a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


'Actors should not blink'


Editing – blinking for the audience
Walter Murch Film-maker
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Where somebody blinks is a moment where you can actually get access to the architecture of their thoughts. And so I started watching people in real-life and just noting where do they blink. And it was clear that they do blink at certain moments and not at other moments. And this is not what you read about when you open your biology textbook, certainly back then, which is that blinking is the body's need to moisten the surface of the eye. If that's all it was, then in an environment at a certain humidity, at a certain temperature or with a certain wind speed, the blinking would become thermostatically separate. So, in this environment blink every 12 seconds and you would remain blinking every 12 seconds unless it got hotter, in which case the blinking would happen every eight seconds. Or unless the humidity rose, in which case you would slow down and blink... But that doesn't happen.

Our blinking is tied to what we're thinking and how we're reacting to what's happening around us. And in a sense, editing is blinking for the audience. We are showing them a thought and in every shot is a thought or a series of thoughts. Then at the right moment, we are ending that thought and giving them a new thought. And then ending that and giving them a new one. And just as we are disturbed when we meet somebody whose blinking seems to be off... And politicians are notorious for this because they're telling us things, but they're lying to us frequently. And they're not only thinking about what they're saying; they're thinking about many different things. So their blinking rate is being determined by stuff that we cannot perceive because they're politicians. But this applies to everybody, not just politicians.

So when you meet somebody, and there's something off about them, watch where they blink, and their blinking probably has very little to do with the exchange that's happening with you. When somebody is really angry at you, they will either blink 60 times a minute or sometimes they won't blink at all. When they're not blinking at all, they have one thought which is: I hate you, and I'm going to kill you if you say that word again and don't you ever come... Or: I hate what you said, and I want to run away, but now I want to fight you, now I want to call you this and I want to call... And the blinks are desperately trying to separate out this snowstorm of thoughts that are running through the person's mind.

Anyway, the point is that I suddenly realised that there is an affinity between how people blink, where they blink and the way a film tells itself. And a poorly edited film is like meeting somebody who's blinking at the wrong places. You know, I get what you're saying, but you know, there's a blizzard going on that is preventing me from really feeling comfortable in your presence.

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: blinking, blink, film editing, thoughts, politicians

Duration: 3 minutes, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017