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The role of emotion in the nature


Why do people make films?
Walter Murch Film-maker
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The success rate of films, given the investment and the payoff, is not very good. If you look at it as an industry, many people throw themselves onto the barricades of films, and I don't know what the real statistics are, but maybe 5% make it. Fortunately, that 5% pays off enough that it sustains the industry as a whole. But the attrition rate is very high, because, I don't know, the difficult of making films, and the imponderables, and the things that can trip a film up are legion. And the factor of combination of talent and luck and hard work on everybody's part that it takes to make a film are a precariously balanced house of cards that everyone on the film has to struggle to protect and encourage. So the question I would ask then is: why are we doing this? Is it... we're certainly not, on a large... Some people are making a lot of money at it. But most people, if you average everything out, it's not a way of really making a living, given how many people are doing it and the success rate of that compared to other more stable industries. And yet, as a culture, we seem to need this. We like film. Some people are obsessed with film. It seems to be necessary to us at the present time, in the same sense that, let's say, in the 19th century, music and novels were necessary. That's how they, sort of, defined Europe. They defined their cultural presence with, certainly, with those two things. And I think – again, this is very speculative – but I think part of the answer comes from the way... what films can deliver to an audience, and how that is reflected in the way our brains are structured at a deep level.

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: film, film industry, money, business, audience

Duration: 2 minutes, 44 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017