Murch in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 11, 2008
Walter Scott Murch
July 12, 1943
|Education||Johns Hopkins, BA 1965|
|Alma mater||USC School of Cinematic Arts|
|Occupation||Film editor, Sound designer|
Walter Scott Murch (born July 12, 1943) is an American film editor, director and sound designer. With a career stretching back to 1969, including work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient, with three Academy Award wins (from nine nominations: six for picture editing and three for sound mixing), he has been referred to by Roger Ebert as "the most respected film editor and sound designer in the modern cinema."
Murch was born in New York City, New York, the son of Katharine (née Scott) and Canadian-born Walter Tandy Murch (1907-1967), a painter. As a boy, he began to experiment with sound recording, taping unusual sounds and layering them into new combinations. He attended The Collegiate School, a private preparatory school in Manhattan, from 1949 to 1961. In the summer of 1961 he worked as a music librarian and production assistant at newly founded radio station WRVR. He assisted with the July 29th 1961 live broadcast of a 12-hour folk music Hootenanny produced by Izzy Young. This featured, among many other acts, the first radio performance of the 20-year-old Bob Dylan. Murch then attended Johns Hopkins University from 1961 to 1965, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in Liberal Arts. Murch spent the university school year 1963-1964 in Europe, studying Romance Languages and the History of Art in Italy at Perugia and in France at the Sorbonne.
While at Johns Hopkins, he met future director/screenwriter Matthew Robbins, cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, and philosopher Andrew Feenberg, with whom he staged a number of happenings. In 1965, Murch and Robbins enrolled in the graduate program of the University of Southern California's film school, encouraging Deschanel to follow them. There all three encountered, and became friends with, fellow students such as George Lucas, Hal Barwood, Robert Dalva, Willard Huyck, Don Glut and John Milius; all of these men would go on to be successful filmmakers. Not long after film school, in 1969, Murch, Lucas, and others joined Francis Ford Coppola at American Zoetrope in San Francisco. Murch and his family settled in Bolinas, California, in 1972.
Murch started editing and mixing sound with Francis Ford Coppola's The Rain People (1969). Subsequently, he worked on George Lucas's THX 1138 and American Graffiti and Coppola's The Godfather before editing picture and mixing sound on Coppola's The Conversation, for which he received an Academy Award nomination in sound in 1974. Murch also mixed the sound for Coppola's The Godfather Part II which was released in 1974, the same year as The Conversation. He did sound design work on Apocalypse Now, for which he won his first Academy Award in 1979 and he was also significantly involved in the re-editing work that resulted in the extended Apocalypse Now Redux in 2001.
Murch edits in a standing position, comparing the process of film editing to "conducting, brain surgery and short-order cooking" since all conductors, cooks, and surgeons stand when they work. In contrast, when writing, he does so lying down. His reason for this is that where editing film is an editorial process, the creative process of writing is opposite that, and so he lies down rather than sit or stand up, to separate his editing mind from his creating mind.
Murch has written one book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye (1995), which has been translated into many languages including Chinese, Italian, Hebrew, Spanish, French, German, Hungarian and Persian. His book describes many of his notable techniques used in his film editing. One of his most praised techniques he refers to as "the rule of six" referring to the 6 criteria in a film that he examines when making a cut. In his book, Murch also describes editing as more of a psychological practice with a goal of anticipating and controlling the thoughts of the audience.
Before this, he wrote the foreword to Michel Chion's Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen (1994). He was also the subject of Michael Ondaatje's book The Conversations (2002), which consists of several conversations between Ondaatje and Murch; the book emerged from Murch's editing of The English Patient, which was based on Ondaatje's novel of the same name.
While he was editing directly on film, Murch took notice of the crude splicing used for the daily rough-cuts. In response, he invented a modification which concealed the splice by using extremely narrow but strongly adhesive strips of special polyester-silicone tape. He called his invention "N-vis-o".
In 1979, he won an Oscar for the sound mix of Apocalypse Now as well as a nomination for picture editing. The movie was among the first stereo films to be mixed using an automated console. Additionally, the film is the first to credit anyone as Sound Designer, a professional designation that Murch is widely attributed to have coined as a means to help legitimate the field of post-production sound, much in the way William Cameron Menzies coined the term "Production Designer" in the 1930s.
Apocalypse Now was also notable for being among the first films to be released in what has come to be known as 5.1, with three screen speaker channels, low-frequency enhancement, and two surround channels (one more channel than standard surround sound arrangements at the time). The movie was initially seen and heard in this 70mm six-track sound format in 17 theaters, many of which were calibrated by members of the Apocalypse sound team and featured the same Meyer Sound subwoofers that had been used on the mixing stage. According to sound editor Larry Blake, Murch now believes that these subwoofers were more "emotionally significant" to the presentations than were the two discrete surround channels.
In 1996, Murch worked on Anthony Minghella's The English Patient, which was based on Michael Ondaatje's novel of the same name. Murch won Oscars both for his sound mixing and for his editing. Murch's editing Oscar was the first to be awarded for an electronically edited film (using the Avid system), and he is the only person ever to win Oscars for both sound mixing and film editing.
In 2003, Murch edited another Anthony Minghella film, Cold Mountain on Apple's sub-$1000 Final Cut Pro software using off the shelf Power Mac G4 computers. This was a leap for such a big-budget film, where expensive Avid systems were usually the standard non-linear editing system. He received an Academy Award nomination for this work; his efforts on the film were documented in Charles Koppelman's 2004 book Behind the Seen.
In 2009, Murch's work was the subject of a tribute, "The Art of Walter Murch," a program in "The Professionals," a series by the California Film Institute at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center.
In 2012, Murch was invited to serve as a mentor for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, an international philanthropic program that pairs masters in their disciplines with emerging talents for a year of one-to-one creative exchange. Out of a gifted field of candidates, Murch chose Italian film editor Sara Fgaier as his protégée. Previous film mentors for the initiative include Mira Nair (2004), Stephen Frears (2006), Martin Scorsese (2008) and Zhang Yimou (2010).
Murch is the 2012 recipient of the Nikola Tesla Award given by the International Press Academy Satellite Awards for "Visionary Achievement in Filmmaking Technology". Previous recipients have included Douglas Trumbull, James Cameron, Roger Deakins, Dennis Muren and George Lucas.
In 2015, Murch was presented with the Vision Award Nescens, at the 68th Locarno Film Festival, for his contributions to cinema. The two previous recipients of the award, initiated in 2013, were Douglas Trumbull and Garrett Brown.
He is the only film editor to have received Academy Award nominations for films edited on four different systems:
Murch is also Honorary Associate of London Film School.
Murch married Muriel Ann "Aggie" Slater at Riverside Church, New York City, on August 6, 1965. Directly after getting married, the couple took a motorcycle trip across the United States. They have now lived in Bolinas, California, since 1972 and have 4 children: Walter Slater Murch, Beatrice Louise Murch, Carrie Angland, and Connie Angland.
|1894||The Dickson Experimental Sound Film||Yes||Yes||No||No||First attempt in history to marry sound and picture. Murch succeeded in synchronizing the sound with the picture in 2000, 106 years after the film was shot and recorded.|
|1958||Touch of Evil||Yes||No||No||No||Re-edited for a 1998 release version.|
|1969||The Rain People||No||Yes||No||No||Sound Montage and Re-recording.|
|1971||THX-1138||No||Yes||Yes||No||Co-wrote the screenplay with George Lucas. Also credited with Sound Montage and Re-recording.|
|1972||The Godfather||No||Yes||No||No||Sound effects supervisor.|
|1973||American Graffiti||No||Yes||No||No||Sound Montage and Re-recording.|
|1974||The Conversation||Yes||Yes||No||No||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Sound with Art Rochester.|
Sound Montage and Re-recording.
|1977||Julia||Yes||No||No||No||Nominated -- Academy Award for Best Film Editing.|
Co-edited with Marcel Durham
|1979||Apocalypse Now||Yes||Yes||No||No||Academy Award for Best Sound with Mark Berger, Richard Beggs, and Nat Boxer.|
Nominated -- Academy Award for Best Film Editing with Gerald B. Greenberg, Lisa Fruchtman and Richard Marks
|1985||Return to Oz||No||No||Yes||Yes||Co-wrote with Gill Dennis|
|1988||The Unbearable Lightness of Being||Yes||No||No||No|
|1990||Ghost||Yes||Yes||No||No||Nominated -- Academy Award for Best Film Editing|
|The Godfather Part III||Yes||Yes||No||No||Nominated -- Academy Award for Best Film Editing with Barry Malkin and Lisa Fruchtman|
|1993||House of Cards||Yes||No||No||No|
|Romeo Is Bleeding||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|1994||I Love Trouble||Yes||No||No||No|
|1996||The English Patient||Yes||Yes||No||No||Academy Award for Best Film Editing|
Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing with Mark Berger, David Parker, and Christopher Newman
|1999||The Talented Mr. Ripley||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|2002||K-19: The Widowmaker||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|2003||Cold Mountain||Yes||Yes||No||No||Nominated -- Academy Award for Best Film Editing|
|2007||Youth Without Youth||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|2010||The Wolfman||Yes||No||No||No||Co-edited with Dennis Virkler and Mark Goldblatt|
|2013||Particle Fever||Yes||Yes||No||No||Feature documentary on the search for the Higgs Boson|
|2015||Tomorrowland||Yes||No||No||No||Co-edited with Craig Wood|
|2019||Coup 53||Yes||No||Yes||No||Murch is credited as editor and co-author of this feature-length documentary on Iran|
|2011||"The General"||No||Yes||Episode of Lucasfilm Clone Wars animated series|
|2012||Hemingway & Gellhorn||Yes||No||Television movie|