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American Zoetrope is going to change the world of cinema


Moving to San Francisco
Walter Murch Film-maker
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They shot this film, travelling across the United States and George came along to shoot a 'making of' film and Francis said, 'George, why don't you write a screenplay and I'll produce it and we'll get Warner Brothers to make it? Why don't you do a feature version of your student film, THX?' And so George at night was struggling writing the screenplay for this feature film while during the day, shooting a 'making of' film and one thing led to another and in June of... No, in December of '69 [sic – should be '68], I got a phone call from George saying, 'Francis wants somebody to do the sound on The Rain People, the sound effects and the mix. We're all going to move to San Francisco and start a new film company, come on.' So this was the bonding that, the pact that we had made back before the interview with Warner Brothers and I thought, fantastic. Of course I was married and now I was a father. My son had just been born. I didn't... we didn't particularly like Los Angeles. It was the city that it is today but the smog was terrible back then and it didn't seem like the place to raise a kid and if you're ever going to leave Los Angeles, you have to leave it. If you don't leave, it eventually digs its claws into you and you wind up staying. So we thought okay, well, let's do 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: The Rain People, San Francisco, Los Angeles, George Lucas, Francis Coppola

Duration: 1 minute, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017