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Discovering 'the waterfall effect' as a child


The period of recovery after a finished project
Walter Murch Film-maker
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What you frequently encounter as you move through from one project to the next is a kind of, cliff, at the end of a project, which you rocket off of, at high speed, and then fall seemingly through outer space. A very funny emotional period, because to work on a film, you have to dedicate very large percentage of your total resources, and the hours are very long, and the schedule is very intense, and it gets more intense the closer you reach to the deadline. And then, suddenly, it's over.

And, this is the goal that you have been working towards: let's finish. And you achieve it, and there's a momentary sense of exhilaration. And then, shortly after that, something else sets in, which is... a dilute cousin of post-traumatic stress disorder. Clearly, you have not been in a life threatening situation, maybe? Working on a film. But, there's the question of how do you get back into normal life from the place that you have been. And it takes a certain amount of time for this to happen, to metabolise all of this, and re-integrate yourself into a more normal living situation. In my case, it takes about six weeks, I think, sometimes more, sometimes less, but that's my rough rule of thumb. And, it's very dangerous to make big decisions during that six week period, because you're standards of analysis are compromised.

And, nobody every explained this to me, or us film students as we were going into this realm. So, when it first happened, it was disorienting, of course, I was younger then, and your resources are different. But, you know, after ten years or so, it began to hit. And I just, I kept wondering, what is this? This... thing?

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: project, work, recovery

Duration: 2 minutes, 54 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017