As someone coming from a Film Editorial background, I’m often asked by people starting out what they should learn, and how.
Most folks tend to expect an answer regarding Avid or Final Cut Pro for the first half of the question, but I don’t think that’s the important part. It really doesn’t matter what non-linear system you learn on … Both Avid and FCP (and Smoke and Lightworks) have their pluses and minuses, and if you can drive one you can pretty much drive them all, with a bit of practice. What you really need to learn if you want to be a professional editor, is editorial standards and practices.
The best place for that, of course, is by working with an established professional assistant editor to learn “the system” as well as the craft. Outside of that, and studying at USC or AFI, one of the best resources around is Norman Hollyn’s book, The Film Editing Room Handbook, Third Edition: How to Manage the Near Chaos of the Cutting Room
Norman Hollyn teaches editing at the USC Film School, and has worked in the industry for years. He followed a traditional role through being an assistant editor that finally worked his way into the “Big Chair”. This book, while speaking to both editors and assistants, is a handbook for survival as an assistant editor. It talks about everything from setting up the cutting room, working with vendors, deciding on a workflow and organizing your show, and, finally, “The System.”
The system is a way of organizing and managing film in the cutting room that has grown out of close to 100 years of film production. If you know “The System”, you can work on any kind of a show, big or small, and know how to get from dailies to answer prints. Everything is clearly illustrated and examples are easy to follow.
The book, now in its 3rd Edition, covers both digital and traditional workflows, including how to handle visual effects and opticals, working with sound houses, and more.
If you are serious about editing, this is one book that has to be on your bookshelf.