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My editing room feels like a butterfly factory


The Three Fathers of Film: Thomas Edison
Walter Murch Film-maker
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So, when you think of any new invention that has a cultural dimension to it, like film certainly has, it is not simply the technical invention of the mechanics of it itself. It is also the cultural penumbra that surrounds this invention that can shift it into something that it is more ideally suited to do, but that is not obvious at the beginning.

As we were talking about Edison and Lumière brothers, they did not know quite... This is an invention without a future. What... How could it possibly be? Because they were too, perhaps, too focused on the technical aspects, and they couldn't imagine. Whereas, somebody like Dickson, who had this other inspiration, was able to leap over all of the logical holdbacks and say, 'No, we are going to do this. It, somehow, will happen.' And, you know, his mother was a, I believe, a singer. He was... she was involved in the arts. And, you know, he was probably more aware of these aspects than, say, Edison, who was not particularly artistic.

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: Thomas Edison, Lumière brothers, William Kennedy Dickson

Duration: 1 minute, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017