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Instinct, emotion and logic in film


Benefits of standing over sitting while working
Walter Murch Film-maker
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The other thing is that people who work in... at jobs that have a strong time component such as orchestra conductors or cooks or surgeons, they all stand to do what they do. And I think one among the many reasons for this is that by standing, you're able to feel the flow of time better. Your kinesthetic posture, so to speak, is more responsive to the flow of time when you're standing. Dancers typically stand when they dance. You don't dance sitting down. And editing, a way of thinking of editing, is that it is a kind of dance that leaves a frozen impression on the finished film as a choreography. You can think of editing in choreographic terms. So I... it's not that I stand all the time because when I'm doing paperwork and editing... being an editor is full of memos and other stuff. Then I sit, and when I'm reviewing something that I have already done, then I will also tend to sit. But if I actually have to dance, I get up out of the chair and I stand at the editing desk and it's just impossible for me to think of now, of doing it in a different way, and when I go to other editor's rooms and they're sitting and I sit with them, I feel suddenly like I'm back in kindergarten sitting on those little chairs that we used to have, so I am a proselytiser for standing. And if you search online there are many, many, many articles now that say: don't sit, stand.

And there's also a fascinating recent discovery, it's astonishing really, that somebody could discover this now. But it's always been believed that there was a very secure blood-brain-barrier between the circulatory system below your neck and your brain, but blood went there, but nothing else. This is why drugs... it's hard to administer drugs to the brain and other things. But as recent as, I think it was in June, there was a discovery at the University of Virginia of a tube that was hidden from everyone – anatomists – so over the last 400 years: oh look, here's a tube that connects the lymphatic system with the brain. And it's very craftily hidden behind a blood vessel. And suddenly people began to notice it in mice first and then they started looking in human beings, and look, there it is. So throw away all those anatomy textbooks, and they have to redraw the map. And what this means is that the brain is connected to the lymphatic system which was believed that it wasn't. And we have two circulatory systems: the blood system and the lymphatic system. The blood system is critical because if you don't get oxygen to your extremities, you die rather quickly. The lymphatic system is equally important: it's basically cleaning out all the junk that accumulates in between the cells. You can survive longer if the lymphatic system goes down. Eventually, you will die, but it's in a matter of days or weeks rather than seconds. So the lymphatic system does not have to have a heart. The heart is there to ensure proper delivery of oxygen. The lymphatic system has a heart, or it has a muscle, but it is the large muscles of your body, your legs principally. The flexing of your legs pumps lymphatic through your body and now we know, we believe, into your head, your brain. And standing is something that allows the legs are working even though you are standing, there are these flexions of the legs and so your lymphatic system is working when you're standing in a way that it's not working when you're sitting down. So, another reason to add to all of the other ones about why it's healthy for you to stand I think in general, but specifically when we're talking about film editing.

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: standing, choreography, film editing, brain, circulation, lymphatic system, heart, leg muscles

Duration: 5 minutes, 5 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017