How To Become A 2nd Assistant Film Editor

How To Become A 2nd Assistant Film Editor

How to become a 2nd Assistant Film Editor

2nd Assistant Film Editor Robert Sealey’s various post credits include Star Wars: Episode VII, Mission Impossible 5, Heart of the Sea, Edge of Tomorrow, Jupiter Ascending and World War Z. Oh, and he’s only 23 years old. So he’s obviously doing something right!

I met Rob at the recent Edit Fest London 2014, and he kindly agreed to answer a few interview questions over email, which he graciously found time for in his hectic schedule working on Star Wars: Episode VII here in London, although he’s recently moved over to working on Mission Impossible 5 too!

If you’re looking to find your way into the film industry I hope you’ll find Rob’s insights both encouraging and inspiring. My favourite quote from Rob?

Don’t be intimidated by the film industry…” Great advice.

Interview With Rob Sealey – 2nd Assistant Film Editor

Rob went on to work on these movies!

What is your film background?

I previously had no background in the film industry. None of my family has ever been a part of the film industry so I came into it fresh with no previous links other than my love and passion for film. 

What was your strategy to get into the film industry?

When getting started I began looking for jobs as a runner in a post production house as I knew that editing and post production was what I was most interested in. Once I was into a postproduction house I met assistants from a TV background who had worked in features. From their experience they suggested that I go on IMDB pro and email as many Editors, First Assistants, Second Assistants and Post Production Supervisors as possible.

I have heard a lot of people say they are worried about going freelance. My advice to that is don’t worry, get yourself out there. Being freelance is probably the best move I made for my career. From that point onwards I sent a personalized email to each person containing my CV out to about 20/30 people a day.

I looked on IMDB for people on every film I had watched. It was only a matter of time before I got a positive response. I got responses from nearly every person that I emailed (even if they couldn’t help me out) and then got the phone call about World War Z after a month of emailing!

How did you get your first job as an apprentice editor?

After emailing numerous assistants, my CV did the rounds and I got the phone call about World War Z. I went in for an interview on the Friday afternoon and started in my new job on the Monday after that weekend! Things move very quickly in the film industry so be prepared to up and go.

What does an average day look like from the moment you walk in the door to you finally get to leave?

The average day is always very busy from start to finish. 12 hour days are the norm but can usually turn into 14 / 16 hour days. The day can consist of so many different aspects, dependent on what stage of the process the film is in; Dailies, Directors Cut, Grade, 3D, Conform.

How does it work between you and the First Assistant Editor and you, the First and the Editor?

The editor of the film will usually throw jobs / tasks towards the first assistant / me and then we will split them however we see fit at the time and then we also hand jobs to the apprentice (if there is one).

The priority is always to make sure the editor has everything they need to be cutting the film. Having a good relationship with the editor and every body else in the cutting room goes such a long way and is a huge part of being successful in the industry. After all you have to spend long days, weeks and months with your colleagues!

What specific key skills or techniques do you need to master to be a useful apprentice/assistant?

“This applies to many film jobs, not just editing: half the job is doing the job, and the other half is finding ways to get along with people and tuning yourself in to the delicacy of the situation.” – Walter Murch

One of the main skills is being great with people, being happy and passionate about postproduction and your role within the department. It really comes through when interviewing and it’s easy to tell if you are striving to do the best you possibly can and produce the highest quality of work.

Teamwork and being part of a team is also such an important attribute. Knowing your way around an Avid is not essential for an apprentice but very beneficial because you will eventually be using it every day. As well as having a good knowledge of most editing packages (mainly AVID) I have a good knowledge of Photoshop, After Effects & Compressor, which have all been useful for my role assisting.

What surprised you most about the job? 

The rates of pay were surprising and higher than expected but this could be because I have been involved in some high budget productions. It was also very daunting at first when starting and I was surprised about how nice the majority of people are and how much people are willing to help you out.

What are the best and worst parts of the job?

The best part of the job has to be seeing the finished film on the big screen in the cinema (Perhaps at the Premiere if you are lucky) and then seeing your name at the end and knowing that you were a part of making that little gem, that you have lived through for 12 months or so.

The worst part of the job has to be the relentless working hours. As much as I love what I do 12-14 hour days, 5/6/7 days a week can become very tiring, so any chance for a holiday in between jobs I take.

Where do you want to get to in the future?

My ultimate goal is to be nominated for a BAFTA or an Oscar. One of my main goals, that I see as more achievable, in the near future is to have edited a feature film by the age of 30.

What would your advice for anyone wanting to get started?

My advice to anyone who wants to get started in the film industry is that they should be prepared for the long days and to take the good and the bad.

Be prepared to start from the bottom making tea and coffee for people, running for food and generally making your superiors comfortable and happy. This will go so far and you will eventually get bumped up to the next role.

Don’t be intimidated by the film industry, strive to reach your goals, fulfill your potential, have the determination and you will eventually complete your dreams. Anything is possible. Even winning that BAFTA / Oscar! I will finish on a little quote from one of the greats….

“Film editing is now something almost everyone can do at a simple level and enjoy it, but to take it to a higher level requires the same dedication and persistence that any art form does.” Walter Murch


  • I agree with Kyle, good interview with useful advice.

    I previously subscribed to IMDB Pro but never lasted more than a month because I struggled to see the benefit of it compared to other outlets, looks like I was approaching it the wrong way.

  • Just wanted to say thank you for this interview!

    It’s truly inspiring for someone who’s trying to break into long form.


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