Walter Murch Poster

Quotes (6)

  • Life is one big pre-lap...
  • [about the opening scene of Apocalypse Now (1979):] "You're looking at a character whose head is enveloped in flames, and then at slow-motion helicopter blades slicing through his body, superimposed upon a whirling ceiling fan, and strange sounds and music intermingling from different sources; you're probably aware you're watching a film, not an imitation of real life. Even dreams, despite their odd surreality, don't look quite like that. Inevitably, the superimposed images in "Apocalypse Now" betray a self-consciousness because they come at the very beginning and are intended to expose and explore Willard's inner state of mind. If there had been no resonance between that scene and the film as a whole, the opening would have been a meaningless exercise, empty virtuosity."
  • [on 'Film Editing']: You have to have the personality that enjoys that... It's almost like making little pieces of jewelry. That patience of the individual shots and how they're crafted together... but at the same time, you have to have an appreciation for the larger picture and how these shots fit into the larger picture of the scene and then how the scene fits into the larger picture of the sequence and how the sequence fits together with the larger picture of the whole work and then how the work fits together with society. So it's boxes within boxes within boxes.
  • [on digital editing and 'resets'] Tetro (2009) was shot digitally, so individual takes were longer because you can just keep the camera rolling. He did a number of what are called "resets," which is, from "action" you go along and then, at a certain point, you keep the camera rolling and just say, "Just go back a couple of lines and pick it up from there." So, in a sense, you're kind of cross-country skiing your way through the shot, and that requires a different approach on our end, editorially, to dealing with the material. (...)....you have to figure out how to simply keep track of all that stuff. Tomorrowland (2015) also had a great number of resets in it, and, there, you're just dealing with a take which could be half an hour long with 30 resets in it, and the technology now, in 2015, has caught up with that. But, at the time that we shot - which was only two years ago - it hadn't yet, so we had to evolve a pretty complicated way, editorially, of marking all of those resets - to make sure that we were "tabulating" them, so to speak. But I'm using a new editing system on a film I'm cutting in London; I'm using Adobe's Premiere for the first time. So I'm always ripe for a new challenge. (...) I edited "Tomorrowland" on the Avid. The film before that, Particle Fever (2013), I edited on Final Cut Pro 7, Apple's system, and the documentary I'm editing now in London, I'm using Premiere. So in the space of three years I've used three different editing systems. That's kind of the world we find ourselves in now; it may settle down. I hope Avid survives. Its stock price has gone down again, and they're flirting with bankruptcy frequently. I hope they can survive, because we need as many different systems as we can have. Technically, the reset issue now... if we we're making a film now that had resets in it, there is a kind of a silent buzzer that, during the take, you give this control either to the script supervisor or to the cameraman, the assistant camera. When the director interrupts a take and says, "Just go back," we go, "Enn!" There's a little buzzer that says, "This is a reset." [2015]
  • [on the evolution of the average shot length] The average shot length of The Birth of a Nation (1915), which was made 100 years ago, is five seconds, and Francis Coppola's Tetro (2009), which was shot six years ago, is five seconds. Action films, that is lower. On average, you can get down to, over the course of a whole film, three-and-a-half seconds per shot. But you can also compare two films shot within a year of each other: Sunset Blvd. (1950), Billy Wilder's film, and The Third Man (1949). By today's standards, "Sunset Boulevard" is slow in terms of its cutting pace; it doesn't make it any less of a wonderful film. "The Third Man", however, which was shot, I think, the year before - anyway, both around 1948 - definitely looks like a film that was shot and put together today. It has that same kind of quickness of tempo. So I think it depends on the film and the sensibility of the director. The quickest film ever shot, editorially, is Chelovek s kino-apparatom (1929), Dziga Vertov's film, where he does one cut every frame, and he superimposes three strains at the same time. So you're looking at just a blizzard of editing... not, obviously, throughout the whole film, but there are sections there where it's inconceivable that a film could be cut quicker than that film, which was made in the late 1920s. I think if you look at certain kinds of television shows, like The Office (2005), there, the pace has definitely picked up. I think, there, the average is a cut every two seconds or so. Basically every line of dialogue is a cut: duh-duh-duh-duh, cut; duh-duh-duh-duh, cut; duh-duh-duh-duh, cut; duh-duh-duh-duh, cut. If you compare that kind of a show with a similar show shot twenty years ago, thirty years ago, yeah, that has definitely accelerated. [2015]
  • [why he avoids watching other films during editing] Just the hours we put in are so long, and you have to balance a kind of mental house of cards to work on a film. That takes time to set up. The first three weeks of working on a film, you're really kind of doing that, getting into position to work on a film. Seeing another film - again, this is just me - in the middle of that tends to put that house of cards in jeopardy. [2015]