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3D and overcoming the stuttering issue


Michael Jackson – Peter Pan and astute businessman in one person
Walter Murch Film-maker
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I also remember, I was editing on a KEM, this was pre-digital editing. And Michael was sitting behind me with his two bodyguards, looking at the film. And I felt a slight pressure on my back.  And I turned around and Michael was wearing his surgical mask, and a hat, and dark glasses. And he laughed. I didn't think anything more about it. And then, I felt the pressure again. And turned around, and then thought, I wonder... And I reached around, and sure enough there was a piece of paper taped to my back. And I pulled it out. And it said, in Michael's handwriting, 'Kick my butt', which he found very funny, and I found funny. I wish I had kept that piece of paper. I wish he had signed that piece of paper, and I'd kept that piece of paper because it would be worth a certain amount of money today.

But it put into sharp relief the kind of person that he seemed to be, which is a very astute business man. Because at the same time that he was writing 'Kick my butt', and putting it on his editor's back, he was also making the deal to bid $60 million for The Beatles' catalogue, outbidding Paul McCartney by $30 million, or something.

After having asked Paul, disingenuously, in retrospect, he said, 'Paul, I'm such a mess. You guys have your act together. What's the secret?' 'Well, Michael', said Paul, 'the thing is don't lose your catalogue. We made the mistake of losing our catalogue. And we're now trying to buy it back.' 'Oh, really, how much are you paying?' '$30 million.' '$30 million that's... oh my God.' 'Yes, so keep in mind, Michael. Don't lose your catalogue.' 'Thank you, Paul.' I'm inventing dialogue here, but essentially, the door closes. And Michael gets on the phone, give the bid of $60 million for the catalogue. So at the same time that they were doing Ebony and Ivory, and playing together, there was this other thing going on in the background. So the most hard headed kind of business aspect. And yet, ten-year-old behaviour, he said, 'Kick my butt.' And he was, I think, a child who was never allowed to grow up, the whole Peter Pan syndrome. But also, and simultaneously, he was an adult that never had a childhood. He was plunged at age four or five, however when he started singing, into a world of really adult shenanigans, and values, and everything. And so the Peter Pan aspect of him was an attempt, probably, to claw back some of the childhood that his life had never allowed him to have. And in dealing with him, you saw both aspects of this flickering back and forth.

Born in 1943 in New York City, Murch graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His career stretches back to 1969 and includes work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. He has been referred to as 'the most respected film editor and sound designer in modern cinema.' In a career that spans over 40 years, Murch is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, beginning in 1969 with The Rain People. After working with George Lucas on THX 1138 (1971), which he co-wrote, and American Graffiti (1973), Murch returned to Coppola in 1974 for The Conversation, resulting in his first Academy Award nomination. Murch's pioneering achievements were acknowledged by Coppola in his follow-up film, the 1979 Palme d'Or winner Apocalypse Now, for which Murch was granted, in what is seen as a film-history first, the screen credit 'Sound Designer.' Murch has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and has won three, for best sound on Apocalypse Now (for which he and his collaborators devised the now-standard 5.1 sound format), and achieving an unprecedented double when he won both Best Film Editing and Best Sound for his work on The English Patient. Murch’s contributions to film reconstruction include 2001's Apocalypse Now: Redux and the 1998 re-edit of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. He is also the director and co-writer of Return to Oz (1985). In 1995, Murch published a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, in which he urges editors to prioritise emotion.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: The Beatles, Ebony and Ivory, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson

Duration: 3 minutes, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017