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Wolfman: Indecision on the music front


Wolfman: Hired for three weeks, stayed for longer
Walter Murch Film-maker
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So I was in Hollywood, and the dynamics of that particular film were that the studio had unsuccessful previews of that film. And it was directed by a friend, Joe Johnston, who used to live up in San Francisco. And they had essentially pushed him to one side, and hired other editors to work with the producer. But they didn't want to fire Joe. It hadn't gotten to that point, but it was an awkward situation. And I was hired to work with Joe on Joe's version of the film, cynically, to keep him occupied, but it was more than that, I think.

But I was hired just for three weeks. 'Can you come and work with Joe on his version of the film?' 'Sure.' And I was happy to get the work at that time. And I found myself working with two other editors who were working for the producers. And I was off in another room, working on my own, basically, with Joe. And, you know, inevitably, a sort of competitive edge enters into it. 'How long is their version running?' 'They cut out that much?' 'Should we do that?' 'How...' You know, we weren't looking at each other's work, but, you know, you're in pretty close quarters.

And so Joe and I worked together for three weeks. And then, at the end of the three weeks, I think we had made some progress. Joe was happy with what we had done. And so the studio arranged to have a screening of both versions of the film. And I guess, to their surprise, they liked what we had done, and so I was kept on. And eventually, the other editors peeled off and went off to work on other films, and suddenly, I was holding this, you know, $150 million film in my hands, which was never the intention. You know, I was just, kind of, came in for three weeks to do some ancillary editing. But, you know, I plunged into the experience. And, you know, once you get over the hump of: 'what am I really doing here?' 'Well, I guess I should do this.' And you have to commit to your... If you don't, then it becomes unendurable. So, you know, I had some doubts about the film. But, you know, you solve individual problems, and then pretty soon, you think, 'Well, that's pretty good. That is kind of working now. And let's try this.' And soon, you're deep into the process.

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: Wolfman, Joe Johnson

Duration: 2 minutes, 58 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017