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Points of view in a movie: Divergent approach


The Conversation: The last ten pages to shoot
Walter Murch Film-maker
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In the end, the problems of not shooting with ten days of shooting... we were able to turn one of the scenes that was partially shot into a dream sequence, where he talks to the girl in the conversation in the fog. So in the script, this was something that actually was really supposed to happen in reality, but we turned it into a dream that happens after he has been seduced by Meredith in his office. And the net result was that the ten unshot pages turned into one shot that we needed, and we had to reshoot this... We had to shoot this shot. And rather than some pieces of rolled up paper that were the plans for the microphone, we had to demonstrate that Meredith had taken the tape. And so the shot was an over-the-shoulder shot, past Gene Hackman onto the tape recorder, and he reaches out and pulls the keeper of the reel, and the reel falls apart and it's empty. And then you cut to a close-up of Gene Hackman as originally shot, and he says, 'Bitch.' But originally, he was reacting to the fact that the plans had been stolen. Now, he's reacting to the fact that his tapes have been stolen.

So we applied to Paramount to shoot this shot, and yes, we can shoot it. We want to keep the cost low, so why don't you borrow the camera? There's another film that's shooting right now, just borrow their camera in-between setups, you can build a little set over in the corner. Dean Tavoularis will... Alex and his brother... Dean and Alex will build a little set over in the corner. Gene Hackman is not available, but his brother is available, and that's enough, all you need is a shoulder. And so we went down and borrowed this camera in-between setups from this other film, shot the scene. And I regret that I didn't keep the camera rolling. Because after the last take, if we had panned the camera over here, we would have come upon Jack Nicholson and Roman Polański waiting to get their camera back because they were shooting Chinatown, which was the other film. So in one shot, we would've gone from The Conversation to Chinatown.

Anyway, that shot is in the film, and that knitted the two pieces of the film together.

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: The Conversation, Chinatown, Gene Hackman, Dean Tavoularis, Alex Tavoularis

Duration: 3 minutes, 10 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017