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A/V Editor Salary/Experience level question

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Emily Zhai
A/V Editor Salary/Experience level question
on Jan 31, 2015 at 7:10:25 am

Hi guys,

Just wondering for big studio or networks, how many years a AV editor is considered "senior"? I've been an editor at a small trailer house in LA for two years. Even though it's small, we got a LOT to do. From last year, we started post business, too. Several TV shows and feature films and still trailer projects. 32-hrs-in-a-row is quite often. I've been hands-on from my first day of work. And I can basically handle a whole new tv show by myself now (logging, editing, graphics, finishing, did the pilot all by myself and will air in Mar). I'm already "senior" in my company (which is really really small, under 10 people), but is it just junior level in general? And what salary should I expect for a new job? I also design website and do flash banners for my company and I make less than 50k/yr... Feel like underpaid. And because I'm on work visa I can't take freelance/temp jobs... No hourly/daily rate for me: (

I hardly know any other editors, so thanks in advance!

-------------------
Portfolio: http://trailerhythm.com


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Mads Nybo Jørgensen
Re: A/V Editor Salary/Experience level question
on Jan 31, 2015 at 10:49:23 am

Hey Emily,

I'm in London, UK - not LA, just to avoid confusion.

However, the "rules" for employment are pretty much the same where-ever you go in the developed world:

You have an employment contract that states how many hours a week that you should work on a monthly or annual salary. Any hours above that, your employer should in return give you time off, or come to a financial arrangement. Your contract should also have some kind of job description - often with small companies, neither is included.

So as any new employee you would have started out overly eager, and happy to jump when-ever people said jump - this has then become the norm for your role. At the same time, you have also in yourself created a martyr that would always go that extra mile and work those long hours. It is always nice to get the recognition for doing that - but unless you ask, it will never pay the bills, neither will it make up for the loss of social fun and other activities such as sleeping.

I am guessing that time wise, that it suits your employer to treat you like a junior employee, and that until you sit down with your line manager (or owner) and raise your concerns about the amount of work that you do, this arrangement will continue as is.

Money wise, quite simple, look at the job adverts such as on the High paid jobs offered on Creative Cow, and you will soon see what people in similar positions are getting paid. Word of warning though; your current employer might not find you irresistible and decide that you would be better off without a working visa, and that the company would be able to employ a new "martyr" to repeat your experience for a couple of years.

On the other hand, if handled correctly, you may find yourself with (small) pay rise and an assistant to do the heavy lifting. If you can get none of that, at least try and get the company to agree to "promote" you to a senior editor (Titles really means nothing in the film-world as opposed to a good show-reel. However, on LinkedIn it means everything to a recruiter...)

[Emily Zhai] "32-hrs-in-a-row is quite often"
With those kind of working hours, you will not be able to any kind of freelancing - so don't be upset about not doing any of those extra paid gigs. Neither do you have time to market yourself for a new job.

Final suggestion: Map out your career path and where you want to be both professionally and privately in 5, 10 and 15 year segments. If the end-game is an Oscar with family, house, Volvo and a dog to go with it, then your current employer may never be able to provide that goal (others would say dream). But with that in mind, you will soon decide if your the employer is life-time job, or just a stepping stone for much better things.

Good Luck

All the Best
Mads

@madsvid, London, UK
Check out my other hangouts:
Twitter: @madsvid
http://mads-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.co.uk


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Emily Zhai
Re: A/V Editor Salary/Experience level question
on Jan 31, 2015 at 6:23:15 pm

Thank you so much for your reply!

I definitely don't see my current employer is life-long. I'm very close to my boss personally and I know it's probably impossible for me to have a paid assistant (We're still using 2006 Mac Pros in the office after a year of requesting a new computer). She's really nice and good at what she do, but the company has no room for me to move up.

Do you mind me ask another question? Does title really matter? Despite the size of the company and the actual years? The business card they made me says "Creative Director", but again, it's a super small business with only 3 in-house editors.

Thank you!

-------------------
Portfolio: http://trailerhythm.com


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Mads Nybo Jørgensen
Re: A/V Editor Salary/Experience level question
on Jan 31, 2015 at 6:49:20 pm

Hey Emily,

You are very welcome.

[Emily Zhai] "I know it's probably impossible for me to have a paid assistant (We're still using 2006 Mac Pros in the office after a year of requesting a new computer)."

That comment has all the hallmarks of a company that is either making no money, or too much money. I am saying that from a position of having been the owner of such company (not making enough money). Although if you are only in the business of editing 720p HD, there are no reason to upgrade hardware. On the other hand, if you're in 4K then you have to keep the wages low to cover the hours where the employees are starring at the thin progress line for rendering...
Either way, it is not your problem if you work the set amount of hours that you are required to, apart from the rare occasion of having to be part of the team and pull out all stops - but that should not be the norm.

[Emily Zhai] "Does title really matter?"
No, it does not. Anyone can for $5 print cards that gives them any title. Whether you can deliver to the expectations of your title, and whether your titled job is your goal is a completely separate matter for you to consider.
However, if at any point you are going out on the open job market speaking with recruiters for big companies, then a title with a portfolio to match it, is not a bad thing to have.
If "Creative Director" is what you are and what you want to continue to be, then that is what you should continue working as - provided that someone asked to give a reference for you doesn't say "She made brilliant coffee and was good at logging our rushes before the editor took over".

BTW: are you giving the 3 editors creative "directions"?
If you are, maybe use the powers of delegation to buy yourself into a normal working week.

All the Best
Mads

@madsvid, London, UK
Check out my other hangouts:
Twitter: @madsvid
http://mads-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.co.uk


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Mark Suszko
Re: A/V Editor Salary/Experience level question
on Feb 2, 2015 at 4:50:13 pm

This is unfortunately typical for visa-backed temp work, in any field that's tech-related. You are not destined for any raises or promotions with this employer, so decide for yourself what is most important, outside of those, to get out of the experience, to help you move up to the next level, elsewhere.

Those would be:
A; A killer reel.
B; Killer references.
c; A strong network of people familiar with your work.

Actual titles are relatively unimportant. Begin to switch your emphasis from over-doing it at work, to some "off-the-clock" private "passion" projects, preferably, done in a team of other, like-minded pros who aren't limited by the visa thing. or work alone at home on the side, to finish something and enter it in contests, if you have to. The point is to build up contacts and fame outside the small circle of your employers' office.

Your only leverage, where you are, is in having somewhere else to go. Or where the visa *allows* you to go. And your employer knows this. Even if they are "nice people", they are still running a business, and if they can keep you bashing against the work for free like a moth at a porch light, they will let you burn yourself out for them and never need to raise your pay or title. Moving up or breaking away are really up to you, as it always have been. Think of this place where you work as a pleasant stop on a continuing journey - one you might re-visit some day, but not a permanent home. Only then will you be free to make the right choices, and control the timing to your advantage.


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Richard Herd
Re: A/V Editor Salary/Experience level question
on Feb 2, 2015 at 5:48:38 pm

[Emily Zhai] "Does title really matter? "

I have a different opinion and reasoning. Yes a title matters because it tells future employers and clients what you can do. A title says: some folks trusted me with their business and clients to do this thing. The moment you stop doing that thing and do something else, it is important that your title reflects all of those things, so future employers and clients can accept it, and they can think to themselves, "someone else has already taken the risk, so my risk is minimized." In reality, the cheapest thing an employer can do to make you happy is make sure your title corresponds with the work you are doing. I have an experience how this bit me in the behind. The quick story is: i took on more work than my job description, and when layoffs happened, my department was sent to centralized-corporate. Had I contacted the right people the moment my job duties expanded beyond my designated title, and matched my title to my actual duties, then things would have been much different because the real problem is it can take time for compensation to "catch up" to your title to what you can actually do.

tl;dr: talk to your boss and get that word "Senior" in your title as soon as possible, and also try to get "Manager" or "Supervisor" in there. That shows growth also.


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Andrew Kimery
Re: A/V Editor Salary/Experience level question
on Feb 10, 2015 at 10:24:09 pm

[Richard Herd] "I have a different opinion and reasoning. Yes a title matters because it tells future employers and clients what you can do."

I agree that in a corporate environment (or if you are in the union) title does matter because title defines your responsibility, pay grade, benefits, ability to move up, etc.,. When I worked for MTV I started out as Editor, moved to Senior Editor, and eventually ended up with the title Senior Editor & Digital Technology Coordinator. I became so heavily involved in cradle to grave workflow development there that they created a new title just for me, which goes to Richard's point about your job title reflecting what you are doing.

With that being said at some places (even corporations) titles are handed out like candy to keep people happy and they don't really travel well. By that I mean that even though I was called a Senior Editor while at MTV I wasn't qualified to be a Senior Editor on a primetime TV show.


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