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Geology is not for me


Taking life seriously
Walter Murch Film-maker
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In my late teenage years, I began to think, well now I have to get serious. The world is a serious place and this is kid's stuff and now I have to find a real job, and I didn't know and I played with the idea of being an engineer. I didn't know what that meant but Sputnik had just been launched and the world was saying, there must be engineers in the world and so, okay, I'll be an engineer. The... I thought of an architect. I don't know, really, what that entailed but that seems to be a respectable thing and maybe I'll be an architect. And somehow, the roulette wheel of these things ended up and I thought, I'll be an oceanographer. I don't know where that came from but it got me and the university that I went to, one of the reasons I chose that university, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore was that they had an oceanography department. So I arrived there, as an 18-year-old and they said, 'Well, what do you want to do?' And I said, 'I want to be an oceanographer' and the admissions person said, 'Well, yes, we have a graduate department in oceanography, but there is no undergraduate. So you have to... like medical school, you have to take a kind of version of pre-med for this and there are two divisions in oceanography. There's biological oceanography and geological oceanography. What do you want?' Well, I had biology in high school so I thought, well, I'll try geology. So I signed up for that program and I enjoyed it but I didn't really enjoy it.

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: Johns Hopkins

Duration: 2 minutes, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017