Murch in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 11, 2008
|Born||Walter Scott Murch
July 12, 1943
New York City, New York
|Education||Johns Hopkins, BA 1965|
|Alma mater||USC School of Cinematic Arts|
|Occupation||Film editor, Sound designer|
|Spouse(s)||Aggie Murch (1965–present)|
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 went to The Collegiate School, a private preparatory school in Manhattan, from 1949 to 1961. He then attended Johns Hopkins University from 1961 to 1965, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in Liberal Arts.
While at Hopkins, he met future director/screenwriter Matthew Robbins and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, 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, successfully 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 them 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. (He was also significantly involved in the re-editing work that resulted in the extended Apocalypse Now Redux in 2001.) In 1985 he directed his own film, Return to Oz, which he co-wrote with Gill Dennis.
Unlike most film editors today, Murch works standing up, 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 creation 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 and Hungarian. Prior to 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.
Innovations & awards
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. Murch is widely acknowledged as the person who coined the term Sound Designer, and along with colleagues developed the current standard film sound format, the 5.1 channel array, helping to elevate the art and impact of film sound to a new level. Apocalypse Now was the first multi-channel film to be mixed using a computerized mixing board.
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 California Film Institute series 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 programme 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.
He is the only film editor to have received Academy nominations for films edited on four different systems:
- Julia (1977) using upright Moviola
- Apocalypse Now (1979), Ghost (1990), and The Godfather, Part III (1990) using KEM flatbed
- The English Patient (1996) using Avid
- Cold Mountain (2003) using Final Cut Pro 4
Murch married Muriel Ann "Aggie" Slater at Riverside Church, New York City, on August 6, 1965. Walter and Aggie have lived in Bolinas, California, since 1972 and have 4 children: Walter Slater Murch, Beatrice Louise Murch, Carrie Angland, and Connie Angland.
- "Walter Murch Biography (1943–)". Filmreference.Com. 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
- Johnson, Jeanne. "Stories in the Dark". Arts & Sciences. Johns Hopkins University Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
- Pete Rosenbery, "Film industry pioneer to receive honorary degree", Southern Illinois University Carbondale, January 17, 2008. Retrieved 2012-10-05.
- Liberatore, Paul (November 11, 2009). "Tribute showcases pioneering work in films of Bolinas' Murch". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
- "Walter and Aggie Murch". Podcast, November 25, 2012. The New School at Commonweal. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
- "The 47th Academy Awards (1975) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
- "The 52nd Academy Awards (1980) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-07.
- Review of The Conversations. The Author and the Film Editor: Ondaatje interviews Murch by Mike Shen Webpage retrieved February 14, 2008.
- Chion, Michel (1994). Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen (Columbia University Press). ISBN 0-231078-99-4.
- Ondaatje, Michael (2004). The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Film Editing (New York: Random House).
- Ichioka, Edie and Ichioka, David (2007). Walter Murch on Editing. Webpage retrieved December 24, 2007.
- Malaparte, Curzio; Weschler, Lawrence (2012). The Bird That Swallowed Its Cage: The Selected Writings of Curzio Malaparte. Walter Murch (translation). Counterpoint Press. ISBN 9781619020610.
- "The 69th Academy Awards (1997) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
- Koppelman, Charles (2004). Behind the Seen: How Walter Murch Edited Cold Mountain Using Apple's Final Cut Pro and What This Means for Cinema (New Riders Press) ISBN 978073571426.
- Murch's speech at ECIAD
- Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative website
- International Press Academy website
- Murch, Walter. "FilmSound.org: Walter Murch Interviews Anne V. Coates" . Webpage retrieved January 25, 2011.
- Walter Murch at the Internet Movie Database
- Walter Murch Articles at Filmsound.org
- Transom Review
- Behind the Scenes with Film Editor Walter Murch interview at NPR All Things Considered, November 8, 2005
- Edison-Dickson Kinetophone Project 1894
- Heliocentric Pantheon: an interview with Walter Murch
- Return to Oz – Ultimate Movie Site, Photos, videos, memorabilia, just about everything you have ever wanted to know about Walter's movie Return to Oz.
- "Retouching Evil" by Michael Sragow, SF Weekly, September 9, 1998.
- "Mixing Apocalypse Now" by Larry Blake, Mix Magazine, August 1, 2001.
- "A Digital Cinema of the Mind" article in New York Times
- Literature on Walter Murch