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.


Move to London in 1976


Writing The Black Stallion script
Walter Murch Film-maker
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

He started the process of making Apocalypse Now, and I was started on writing the screenplay with Carroll Ballard for The Black Stallion. The idea was that we were going to make this film, I was going to edit it, and it was going to combine the first two books of The Black Stallion series which involved the shipwreck and then an adventure somewhere in North Africa with Arab horses. We struggled with this story for about six months trying to fuse these two things together and keep it at a manageable length. We just... we did not succeed at that, and we brought on Gill Dennis, who was a mutual friend, to give us a new way. And so the three of us started working, and Gill made the suggestion, 'Just tell the first book, keep it simple, and then if you want... if the film is a success and you want to shoot another one in North Africa, then you have this other book.' And we were in such a state that we thought okay, we'll do it.

Carroll was nervous about it because he loved aspects of the North African scene. And in The Black Stallion, once the shipwreck is over, it really becomes a story of a boy in a suburban environment with a horse. That's eventually how the film was finished and made. But there was a certain amount of tension in that process, and Carroll put a great deal of attention, which really paid off, on the whole story of the shipwreck and the boy marooned on the island with the horse. So my... all of my activity in the year 1975 was based on writing a screenplay, I wasn't doing any film editing, mixing or anything. I was sitting and writing different versions of this script.

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 Black Stallion, North Africa, Carroll Ballard, Gill Dennis, 1975

Duration: 2 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017