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Clone Wars and learning Maya


'Three is a magic number': Be proactive, but not a pest
Walter Murch Film-maker
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But a large part of that goes from... The responsible part is being more proactive and, let's say, even aggressive, pushing things, than you might think at first glance, about what is the relationship between an editor and a director. And, you know, it can go too far, and you can veer off the tracks. My own rule of thumb for this is: if I have an idea, and I propose the idea, and the director does not like it, I will retreat. Okay, but then, at the right moment, maybe a week later, I will say, 'You know, because of what we have done in the last week, maybe we could look at that idea?' And if the director says 'no', okay. And then, at an extreme case, I will pitch it one more time – again, it has to be at the right moment – and if the director still says 'no', then I drop it forever. I won't... I can't make a pest of myself about this idea. If I've been turned down three times, I will abandon the idea.

Anthony Minghella had a phrase for that, which says: if three Russians tell you you're drunk, lie down, because they're the experts. Not two, but three. You need the number three to certify that you, in fact, are really drunk. But... So, three is a, kind of, a magic number in these circumstances.

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: Anthony Minghella

Duration: 1 minute, 48 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017