Editor on Tour of Duty

A HUM90 exclusive Q & A with the very talented & successful TV editor


Q/.Where you the editor on the entire series of Tour Of Duty ?

A/. I worked on "Tour of Duty" for the entire three seasons,
While I didn't work on the pilot I started shortly after the show was picked up by CBS for the 1987-88 season. 
I was the assistant editor with John Duffy, who edited the pilot with Doug Ibold.

The first season editing staff consisted of  :
Editors: John Duffy, Michael Ripps and Stephen Michael,
Assistant Editors, Tom Petersen, David Ekstrom and Sondra Davis.
Apprentice Editor Robert Segal

Second Season Editorial staff only had one change with Michael Stern replacing Sondra Davis as an assistant editor.

The third season had a large turnover in the editing staff. 
It was my favourite season since I was promoted to editor and cut seven episodes that season in addition to the two episodes I had co-credit on in previous seasons.

Third season editors were:
Thomas Petersen, Robert Sinise, and Ellen Jacobson,
Assistant Editors: Dan Simmons, Michael Stern and Robert Segal,
Apprentice editor Marty Hezelof.

To demonstrate how personal contacts work in Hollywood, I worked on later series with some of the same editors. 
I worked again with Ellen Jacobson on "Murder, She Wrote" and Stephen Michael on "JAG".

Q/. Being film editor on the show , what did your job entail ?

A/. Film Editor's basically assemble the show. The production crew shoots approximately 8-12 hours of footage for a show that runs 48 minutes. 
Much of that footage overlaps the same action from various angles and then you will have multiple takes of the same angle.  The editors job is select from this coverage the best takes and angles that will tell the story in the clearest and most interesting way. 
The creative part of the job is making those decisions as to what works and looks best.  The technical part of the job is the actual joining of these pieces of film physically together, in addition to manipulating the sound, and guiding the film into the finished product the viewer will see. 
If the editor has done his job the viewer should be into the story and not even be aware of the technical aspects of the film.

The assistant editor does just that, assists the editor by organising the film, checking the sync, and handling the hundreds of details that would distract the editor from concentrating on the creative aspects of film editing.

Q/. Being the film editor did you have to work with the directors putting the episodes together ?

A/. The editors begin cutting the film immediately as it's being shot. 
Film from day 1 is processed and transferred at the lab so the editors have it the next day, hence the term "dailies". So a couple of days after the episode is shot a first assembly or "first cut" of the show is ready.

The director  works with the editor to revise and usually remove time from this cut to get it closer to the finished air time.
After the director, & the producers will the view the cut and give more notes and changes, then a close to finished product will be screened by the network for final notes.

On Tour of Duty each episode shot for 7 days, the editor had an additional 4 days to finish the first cut then the director had 4 days to produce a director's cut, after an additional 3-4 days a producer's cut would be sent to the network, then the show would be on-lined. 
The music composer and sound effects editors would then spot the show for music and sound work. 
They would have about a week to do their job then the sound would be mixed, the picture color corrected, titles added and the
finished product would be delivered to the network a couple of days before airing,

Q/.Were there any difficulties in editing the real footage in with "stock footage" from the show ?

A/. Stock footage cut into the show easily, most however was our own footage that was re-used in many shows. 
The first season most of the helicopter footage was shot in Hawaii then used in numerous flying sequences. 
As battle sequences added up we would be able to use the same shot of NVA or VC soldiers shooting and fighting. Some scenes only had new footage of the tour cast and the enemy footage was take from previous episodes and cut in.

Q/.Have you got a favourite episode that you enjoyed working on the most ?

A/. My favourite episodes are the ones I cut because I was so intimately involved with them those were "Doc Hoc", "A Bodyguard of Lies","The Raid", "Green Christmas", "Deadman Tales", and "Vietnam Rag".


CopyrightÓ2000/2001 Craig Blackmore. All rights Reserved.

Thomas Peterson


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Don Bellisario Executive Producer, 4 seasons, ‘96-‘00
Lifetime Movie, Hearst Entertainment
Producer/Director Michele Lee, '96
Universal series
Bruce Lansbury, Mark Burley Producers, edited on Moviola ‘95-'96
New World series, Zev Braun Productions
Steven Philip Smith, Vahan Moosekian Producers, 3 seasons, ‘87-‘90
Lorimar, David Jacobs, Michael Filerman, Barbara Corday Producers, 3 seasons, ‘90-‘93
TNT Movie, Director Luis Valdes, additional editor with Zach Staenberg, '93
CBS Series, Deepak Nayar Producer, Deborah Norton Producer ‘94
CBS Series, Lynn Latham, Bernard Lechowick Producers, ‘93-'94
Feature, Director Jonathan Winfrey, Executive Producer Roger Corman, '95

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