn't cynical, just factual, so I'd imagine the thing people need to learn about is that the most successful people in the industry tend to be (I hasten to say they all are, because there are plenty of successful cynics) passionate about what they do. Pointing and shooting is fine to learn, without a doubt, but passion should lead to the patience to craft, and the willingness to work with people of equal or greater patience and passion. Especially with comedy, as a lot of people take that for granted. Caring about what you do will go a long way to getting people interested in what you make, and of course will allow you to remain passionate about your own work.
Resources for Film Students in California