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Unusual job offer from George Cukor


Filming THX 1138
Walter Murch Film-maker
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We moved to San Francisco and I began... I was the sound person for American Zoetrope in the early years. After [The] Rain People, we did in fact get the go-ahead to make THX 1138 and George and I worked together on the screenplay because I had been part of the team that had written the original treatment of it. And that was a great opportunity as somebody writing a screenplay who is ultimately going to be doing the sound for the film. I don't know that that's ever been repeated. It's certainly not common. So somebody writing the screenplay is also somebody who is thinking deeply about the ultimate nature of the sound of the film and THX was a classic example of something where we were putting together a vision of an alien future world based on things that we were photographing now, in selective areas around San Francisco.

How were we going to make it into an alien world? Well, through judicious use of production design. There were no really visual effects in that film, to speak of, but through sound. So that with... with an intensely creative use of sound, we could leverage the film up to the place where we wanted it to be which was a vision of some imagined future. And that process took a good... Probably it took us about a year and a half to shoot the film and do everything. It was a... There were just three of us working on the film: myself and George and Marcia Lucas, George's wife at the time, and we were working out of a little house in Mill Valley, just north of San Francisco, and it was exactly the kind of challenges that we as film students could... If we had tried to imagine a possible paradise for us, as film students, rather than the kind of terrifying prospects that were seemingly on offer for us, what happened was as good as it could possibly be which is writing an original screenplay, shooting it for not very much money and then doing all of these ground-breaking, to us, creative things with the photographic approach and also, in my case particularly, with the sound.

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: THX 1138, George Lucas, Marcia Lucas

Duration: 2 minutes, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017