Walter Murch: On Editing

It’s amazing how overlooked editors really are. Anyone can name at least a handful of film directors, writers, actors, even composers… but editors? It’s a struggle for most people to name one. They’re like the silent heroes of movies, who have a huge influence over the finished product, but who rarely become known outside of the industry, despite their list of credits sometimes featuring many familiar titles. Walter Murch is probably one of the most high profile, and his resume includes The Godfather, The Talented Mr Ripley, The English Patient, and other widely acclaimed films. However, one of my favourites is The Conversation, starring Gene Hackman, and an interesting thing about this movie is that much of the story and structure was conceived in the post-production process, as its director and writer, Francis Ford Coppola, was forced to focus on The Godfather: Part II at the same time. Yet despite Murch’s overwhelming control over what made it to the screen in terms of sound design, editing and essentially the story, if you look the movie up on IMDB, he is only officially credited as being the editing supervisor. It’s this type of selfless craftsmanship that keeps editors away from the spotlight, as the best ones are content to sit in a darkened room and spend all their time on trying to make each project run as smoothly as possible without feeling the need to shout about their achievements. In fact, having a huge ego is a hindrance, because if an editor has done his job well enough, you shouldn’t even notice that they were there.

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