6 Questions for ACL’s Elusive Editor Extraordinaire, Tom Vickers


Wonder why you’ve never seen Tom Vickers? The answer is simple. He’s headquartered in a bat cave surrounded by screens and knobs and high-tech trinkets that allow him to organize the images you see each week on A CHEF’S LIFE into a cohesive, beautifully-crafted story. He only emerges for food and a good film, but, we lured Tom into the light long enough to ask a few questions about his unique role as editor of A CHEF’S LIFE. Read all about it here, before he disappears.

Tell us all the interesting tidbits about yourself.
In honor of Richard Linklater’s new film this month, I’ll admit that I’ve seen “Dazed & Confused” from beginning to end over 50 times. I’m also a terrible father. I have an 11-year-old daughter who is obsessed with horror films and I pretty much let her watch whatever she wants.

How would you describe your role on the show and what’s the most important way your role has changed as the show grows in success?
I’m the editor. For a film or television production, that’s the person that takes the raw footage and places the shots in a sequence to create a scene. On the first episode, we had a really barebones group. It was just Cynthia (Hill, producer) and Rex (Miller) in the field. That meant all the footage came from one camera with a couple tracks of audio.

We’re still relatively barebones, but they quickly added Josh (Woll) as a second camera which meant twice as much footage to go through. Sometimes, we’re lucky enough to have three cameras with Blaire (Johnson). Cynthia is now able to separately mic many of the people in a scene. So, whereas on the first episode, we had some dialogue and music, we now often have up to twenty tracks of audio between the dialogue, cameras, music and sound design, and more great footage than we can use.

It means a lot more prepping of footage and audio, but it’s well worth it because I think we are able to create a much richer experience for the audience.

Can you tell us how you got into editing?
I’ve always loved movies. In college, I was able to do some rudimentary editing on the video toasters they had and loved it.

There’s something magical about moving imagery. And cutting it together to create a scene has always been deeply satisfying. It’s a real privilege to get to work with beautiful footage like that in the show.

What are some other cool projects you've worked on?
I was lucky enough to work with Cynthia on Private Violence, her film about domestic-violence advocates. We worked on that a project for a very long time, but I was really proud the final film and with the fact that it was true to Cynthia’s vision.

Before that, I spent a year and a half editing Ain’t In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm, and it was well worth the time. It’s another film I’m proud of with great music. We got to experiment a lot. And I got to work with my cousin which was a blast.

What's your favorite episode of A CHEF'S LIFE?
My favorite is the beet episode from Season 3 (Ep. 6: If You Can’t Beet Em...). We’ve done more artistically ambitious episodes, but the scene with Matthew showing Vivian how to pickle beets is one of my favorites in the series. First, there’s a definite tension in the scene which is noticeable and eventually playful. And then, the fact that we follow Matthew through all his digressions is what, at least to me, really distinguishes this show. His story about a pig’s head in a pressure cooker is something that I laughed out loud over at least twenty times in the edit room. I’m also very fond of Miss Mary’s birthday party at the end of that episode.

If you were stranded on a deserted island (or just outside of Kinston) with only one food item and one utensil, what would they be?
Fried chicken biscuit with Texas Pete. Don’t need a utensil for that.