Ep118: Legendary Editor Walter Murch On Optimizing Creativity, Productivity, and Well-Being In Hollywood For 50+ Years

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When you think of film editors, let’s face it – healthy habits and good physical conditioning are not images that immediately come to mind. But with a pandemic upon us, and with the high cost of the ‘Passion Tax’ we constantly pay as Hollywood creatives, healthy living is no longer an option – it’s a necessity. If we want strong immune systems and creative minds that are resilient to high-stress environments, it is imperative we adopt healthier habits like eating better and moving more throughout the day. While it might seem as though these are new concepts, today’s guest proves these ideas have proven successful for decades.

Legendary and Oscar-winning Hollywood film editor Walter Murch (who has edited such films as Tomorrowland, Cold Mountain, The English Patient, Apocalypse Now and The Godfather III, to name a very select few) knows just how important it is to be health-conscious and physically fit in order to do the intense creative work that’s required to edit critically acclaimed films and documentaries. Walter has spent years not only honing his craft but also honing his most valuable assets: His body and mind. And for those unaware, Walter is THE leading pioneer in the standing desk movement (I just amplified his work, but he started it).

In today’s conversation, Walter shares his secrets for maintaining his health and energy levels while working long hours on feature films. He dives deep into the neuroscience of why our brains work better when our bodies are moving more and the strategies he uses for incorporating movement throughout the day. We talk in detail about his specific creative process, the long-standing issue of burnout and excessive working hours, and how he feels about editors being classified as “below the line.” While this was originally a conversation from the ‘Fitness in Post’ days, there is an abundance of timeless wisdom to be gleaned from the legend himself who has survived well over four decades in a brutal industry where when people start dropping like flies, the executives simply reply, “Then get more flies.” (as Walter tells it)

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Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • Zack’s favorite passage from the book, Behind the Seen (which he calls “porn for editors”) that became the inspiration for his healthy lifestyle and this podcast.
  • The tragic story of Walter’s motivation to incorporate movement into his workday.
  • Walter’s exact process for getting his body and mind prepared for any new project (and how you can adopt the same process).
  • The importance of capturing ideas when they strike and his secret weapon to ensure he never misses one.
  • The crucial task every editor should do to understand the script and inhabit the story better.
  • Walter’s best advice for adding more movement throughout the day.
  • What a short-order cook, composer, and brain surgeon have in common with editors and how he’s adapted his working habits to be more like all three of them. HINT: Standing is involved.
  • Why skipping lunch breaks is not only bad for your health but bad for your productivity.
  • Two tricks Walter uses to prevent low back pain when using a standing desk.
  • How a sedentary lifestyle is shortening your lifespan and the ways neuroscience recommends reversing it.
  • Why Walter only eats breakfast and lunch and avoids dinner.
  • The amazing power of sleep and how it enhances your creativity.
  • What the essence of being an editor is and what Walter believes are the essential skills necessary based on the technology today.
  • How Walter approaches cutting documentaries versus scripted films and what the major similarities and differences are between them.
  • KEY TAKEAWAY:  The seasick feeling or ‘hiatus flu’ that editors experience at the end of a project is completely natural, so be aware and do not make any big decisions during this time.

Useful Resources Mentioned:

In the Blink of an Eye

The Conversations

Behind the Seen

Missing link found between brain, immune system; major disease implications

How to Get the Best Sleep of Your Life

Ep113: The Importance of Setting Boundaries, Advocating For Yourself, and Asking For Help | with Janace Tashjian

Dear Hollywood: It’s Time For An Intervention About The Hours We Work [Petition Inside]

Episode Transcript

Zack Arnold 0:00

My name is Zack Arnold. I'm a Hollywood film and television editor, a documentary director, father of two, an American Ninja Warrior in training and the creator of Optimize Yourself. For over 10 years now I have obsessively searched for every possible way to optimize my own creative and athletic performance. And now I'm here to shorten your learning curve. Whether you're a creative professional who edits, writes or directs, you're an entrepreneur, or even if you're a weekend warrior, I strongly believe you can be successful without sacrificing your health or your sanity in the process. You ready? Let's design the optimized version of you. Hello, and welcome to the Optimize Yourself podcast. If you're a brand new optimizer I welcome you and I sincerely hope that you enjoy today's conversation. If you were inspired to take action after listening today, why not tell a friend about the show and help Spread the Love. And if you're a longtime listener and optimizer Oh gee, welcome back. Whether you're brand new or you're seasoned vet, if you have just 10 seconds today, it would mean the world to me if you clicked the subscribe button in your podcast app of choice, because the more people that subscribe, the more that iTunes and the other platforms can recognize this show, and thus the more people that you and I can inspire, to step outside their comfort zones to reach their greatest potential. And now on to today's show. When you think of film editors, let's face it, healthy habits and good physical conditioning are not images that immediately come to mind. But with a pandemic upon us, and with the high cost of the passion tax that we constantly pay as Hollywood creatives, healthy living is no longer an option. It is a necessity. If we want strong immune systems and creative minds that are resilient to high stress environments, it is imperative that all of us adopt healthier habits like eating better and moving more throughout the day. Now While it might seem as though these are new concepts, today's guest proves that these ideas have been successful for decades. Legendary and Oscar winning Hollywood film editor Walter merge, who has edited such films as tomorrow land Cold Mountain, The English Patient, Apocalypse Now and the Godfather three just to name a very select few knows just how important it is to be health conscious and physically fit in order to do the intense creative work that is required to edit critically acclaimed films and documentaries. Walter has spent years not only honing his craft, but also honing his most valuable assets, his body and his mind. And for those of you who might be unaware, Walter is the leading pioneer in the standing desk movement. I have just amplified his work, but he started this decades ago. In today's conversation, Walter shares the secrets for maintaining his health and his energy levels. When he's working long hours on feature films. he dives deep into the neuroscience of water Our brains work better when our bodies are moving more, and he talks about the strategies that he uses to incorporate movement throughout his day. We talk in detail about his specific creative process, the long standing issue of burnout and excessive work hours, and how he feels about editors being classified as below the line. Now, just to be clear, upfront, while this was originally a conversation from the fitness and post days, there is an abundance of timeless wisdom to be gleaned from the legend himself, who has survived well over four decades in a brutal industry, where it when people start dropping like flies, the executive simply reply, then get more flies, as you're going to hear

Zack Arnold 3:41

Walter talk about more in a bit.

Zack Arnold 3:43

Now if today's interview inspires you to take the next step towards a more fulfilling career path that not only aligns you with projects that you are passionate about, but also includes some semblance of work life balance, and especially if you would like support mentorship and community to help you turn that those goals into reality. Well, then you and I need to talk because in early September, I am opening Fall Enrollment for my optimizer coaching and mentorship program, and it sounds like you might be the perfect fit. Over the last three years I have now worked with well over 100 students and I have seen stunning transformations. But the biggest obstacle for most of you has been that the program was just too expensive or require too much time. Luckily, those are no longer problems because I've made the program a lot more affordable and a lot less time intensive for those who have busy lives, but still need an extra push to make whatever the next major transition is in your life. If you would like to learn more and get on the waitlist to be the first to have access to the application when it becomes available. Please visit optimize slash optimizer. Alright, without further ado, my conversation with legendary Oscar winning editor Walter merge made possible today by our amazing sponsors ever cast and arrow driven. We're gonna Gonna be featured a little bit later in today's interview, to access the show notes for this and all previous episodes, as well as to subscribe so you don't miss the next inspirational interview, please visit optimize slash podcast. So I'm here today with none other than the Walter merge. And if there's anybody listening to this call that is not aware of Walter merge or his work, I highly suggest that you turn off this podcast immediately. And you sit down and you read the conversations you read in the blink of an eye, and you read behind the scene, because to me, those are kind of the film theory and editing theory 101 courses that every single person needs to go through if they really want to understand the art form of editing. So if you feel that going on or going to Larry Jordans website and learning premiere, or avid or Final Cut Pro 10 is really the place to start if you want to be an editor. I couldn't disagree more and I just I cannot express how excited I am to have you on the other end of this microphone. So thank you so much Walter for doing this, like you're supposed to be here. I know that I had mentioned this to you privately. But I want to make sure that our audience is aware that the instigation for every single thing that I've done for the last almost 10 years now to really focus on my health and combined focus on health and wellness with being a great editor comes from you. So when everybody thinks of, Oh, I stand at my desk, they're like, Oh, yeah, like Walter merge. And what I'm finding is that now I'm starting to hear people say, yeah, I'm starting to stand on my desk, you know, like Zack Arnold and Walter merge, which to me, is just such a cool thing to see people kind of, you know, seeing as named in the same sentence, but it goes much further than just standing at a desk. And I remember kind of, if I go back to a couple other episodes where I talk a lot about how to really get out there and meet people in network. I actually sent you a personal letter to your home. I think it was probably about 10 years ago now. And you and I had kind of a brief conversation over email for a while. And one of the things that I had said to you, which I'm embarrassed about, but I'm kind of not embarrassed about is I had said that behind the scene is most likely my favorite book that I've ever read about editing and everybody needs to read it even though the technology in it is completely outdated. It doesn't matter at all, because the theory and the ideas behind it are great. And I told you that behind the scene was like porn for editors. And I still stand by

Zack Arnold 7:32

that because it really is like it was just I could not put it down and it took me like two days to get through it. And it is a thick book. And I just pulled it off my bookshelf last night and there are highlights everywhere post. It's everywhere. But I found the one phrase that in my mind is what started the fitness and posts revolution even though this was a decade ago. So it planted the seed in my mind. So I'm going to read this passage and this is where it all began for me and this is where I want to go with the conversation today. So So for those who don't know, behind the scene, which is actually spelled s e n, is all about the process that you went through on a daily basis editing the feature film Cold Mountain using Final Cut Pro, which back then was just unheard of and really, really innovative and like oh my God, that's crazy. Can you even do that? But you were it was an early passage near the beginning of the film, you'd move to Romania with the film crew. And the this passage reads, even in the Edit meaning as opposed to being on the set, far from set, there will be long nights missed meals intentions. So Walter uses the time leading up to a film start date to get in good physical condition. This is the week of the summer solstice. So there's ample daylight to schedule four or eight mile runs every day. And I will never forget, when I read that passage, I literally put the book down. I was like, Oh my God, that's brilliant. I can't just treat editing in a matter that I have to understand the cuts and I have to read the script. I actually finished Have to prepare no different than if I were an Olympian getting ready for an event, you don't just wake up and run a mile, you get ready for it. And this is what really started everything so that that's what I want the conversation to be about today. So tell me a little bit about how you approach being an editor and being in such a stressful environment with such long hours, as far as your health is concerned, because I know that you, you know, make it a point to take walks and do. So I really want to understand because you have such a robust background in brain science and neuroscience, why it's so important to you that you do things like get in good physical condition before working on a show.

Walter Murch 9:39

Well, a little background background is my dad was an artist. And he had a studio in our apartment in New York, and it was a very sedentary job. He would go into his room and he would work for 12-14 hours a day. Making paintings and he keeled over at age 60 have a heart attack when I was 24. And this had a big effect on me, as you can imagine, starting about them, and I thought, Well, I'm not going to let that happen to me. And so I started running back in my early 20s. And I've just kept at it ever since. So here we are 50 plus years later. So there are enough similarities between what he was doing and what we do in the editor on meaning you're in a closed environment, you're in there under stressful situations with deadlines. You know, the environment is not particularly toxic, but it's not friendly either. Just in terms of all of the paraphernalia that surrounds you. And you have to take that into consideration and you combine that With the fact that so much of what we do especially in feature theatrical films, in a we're in there more or less for about a year from the from when the film starts shooting until the film is in the theaters, give or take a couple of months, it's a year which is sort of marathon II, especially when you consider the towards the end of it, you can easily be working seven days a week, 14 hours a day. So there has to be you have to find ways to work in your physical and mental health into the into the equation otherwise you like my father will just keel over one day.

Zack Arnold 11:44

Yeah. And that's really something that I'm trying to impress upon people is playing the long game and I've used the analogy in the past of you have to look at your health as a game of chess and not a game of checkers. And when you look at the the kind of slog that we're going to go through Whether it's on a feature film or a season of television, there's just no respite, there's no real breaks. It's not like they're gonna say, Oh, you know what, why don't you just take some time to recovering and recoup and, you know, we'll, we'll go ahead and we'll start fresh next week. It just, it doesn't happen. It's, it's this treadmill that never stops. It's the one of the images I always get in my mind. And I'm gonna date myself a little bit, but for the younger audience, but you know, when I watched I Love Lucy as a kid, there's that great episode where she's on the assembly line, and all the little candies are going across and she's keeping up at first and then all of a sudden, they just keep coming and keep coming and keep coming. She's buried in them, and that's how it can feel with dailies, where at first you feel like you've gotten a hold of it, but then the conveyor belt just doesn't stop and they just keep coming and coming and coming. So what I really want to know first is given that you've really been in the heat of some of the you know, the the craziest projects literally in the history of cinema, one of them of course, being Apocalypse Now and you know, being the middle of Cold Mountain English Patient And just really high profile very high stress films. What is your process if you know that you need to prepare for a year or a year and a half in the trenches? What is your process as far as getting your brain ready getting your body ready, like what do you actually go through?

Walter Murch 13:14

It's a couple of things, those the physical aspects, which is I try to run off on my day off whatever it happens to be. I try to run, do an eight mile run, sometimes a little bit more, sometimes less. And then during the week, I try to arrange it so that I can walk to work. You know, Park, if I'm driving a car park a little bit of ways from work, and walk the last mile or so, to work, more park at work and unwelcome eyewear anyway, get some get some daily physical exercise as well as The once a week, a little bit a little bit longer. Along with that is I do just the usual kind of push ups and sit ups and combine that with a kind of meditation. Not long, maybe three or four minutes in the morning just to focus on what are we doing today. Try to clear the mind and just let yourself be open to whatever the whatever that day will bring and try to imagine what you're going to achieve that day. I also, when I do my walks and runs, I also take a little Olympus digital recorder with me, so that if some thought occurs to me during the run, or walk, I just, you know, record it. And then at some point later in the day, I will transcribe that stuff. Just write it down. What was Thinking, to try to organize thoughts that sometimes really important ideas come to you. And unless you catch them with this sort of the mental butterfly in that, you won't have a very good collection of butterflies. And that's one of the things that keeps us going is the ideas about what we're trying to achieve and what unique ways we can do this. And if you if you don't do that, then the work isn't going to be as good and in a weird way, you are going to feel more oppressed by it because the external world meaning the conditions under which you're working and the ideas of other people around you are going to have a greater influence upon you then vice versa. So, some way to let your own ideas and sometimes very ephemeral ideas. turn out to be the most important to capture them and to get them down on paper, or on the computer or something so that you can then implement them. And you know when the when the time is right. The other thing I do is I obviously read the script a number of times. And then I timed the script, which takes about a day to actually do it to do it, right. And this is normally in the work description of the script supervisor, but I feel it should be also something that every editor does before anything is shot, if you're going to really do this thing, timing because to time it you have to inhabit everything. You have to imagine the space in which these things are happening. You have to become the characters you have to start to live this particular Because this is going to be with you. And again, if you have time did first of all you at the end of that process, you will have an estimation of how long this film is really going to be. And that's help in know, whenever you start to cut a scene, you can say, Well, when I imagined this scene, I thought it was going to be two minutes and 12 seconds long. Hmm, it looks like it's going to be much shorter. I wonder why that is. And that gives you an insight into the difference between your initial idea about the project and how the director in this case is actually realizing it. So you you have that as a resource, but the main thing is to start as early as possible to really inhabit that work as as directly as you possibly can.

Zack Arnold 17:56

Well, there are at least 10 fans tasik nuggets that I want to jump into and there before even moving forwards, the first of which is a very, very common question that I get. And it's really kind of one of the the number one giant burning pains of the people in this industry is the idea of, well, I just don't have the time to exercise or be active during the day because there's just too much to do. I don't have time to take breaks, and I'm not as efficient. If I'm taking a 15 minute walking break, I'm not getting as much done. And being somebody that understands neuroscience so incredibly well like when I feel like I pride myself as being a geek of the brain and neuroscience, I then look at you, and you're sending me emails with pictures of neural networks. I'm like, okay, so clearly this guy is a bigger brain geek than I am, but we're definitely cut from the same cloth. So can you help number one, just kind of walk through how you actually on a very tactical level, make sure that you're taking these breaks on a regular basis. And number two, why it's so important and will actually increase your productivity and increase your ability to may create a thoughts

Walter Murch 19:01

Well, just on the on the basic level, find some way and you can do it. It's not that hard to walk as much as possible. And, you know, I'm on location like I was in location in Argentina working on Francis his last film a couple of years ago. And you know, I chose someplace to live that I knew was about a mile and a half away from where we were working so that I could walk that mile and a half to work and walk back and evening and you get the exercise. Walking is an inherently basic part of human physiology and neurology. There's that the the act of walking and that the exercise of the large muscle groups is

Walter Murch 19:57

really basic to maintaining Good health. And people have been walking for 3 million years on two legs. And so it's a basic thing that puts you in touch with something basic about your own humanity and the hand. Once you start walking, there's something about that rhythm that will prompt ideas to come to you. And that's the other thing I was talking about earlier, which is take a little recorder with you. And if you get an idea, as you're walking, just turn the recorder on and say what it is. And the track that butterfly as as I as I mentioned, plus I when I break for lunch, I try before breaking just to do some Touch, touch your toes exercises or leg lifts. Just something that takes maybe a minute or so but it also gets the blood running in a in a different way. As you mentioned earlier I stand when I'm editing, I don't stand 14 hours a day. I work at an architect's table, and I have an architect's chair so that if I'm reviewing stuff, or looking at something that I've caught, then I go sit in this chair, it's like a high architect's chair and look at the screen. But when I'm actually putting this stuff together in the first place, or re editing something, then I jump off the chair and I'm standing at the desk. And standing is important because there's all kinds of articles on the line now your chairs your enemy, don't sit down stand. And, you know, I've been doing this for many years now. Like when I began editing, I was working on the movie. Oh, and I was a standing editor back then. I used to Take two little two inch cores and prop them under the on top of the legs of the movie. Oh, so the movie Oh, it was tilted slightly back so that I could stand on it. And when I started using Kim's and steam backs in the early 70s, I sat them because that was how they were built. But I became increasingly frustrated with that. And I developed what I called steam back neck. Because when you're working on the movie, Oh, you are constantly in motion. With again, with the large muscles, you're standing and you're moving big arm movements to get the film out of the bin into the movie Hello, and then taking it out of the bag in the back of the movie, a lot of rewinding, all that kind of stuff. Very manual work. And when the Kim's and Steve Beck's came in, people started sitting and the only thing that they would move would be their wrist. So, after a couple of years of doing this, I became frustrated with and I suddenly had a realization one day, which is Wait a minute, what is a cam or a steam back, it's just a rewind table that's horizontal rather than vertical. So if it's a rewind table, let me put it at the same height that a rewind table is so I had some extra strong plywood, built two boxes. I think they were like 16 inches square and lifted the cam up onto these boxes. It's a heavy things, 600 pounds I think. But you know, a couple of us got together and lifted it up onto the boxes and that was back in the early 80s. I think mid 80s. You know, 30 years later, I'm still doing it. It's very, very easy. If you are editing and digitally, you don't have to lift 600 pounds of iron to get it up on these boxes. You just use an architect's table, as I said, and put the put the screens on a rack in the behind the table. But the important thing is if you're standing and I think it affects your health in a in a good way, it also affects how you think about the material. I make the analogy that editing film is like a combination of being a short order cook, a brain surgeon and an orchestra conductor. And Paul, each of those three people stand to do what they do. They could have sick they could set if they had to, but they don't because of the work that they do is extremely time dependent. Time is important when you're conducting an orchestra time is important when you're conducting when you're cooking. Time is important when you're bringing a surgeon. And time is incredibly important when you're editing and when you're standing you have a different relationship. ship to time, I think. The other thing about it is that we have two circulatory systems in our body, there's the blood system, which the heart is pumping away and you have to treat your heart nicely and have to exercise it and make sure you don't eat the wrong foods. The other circulatory system we have is the lymphatic system, which is the system that cleans out the body cleans out the junk that's in between your cells in your body. And this does not have a heart. The reason we have a heart is that we would die within a few seconds if the blood was not delivering oxygen to our cells. So the heart is a organ that is it's extremely expensive to run a heart but it's extremely necessary if we want to live the lymphatic system is not quite as you know if your lymphatic system isn't isn't working You know, you can survive for a day. But in the long term, it's just as damaging. What is it that makes your lymphatic system work are the large muscles of your body for principally your legs. And if you're sitting, your lymphatic system shuts down, which means that the poisons and other junk that accumulates in your body isn't cleaned up effectively so by exercising, walking to and from work and then standing as much as possible when you work, you are cleaning your body out you are just making yourself fuzzy by that process,

Zack Arnold 26:42

yeah, I really I think what I'm gonna do is I'm just gonna hire you as my my marketing manager and spokesperson for fitness and post because you basically just laid out everything and just perfect clarity for exactly what it is. I've been trying to say for the last couple of years, that it's not just about standing at your desk. Right, because I talked to a lot of people, and they'll see the picture of Walter merge standing as architects table or they'll now hear me talk about standing. And they say, Yeah, I got a standing desk, but I did it all day long. My legs are so tired, my lower back hurt. It's just not for me, right. And what I what I love is that you said you also have a chair, which people don't think because they think I'm either a standing editor or I'm sitting at it, forget it. And there's Yeah, and there's, there's so much science out there. Now that saying sitting is the new smoking. And I think that this is a very easy cop out. And what people need to understand is that sitting is not necessarily the new smoking, being sedentary in one position all day is the new smoking, which means that if you stand in one position for 14 hours a day, you're maybe 2% healthier than sitting all day long, because you're still not moving you're still not letting your circulatory system move you're not letting the lymphatic system moving on. The the analogy that I help people understand the lymphatic system is that it's your sewer system. Right. Exactly, exactly. It's the sewer system. your body and your brain to get all the crap out. And if it's shut down, just imagine what happens at your house. If your sewer system doesn't work, it gets pretty messy and that will happen in the human body as well. And I try to give the analogy of if you're sitting all day long, you're basically a swamp or a pond. But if you're standing, sitting moving, like I have a treadmill workstation, so I am on a treadmill, getting several miles a day while I'm cutting, I'm a flowing rushing river where anything that's thrown in there is just taken away and it's just you know, you have this beautiful clean water, but a swamp is stagnant. And that's what your body's doing when you're sitting and that's why it's so important to be moving or doing the push ups or doing the leg lifts or whatever it is just to make sure that you keep moving because so many people will say well, I just don't have time to go to the gym for an hour so I'm just not going to do it. You don't have to that's not what it takes to be healthy. If you want to body sculpt and you want to get in shape and you want to lose 3040 pounds. You know you've got you might need to make data A time to do those things. But if you just want to maintain your body health and your brain health, it just requires little tiny changes throughout the day, like parking loaded further away. That's one of the things that I'll tell people in my list of small changes. I'll say that what I do is and I, I mean, I live like 90 minutes away from my office, I'm certainly not walking. But I make the choice to find the absolute furthest parking spot from the door of the building, which does two things. Number one, it allows me to walk more before I get to the office. But number two, it's much less stressful, because I'm not trying to get the best spot and saying, oh, man, I didn't get a spot. Now I'm all tense and stressed out at the beginning of the day. Nobody ever takes my parking spot because nobody's crazy enough to walk that far. So it's those little tiny things and then deciding, you know, I'm just going to take the stairs instead of the elevator. These are all things that are free. They're all things that are fairly simple to implement, and they're not taking that precious time away where you're thinking, I just don't have time to do this because I'm so busy and I'm so important, and I can't do these things. And you had mentioned something called I believe it was breaking for lunch. I'm not really sure what that term means. But I know it's a foreign term to most people.

Walter Murch 30:09

In England, the term is lunch el desko.

Zack Arnold 30:15

Yes. And I think that it's the exactly the same tournament. Just go today. And that's one of those policies that I've just instituted pretty much universally, where even if I can't take a quote, unquote, lunch break, I will never sit in front of my desk and eat. And it might be as simple as sitting on the couch to eat. It might be as simple as sitting on the chair that's right outside my office door to eat, but I never will eat right in front of my desk because it's gonna inhibit your digestion. It's there's going to be high levels of cortisol in your body because you're just not slowing down. And for people that are thinking, well, I can't lose those 10 minutes. I have deadlines. You need to look at the long game over the course of a day, week or month. If you're not taking those breaks and you're not recharging your Going to burn out. And you're actually going to get way less done and be way less productive because you're not stopping. It's no different than a race car in a race. They don't just race around the track for four hours, they take these things called pitstops. There's a reason they have those because the car will overheat the engine will burn out, the tires will burn out, they have to change those things. So you really have to look at your health sitting at your workstation the same way for the sake of the quality of the work.

Walter Murch 31:27

Yeah two things about the standing desk. One of them is I was at a department store a number of years ago and you know, when you go in the ground floor of a department store, it's the perfume section. And you have all of these ladies who are trying to sell you perfume and they're standing all day and I I kind of walked around and peach sort of around back of where they're standing at the desk and many of them have Hidden a little stool footstool probably 12 inches, maybe 10 inches tall. And they alternate putting one foot on this tool every 10 minutes and then another, the other foot on this stool so that what this does is rotate your lower back so that you don't get that concavity and your lower back it by putting one foot up, it pushes your lower back out and keeps it from getting sprung in the wrong direction. So that's something I would recommend, just get a little footstool. And if you're going to stand for, you know, extended periods of time, alternate one foot up one foot down, depending, you know, left and right, left and right. The other thing is get a wrist rest, no any of those general type things that we use And put it on the front of the desk or the lip of the desk. And if it's at the right height, which in my case, the edge of the desk is about 44 and a half inches, that means I can lean on this risk breast. It says, No soft gel type thing. But that also takes the weight off of my feet so that all of my hundred and 80 pounds is not coming down on my feet all the time because of the stool. And also, it's kind of like leaning up to the bar, you know, you're you're going to the bar to have a drink and you lean on the bar. This is the same thing that part of the time when I'm standing, I'm also leaning on the desk to sort of triangulate the forces that are at play. And one other thing about the lymphatic system that I was excited to read just a couple of weeks ago is that there's been a huge breakthrough in understanding something that was missed about the physiology of the body, which is the lymphatic system is connected through a tube that nobody even knew was there. This was just discovered, like in June of this year, that connects the lymphatic system of the body with the with the brain so that in addition to cleaning out the body, it's also the lymphatic system is, as you said, sucking out the crap out of the collects inside our brain. And the amazing thing about it is that by the end of the 19th century, we thought we had the physiology of the body down and sort of through all of the 20th century, the physiology of the body was known that you know, the plumbing and the tubes and the pipes and all of that. So here at the beginning of the 21st century, somebody has made a discovery Basic discovery that was completely on anticipated and is is turning all kinds of analysis of Alzheimer's disease, which basically is crap in the brain that isn't getting flushed out. And now they're thinking of Alzheimer's. Not necessarily neurologically anymore, but purely mechanical. Just it's a plumbing issue. It's getting that stuff out of there that Alzheimer's is partly the result they are now thinking of improper lymphatic flushing out of stuff in the brain. And once it starts to accumulate, it's just like algae in a pond, it just starts to accumulate even more.

Zack Arnold 35:40

My sincerest apologies for the interruption in the middle of this interview, but if you are a content creator, or you work in the entertainment industry, not only is the following promo, not an interruption, but listening has the potential to change your life. Because collaborating with ever cast is that powerful. Here's a brief excerpt from a recent interview that I did with ever cast co founders, Brad Thomas, and a award winning editor Roger Barton.

Roger 36:02

Living this lifestyle of a feature film editor has really had an impact on me. So I was really looking for something to push back against all of these lifestyle infringement that are imposed on us both by schedules and expectations. When you guys demoed ever cast for me that first time my jaw hit the floor, I'm like, Oh my god, this is what I've been waiting for. for a decade. I also

Unknown Speaker 36:25

had the same reaction when I first saw ever cast to words came to mind game changer. Our goal, honestly, is to become the zoom for creatives, whatever it is, you're streaming, whether it's editorial, visual effects, Pro Tools for music composition, LIVE SHOT cameras, it's consistent audio, video, lip sync, always stays in sync, whether you're in a live session where you're getting that feedback immediately, or you can't get it immediately. So you record the session and you can share those clips with people on the production team where there's no room for any confusion. It's like this is exactly what the director wants. This is

Roger 36:56

exactly what the producer wants. What matters most to me is it makes the entire process more efficient, which then translates to us as creatives who spend way too much time in front of computers, we get to shut it down, and we get to go spend time with our friends and family.

Zack Arnold 37:10

The biggest complaint and I'm sure you guys have heard this many, many times. This looks amazing. I just can't afford it. Tesla had to release the Model S before they released the model three. So by the end of the year, we are going to be releasing a sub $200 version amount of ever cast for the freelancer in indie creatives. Anyone who is a professional video creator

Roger 37:31

outside of Hollywood, I think what we've learned over the last few months is that this technology can translate to better lives for all of us that give us more flexibility and control while still maintaining the creativity, the creative momentum and the quality of work.

Zack Arnold 37:46

I cannot stress this enough ever cast is changing the way that we collaborate. If you value your craft your well being and spending quality time with the ones you love, ever cast now makes that possible for you and me to listen to the fullest interview and learn about the amazing potential that ever cast has to change the way that you work and live, visit optimize slash ever cast. Now back to today's interview.

Zack Arnold 38:10

Yeah, well, it's funny that you brought this up actually, this is completely tangential to where I was going. But I've been reading about that as well and reading about Alzheimer's and brains, you know, just kind of the way they function. And an alternate way to look at all times that I've heard a lot is that it's starting to be called type three diabetes. That's one thing that I've read but as far as the the lymphatic system for the brain, this is a an amazing discovery. Because yes, until very recently, there was no quote unquote, lymphatic system to clean out the brain. But what scientists had found and I had seen this talked about in a TED talk, and the reason why sleep is so important, is they actually found by doing MRIs of the brain while people were sleeping, they were seeing that your cerebral spinal fluid, your CSF was actually circulating through the brain and flushing out all of the crap. So it's almost like you're seeing SF was your lymphatic system. But now that they're finding, there is a connection between the two. I mean, they're, they're gonna be entire fields of science that come out of that. So that, to me is absolutely amazing. But the one thing I want to go back to real quick is and I love that you brought this up about making sure that you don't just stand in one position and having these little tools, I have an entire arsenal of tools that I have sitting around my desk at any given time for the very specific reason that you said. And I'll kind of list them off and in the show notes for the episode I'll have links to every single product. But my list is I have an apple box, which would do the same thing that this tool does. So I can have one leg up at a time and I can alternate back and forth. I have a lacrosse ball that I can use to roll under the arches of my feet, roll the heels out and just kind of work some of the stress out on the feet. And I'm able to do that because I don't wear traditional shoes when I stand and actually standing with any type of positive heel. And when I say that like think think if you were standing at your desk in high heels, obviously that's going to be Really bad for your body for your calves for your lower back, and a much less exaggerated way you're doing the same thing if you're standing in tennis shoes or basketball shoes, whatever it is, you have a positive heel which is actually aligning your joints in your body in an improper way that it's not meant to so I spent years trying to eradicate chronic pain issues even while I was standing and people think oh well I've lower back pains when I sit so if I stand all the pain goes away and you're just moving all the problems. So I decided that I was going to wear minimal shoes and I now wear the five finger vibrams which are first of all a great conversation starter because everybody's like, Oh cool, look at your shoes, I could see your toes. But they don't realize that there's a very scientific reason that I wear them so I have no heel whatsoever and I can use a lacrosse ball without having to take my shoes off. But the other tools that are now absolutely essential that I have right next to my desk within foots reach. The first one is I have a half a foam roller. So if anybody is used a phone with Before for a myofascial release either at the gym or doing physical therapy, imagine it's cut in half. And what you can do is you can take one foot at a time and you can put your other foot in front of it and you can stretch out your calves and your Achilles tendon, because that's where chronic shortening happens is in your tendons, which is why you can have heel pain and lower leg pain. If you're standing with a positive heel and it's just the most amazing stretch and like, Oh my God, this feels so good. And it's like $7 so I'll put a link to it. It's seven bucks on Amazon. I have that right next to where I stand so I can just sidestep, do the half foam roller stretch out the toes, just up the calves and the heel. But the other game changer and this is a recent find is I've spent years trying to find the perfect anti fatigue mat and there really isn't one because they're all just cushions. I've gone through anti fatigue mats. I've gone through chest mats I've done yoga mats. I've tried carpets, I've tried foam mats and none of them really seem to do anything but I I discovered this thing called the top on Matt, it's t o p O. And if you want to learn more about it, you can just go to fitness and post comm slash taco. But it's basically an anti fatigue mat, but it has different levels of terrain. So you can prop your feet up prop your feet down, you there's like a little ball in the middle. So you can roll out your arches even without a lacrosse ball. And what I find is that it really encourages movement because you just want to fidget. You want to stand on one of the ridges and you want to put your foot back and put your foot forwards. And that to me is an absolute game changer. And I will no longer stand without this mat. So for anybody that wants to make the transition to standing, this is really the tool that you have to have in your arsenal. And until a month ago, I didn't have this to recommend because it's a brand new product. It just came out recently. But now anybody that stands I say get the taco mat because I absolutely love it and can't live without it. But you have to have this arsenal of tools, because you can't just stand in one position right

Zack Arnold 42:59

now, what I want to transition to is we've been talking so much about activity but I want to talk a little bit about food because what you eat and the choices of the the material that you put inside your body it's not just oh well you know i want to be fat or I don't want to be fat because people think of food as well do I want to look good or do I not want to look good but I look at food as fuel and I think that I want the cleanest you know least processed fuel to make sure that my brain functions and fires in an optimal level. So what how do you approach diet and food when you're going to be on a project and you know that you have to be clear

Walter Murch 43:35

Well, I mean, just in terms of thinking of food and fuel, if you if you think of a certain kind of lamp, this burning improper kind of fuel and the the wick of the lamp isn't well designed. What what happens is you get guttering and you get smoke and a little bit of light and if a lamp is well designed, you get clean burning flame with no smoke and lots of light. And that's the same thing that we are, we are a lamp, when we eat food, it does fuel it gets burned within us. And if the fuel is wrong, it's the same thing that happens with that lamp. There's the equivalent of smoke, which is just all the junk and it's usually from a highly refined carbohydrates, sugars and other things that you know produce this excess smoke as the result of the combustion. So, you know, he don't eat sugar, just stay away from sugar and try to not eat those the craft services glazed doughnuts and all that kind of stuff that's very seductive because there it is, you know, and it gives you this little rush initially, but in both the medium and long term, it's deadly for you. I don't eat dinner. are very, very little, you know, inevitably I have to because of social obligations and stuff, but generally I try to get away with just eating breakfast and lunch and coasting through the through the evening. So, I mean, that's a personal thing, and everyone's different. But that's, that's one of my solutions to the to the problem.

Zack Arnold 45:25

It's funny because I actually do the same thing. A lot. I thought I was the only one but in, you know, stinking social obligation, so I can totally relate to that. But a lot of times, if I met the office late, they're nice enough to get us lunch and dinner every day. And part of that is they're being nice and part of it is they want to make sure that we never leave and go out somewhere. But there'll be like, oh, what do you want for dinner? I'm like, Oh, I'm good. And like, really you but but you need dinner. You're gonna be here late. I'm like, No, really. I'm, I'm good. I've got you know, I've got some some carrots and hummus or whatever.

Walter Murch 45:54

I can't tell you how many times I've said those exact words.

Zack Arnold 45:57

So yeah, people just don't really understand how that's awesome. But if you're you're putting clean burning fuel into your body, it burns more efficiently. And you can go hours and hours without really needing to eat much. But if you're a sugar burner, you constantly have to feed the fire every two to three hours. And it just never ends. And one thing that I love that you use the lamp analogy and the to me, you're talking about how it's not going to burn efficiently and there's going to be smoke but the most important thing, the connection that people have to make is if that isn't made properly and you're not feeding at the proper fuel, what ends up happening is the lamp burns out. And burnout is a huge epidemic in the post production industry and frankly, just throughout our culture in our society right now. So that to me is is the the end result of deciding that you're not going to focus on the proper fuel is burnout. And I actually have an entire series that I've written about burnout, my personal experience with burnout because I I'm a self proclaimed and very vocal workaholic and I've been through burnout many times times and it was actually after my first experience with burnout, that I read this passage and behind the scene and said, this is where I need to start, I need to focus on treating myself like a Ferrari and not a Ford Pinto. And it was that passage that kind of got that idea started. But it was really because I needed to avoid burnout. And I've still had those experiences, but they're much fewer and far between and the recovery time is much faster. But food is really one of those kind of force multipliers where if that's done improperly, it's going to affect everything else. And the other one that to me is the number one force multiplier and the thing that is going to dictate whether or not you're going to survive the marathon of your project is sleep. And I've written a very detailed post about my entire routine for sleep, my philosophy of sleep, why prioritize it number one, so how do you approach sleep?

Walter Murch 47:51

The best way is to be working into the happy in your work and to look forward to working the next day. You know, I don't know I don't seem to have much of a problem with with it when I'm when I'm working when I'm

Zack Arnold 48:07

not working then I do have problems with with sleep just because my agendas start to get mixed up now Do you find that when you're working that to us sleep is just kind of a, an optional thing where well if my mind is going I'll just cut for 2021 hours a day and get a couple hours of sleep and keep going or do you find that you will prioritize sleep just because you see that it's affecting the way that you work and make creative decisions?

Walter Murch 48:33

Yeah, I mean, I'm I'm 72 years old now. So I used to be able, maybe 30 years ago to do you know, 48 hours of work at a time. I can't do that anymore. I if I if I work until three or four in the morning, I really pay for it the next day so I do you know cut off no 14 hours a day is No pushing for me at this point.

Zack Arnold 49:02

Yeah. And that's really what I've done is I've kind of created just my own rules and guidelines where because I have a tendency to go for 1618 hours a day, if I don't stop myself, I just say if I, if I've gone more than 14 hours, I just have to be done. Because I know if I keep going, yes, I'm going to, I'm going to get two hours of work done extra today, but I'm going to most likely lose four hours or next day, either literally because I have to sleep more the end of the next day or just because I'm going through it. This is a corporate concept. It's called presenteeism, there's absenteeism where people miss work because of sickness or ill health. But presenteeism is a concept that's rampant in the corporate world because people are at work, but they're just not functioning. And presenteeism is actually worse than absenteeism. Because you think you're okay and you think you're getting something done, but you're literally getting nothing done and you're just spinning your wheels. And one of the main reasons for this is if you just don't get hired If quality or the high enough quantity asleep, you're just staring at a workstation getting nothing done. So I've just convinced myself to say, Well, I really want to keep working on this one thing until one in the morning. But if I don't go to bed at 10, the rest of the week, I'm going to lose an exponentially more amount of hours because of this decision. And that's kind of what keeps me with a very disciplined schedule. Yeah,

Walter Murch 50:22

exactly. You know, the other stuff that we talked about earlier, which is when you're sleeping, that's when all of the junk in your whole body or particularly your brain can get cleaned out. And if you don't sleep, if you don't get the right kind of sleep, that stuff tends to build up. And you know, sleep deprivation is something the CIA uses to torture people with. And for good reason, we don't want to torture ourselves. So to produce the same results,

Zack Arnold 50:55

so what I would like to do now is transition a little bit to your pretty well known as kind of being a barometer for where the industry is going, as far as technology where you'll be the first to adopt certain technologies, whether it's Final Cut Pro or now you're encouraging people to use Adobe Premiere and I'm firmly in that camp as well love Adobe Premiere, I don't have a choice working in television where I work in a team, so they just dictate, this is what you're going to be using. So I don't have the ability to say this is what I'd like to use on my next project. But I'm a huge fan of Adobe Premiere. I don't want to go into any of the technology at all because anybody can go online and find your feelings about the technology. But being somebody that really is part of the trendsetting, and has been around long enough to really see this industry from the days of film, to the days of digital and beyond digital now. How have you seen the cultural shift change over the last 40 years as far as the number of hours in the day the amount required by an editor to do whether it's editing or We're now doing all these other tasks as far as sound mixing on the fly and visual effects and all these other things. What have you seen just because to me, what's really interesting is the culture of our industry. I don't focus on the technology too much, but the culture of the amount of hours we're expected to work and what we're expected to do. Can you kind of walk through how you've seen things change from the days of film to today?

Walter Murch 52:22

Well, on the basic big picture level, I don't think it's any difference. we're expected to do more now in the time available, because the tools are there to allow us to do it. But you know, there's a famous story, I think it was at Universal Studios. This is like 40 years ago, and there was some terrible deadline and they were throwing as many people on the problem as they could and people were working 1620 hours a day to meet the deadline. And finally, the person responsible on the film went to the head of post production and universal and said we, you know, we can't Keep going on like this. The The guys are dropping like flies. And the answer was get more flies. You know that attitude of people are just, you know, work people as hard as possible. If they drop, get rid of them, get somebody in to replace them. That hasn't changed. You know, you go from one place to another, it all depends on the mood of the of the project and who's in control of it. But the the issues that we're talking about long working hours deadlines, that that part, I don't think that's changed.

Zack Arnold 53:42

Well, I'm glad that you said that because I think that people will start to convince themselves once they kind of get into it, and they're in the trenches saying, well, this is just the worst it's ever been and people didn't used to work this way. And you know, technology's made this so much worse and I think it is important for them to Hear, this is just kind of the way that it is. And I think that once you are able to accept that, then you can deal with the issue because trying to deny the issue and saying this is inhuman, and nobody used to do this. And now you want me to do visual effects and you want me to edit the the dialogue and the effects and the backgrounds and the music. People never used to do that. And if there's anybody that knows about doing at all, it's you because you've done your own mixes. Well. Yeah,

Walter Murch 54:26

I mean, the point that you just made, which I made earlier, which is the thing that's different is that the multitasking aspect, which is now enabled by the very nature of the technology that we're working, when I was first beginning to do this in the late 60s, you know, you had the you edit the picture and you edited the dialogue track, and that was basically it. Maybe if you were lucky enough to get a camera scene back you can have a music track as well. If you really arrange things complicated Lee, and gotten rid of one of the pictures screens, you could have a picture head on three soundtracks. But, you know, that was a very crude way of doing no dialogue, music and sound effects. And it was very complicated to do that, given the mechanical nature of what we were doing. Now, you know, you don't have that it's all laid out in front of you in whatever system you're using. You can do the visual effects up to a certain point of complexity, you can do the music editing, you can do the dialogue editing, as well as the picture editing so that that part has, has compensated for the fact that certain mechanical things now we don't have to worry about anymore. We don't have to reconstitute daily roles anymore. that's taken care of so while since you don't have to do that. You can do this instead. So know the Lord give us in the Lord taketh away, you know the amount of work that has to be done to meet the deadlines and to get the creative idea across. I don't think that's, that's changed.

Zack Arnold 56:16

Yeah. And that's really what technology does is you say, Oh, well, we're going to be able to do these things so much faster. So we're gonna have more free time. And it's like, no, you're just gonna fill up that with more things to do.

Walter Murch 56:25

I mean, but that's true. You know, if when a sewing machine was invented, you know, 200 and plus years ago, if people had just done on the sewing machine, what they used to do by hand, they would have worked for half an hour a day and then going home. But that isn't the way it works. You know, here's the sewing machine. Now we can do this. Now you can do twice as many things and you can do more complicated embroidery. And now there's competition between the various sweatshops. How many are they turning out while we can can we turn off 10% more When can we make it look better than they do? And so you in the end, the sweatshop is called a sweatshop for a reason. And that's, you know, to a certain extent, that's the world we live in as well.

Zack Arnold 57:14

Yeah, I don't think that there. There are certainly a lot of analogies between the idea that the sweatshop and what I think a lot of editors feel they do, especially in reality, where they just have these giant bullpens of editors and assistants and story editors just cranking away and doing all their logging. But I want to go back a second again to this idea of doing so many different tasks, and being expected to do so much more. Do you feel that because editing is now not just picture editing and dialogue editing, there's so many other aspects to it. Do you feel that this is kind of diluting the idea of really being a specialist and a storyteller, or do you think that it is just now an accepted part of being an editor and you should be a little bit more master of all trades because I will have people email me a lot Say, should I just learn editing? Or should I learn all these other tools and tricks and pieces of software? And where do I start? So if you if you want to say to yourself, I am an editor, what does that mean to you today, given the technology? Yeah, I mean, I agree with

Walter Murch 58:15

the second part of that. I think they're always telling stories. And you you should get involved in all of these things that makes you a better artists to help to get your storytelling across as effectively as possible. This also goes back to the foundation when we started zoetrope studios, Francis Coppola, George Lucas and me back in the late 60s, we were trying on a professional level to do what we had gotten really used to in film school, which was this multitasking aspect and why can't the sound editor also be the recording mixer. The sound editor put the tracks together, why can't that person mix them because that person knows how they should sound. And the technology at that time was was beginning to get to a place, which enabled that to happen. It couldn't have happened 10 years earlier. But in the 50s, the rerecording technology was so arcane and particular and complicated that you didn't you had to have two different people doing it, but by the late 60s, early 70s. And certainly by the late 70s, the beginning of automation the those lines started to get really bored and clearly with digitization. The blurring is almost complete now and you know, we're now we can edit, we can be on the set editing the material as it gets shot, and doing the backlog editing and The same time and also, it's, it's crazy. But that's, that's the world that we live in. And I think it's only going to get more in that direction.

Zack Arnold 1:00:11

I am very, very glad that you said that because I think that a lot of people are very resistant. And I see this on social media and Facebook all the time. Or people will say, I'm an editor, I should not be doing, you know, having to do these visual effects shots. And they're asking me to build entire backgrounds. And what do you mean, I have to edit my music, that's a music editors job. And I feel like we need to remove that resistance and realize that at the end of the day, doing these things is still going to make us a better editor. And I believe that there's a middle ground where if you decide you know what, I'm going to take 25% of my day and I'm going to learn premiere, I'm going to take 25% of my day and learn After Effects 25 learning Pro Tools and other 25 learning this program or that program. If you're splitting your time that much, you're never going to be as good at one of those skills at the same time. You Have to embrace the holistic approach of realizing that this is now what's expected of us. And you have to have some level of versatility. And I've said that my one level of absolute expertise is going to be storytelling and working in the timeline and doing what I can do within my avid timeline or my premiere timeline, which to me means that I need to be an absolute expert at cutting dialogue and cutting story, but also adding backgrounds and building a realistic sound environment and being very good at editing my music. Those are the three where I hone those craft as specifically as possible. The areas where I have some level where I can be helpful, I can do some basic compositing, I can do after effects. I can do some motion graphic design, color correction, I really have very little skills whatsoever, but I know just barely enough that I can kind of help out when it comes to the storytelling aspect, the dialogue, the sound and the backgrounds and doing the music. Those are just expected to me at this point, and you should be really good at those and you have to embrace them. But the funny thing is, and I don't know how much you can speak to this, but our own union doesn't embrace this, and I will actually be castigated. And I've worked on jobs, where the union has come in and put posters on the wall. And it says, You should not be editing sound effects. You should not be editing your own music. And I'm thinking, you guys are supposed to be protecting us. But you're actually telling me not to do the things that make me better at what I do. So have you have you kind of seen this shift as well? Sure.

Walter Murch 1:02:31

I remember, when we graduated from film school in the mid 60s, what we found in Hollywood at the time was the same kind of division. If you cut sound effects, you can't mix it. And if you're cut picture, you can't cut sound effects. And that was one of the reasons we moved to San Francisco is that we were able to then just geographically get out of that environment. And the situation in in San Francisco was that It was kind of anyone in post production, they just didn't concentrate on it. It was like, okay, you're in post production. So we were able to migrate from task to task without worrying about these divisions. And you know, that's been reflected over the developments of the last 40 plus years. It's a much more open system now than it was 40 years ago. But there are still these divisions. But I don't know the wind is blowing so strong in the in the direction of migration from one platform to another technology, technologically speaking, but I in the end, I don't think there's any way to resist it.

Zack Arnold 1:03:42

Yeah. And the one thing that I really want to clarify too, because I'll get this pushback, especially from people that are music editors and sound designers, they'll say, but I'm a specialist and this is what I do all day long. And I'll say absolutely, there's no way that I would ever send out a finished cut for broadcast or put In the theater Intel, it's been through the brain surgeons that know their craft better than I do. But at the same time, they have to understand that no longer can I present a dialogue only assembly to a studio or network, they expect something that's broadcast ready, which means that my temp backgrounds, my temp, sound effects and music editing need to be almost imperceptible. And then you hand it off to the professionals and you go to your mixing, you say, Whoa, oh my god, this is so much better. I love it. So I want to make sure that people understand those parts of the the post production puzzle are absolutely crucial. But you have to be able to do enough at a high enough level that you can convince studio executives and more importantly, test audiences that what they're watching is a finished product until you have the time and the budget to get it to your professional sound designer, sound editors dialogue editors, music editors, composers in

Walter Murch 1:04:55

a minute all you also Yeah, it also depends on the budget of the film and the schedule. On how many people are getting hired to do the job. If you're working on a film with many people in post production, then the work can be apportioned out if you're working on a project where there's just you and the director, the documentary did particle fever a couple of years ago, it was just I was it. You know, it's just me and the director. So I have to do all of these other things, as well.

Zack Arnold 1:05:27

Yeah. I'm glad that you brought up the word documentary, because that's literally where I want it to go to. Next is I know that you're working on a documentary film now. And that is a completely different world than doing scripted. But if you can talk a little bit about the project that you're working on now, because it sounds pretty fascinating.

Walter Murch 1:05:43

Yeah, it's a feature documentary about a CIA coup in 1953. That erased democracy in Iran and installed the dictatorship of the Shah in order to keep The oil flowing the democratic government in Iran, and in the early 50s that nationalized the oil in Iran, which at that time was like a No, no, from the point of view of the big oil companies. And so there was fulminations about what to do. And the response was this coup that precipitated the 25 year reign of the Shah of Iran, which became more and more despotic. And then the pendulum swung at the end of that in 1979, with the Islamic Republic. So, you know, we're still dealing with the repercussions of something that got started, you know, over 6060 years ago. So this is about what happened to begin that the pendulum swinging.

Zack Arnold 1:06:52

And do you find that working on documentaries that your process is that terribly different than if you're working on scripted

Walter Murch 1:06:59

at a certain point The it's identical, you know, you have the film in front of you, and you're trying to tell it in the most effective, clear, emotional way in the shortest time possible. getting to that point those are different because in a theatrical film shot under the usual circumstances, for every line of dialogue in the script, you have 50 different readings of that line using eight or 12 different camera positions. And your job as an editor is to, along with the director, obviously, to decide what combination of readings and interpretations are going to be the best. And the possibilities obviously expand exponentially. In the documentary, usually something only happens once. If you're lucky, you might have that event covered by two cameras or more depending, but you then have to There is this singularity. And you have to find ways of working that singularity and to tell the story in in the most effective way. Usually there's much more footage on a documentary than there is on a feature of the particle fever and 500 hours of material. So yes, we have seen we have single events, things that happen only once. On the other hand, we have lots of events. And so you have to choose your events carefully, and decide what style of editing is going to allow all of these things to live with each other. And sometimes that style of is compared to the way we're using on theatrical features. Sometimes the style of documentaries is slightly chaotic, because you're not always in control of everything. When you're shooting. And by the great thing about that is coping with these unusual sometimes provokes you to making discoveries about how to put films together. That would not happen if you were shooting or working with material that was more conventionally shot

Zack Arnold 1:09:12

well, and it sounds like what you're talking about, as a documentary editors, you're doing something that many would call writing. And this is, this is a very controversial topic that came up in a recent episode where we were talking about the role of the editor and the perception of the editor in our culture, and how a lot of times you're actually doing a lot of the writing. But we're considered below the line. And I will put a link to the episode that I had reached recently with this entire conversation about the concept of being below the line and how it's become much more than an accounting term. And it's almost become a social status in a way. So what I want to be very respectful of your time and I know you have to go but before I lose you What are your thoughts about the idea that an editor is considered below the line?

Walter Murch 1:09:57

Well, I mean, there are historical reasons for that. Because initially, Film Editing was not called Film Editing. This is back, you know, 100 years ago, it was there were a lot of women doing it because it was seen to be a kind of sewing. It was like, no tapestry work. And women are good at that. It was also seen, like library work, which all of these things are true even today. But, you know, I think we're still dealing with the historical legacy of that whether it will ever change. No, I don't know. But it's, you know, that's part of when you when you sign on to be an editor, you kind of have to realize that's, that's, you know, you're you have this incredibly privileged position to be the person who, finally what comes out of your hands is what is going to be finally the thing that is seen and heard by the by the audience and None of the other crafts really have that amount of control, whether you're the cinematographer or the costume designer or the actors, production designers, the final product is not so much. They don't have so much control over the final product, whereas a film editor on a very basic frame level does and also is somebody who collaborating with the director and producers can shape the structure of the piece, sometimes in very important basic wage, which, as you pointed out, are very akin to writing.

Zack Arnold 1:11:41

So then it basically what it sounds like what you're saying, I'm definitely not going to put words into your mouth. But the way that I'm synthesizing it is that given the amount of influence that we have, you would agree that we do, despite the politics belong in the same category as a writer, a director or a producer or even a composer. And it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for an editor to be considered below the line.

Walter Murch 1:12:04

Yeah, I think, you know, give or take a few semi colons,

Unknown Speaker 1:12:08

I would agree with that. And do you see any way that that can be changed?

Walter Murch 1:12:15

I don't know. I don't know what the what the ways to do that our architecture of the economic architecture of the way films are put together is fairly rigid. But you know, amazing things have happened and anything is anything is possible.

Zack Arnold 1:12:32

Well, along the lines of anything being possible, just the fact that we've had the opportunity to have this conversation, to me shows that anything is indeed possible because I was a snot nosed kid that didn't know anything about editing and went out of my way and found Walter Murcia on Yahoo. People search calm and got his address and wrote him a letter and a decade later here we are having a conversation via Skype. So this has just been an absolute tremendous pleasure and inspiration to me, and I can't Not thank you enough for being a part of this and lending your ear to the fitness and post movement.

Walter Murch 1:13:04

Yeah, I just like to add one thing, which is the another part of what we do is it has a pulse to it, meaning you're working on a film for, let's say, a year, you're working on with great intensity, and then it stops. And you have a period after that. Who knows how long it can be where you don't know what's next. And you have to come down from this high state of agitation of working on the film to let's call it a more normal stage. And that period is one which can last anywhere from 10 days to 10 weeks, depending on you and the project and other things. It's a period that I would compare to being seasick. The as an editor What we're used to is every day, we come in, we work and material is coming from the set, or from the visual effects department or somewhere. And we are putting it into a coherent relationship with everything else in the project. And that is affecting what the project is. And vice versa. The project affects the material that we're adding. But the point is that we are making things as coherent as possible. On a daily basis. We're taking things from incoherence to coding to a greater degree of coherence. When you stop working, there's a kind of rebound effect. Where because your daily experience is of increasing coherence when you stop working, what happens is that you feel that everything is becoming incoherent. And this is just a natural effect. It's something that in neurology that's called the waterfall effect. If you look at a waterfall for 30 seconds, and then Avert your gaze to the wall on the other side of the wall will seem to be moving in the opposite direction to the waterfall. So there's a kind of as our daily experience is of coherence in the editing room when that stops suddenly you look at the wall you come home you sit on the sofa, you look at the wall, and I'm just being metaphorical here. You things will seem to be unlocking themselves. And when I first experienced this, it was very disorienting because I thought, What's happening? Is it me? Or am I going crazy? I learned over time that no, this is just a natural rebound effect and you have to like seasickness. You just have to endure it while the ship no wait for the ship to get into port and you're not You know, the this is a natural part of the of the process. But so I think I would also say to the people listening to this podcast that this is something that you can expect in one form or another. The only thing to do about it is to just know that it's natural. And to kind of hold on to things while this process don't make any big decisions during this period, and eventually it will ease off and then you can decide many things along which what what should I do next?

Zack Arnold 1:16:40

Yeah, and another thing that comes from this that I'm so glad you brought this up, because it was a one thing on my list of things I was hoping to hit that I didn't so it's almost like you're reading my notes. It's creepy. But there's this thing that I termed the hiatus flu, right where you push, you push, you push, you push, and then the day you lock picture, which actually is a very soft term nowadays. You're actually off payroll and you're done. You get completely and totally sick or leveled for days. This is something that I talked to Alan Bell about a lot where he has the same experience where he'll be on a giant tentpole film for two years. And then for two weeks, he's just laid out. And I love the the idea of being seasick. And the most important thing that I took from that is don't make decisions. Because if you're seasick, you're saying, I am never going on a boat again, ever, right? But then you're fine again, and a week later, like, hey, let's go out on the water. Right? If there's nothing wrong with the water, it's just your perception of the experience. And I know many people that at the end of a project, say, Oh, my God, I have to find a new career path. I just can't do this anymore. And I'm not immune to this. I've been through this many times where I've been done and said, I just I can't put myself through this anymore. But that's when I start to really focus again on my health and making sure that I'm keeping a regular pace so that when that moment does hit, it doesn't hit me nearly as severely because I'm keeping the same ritual. And things that I'm doing with my health on a daily basis. So the hiatus flu doesn't hit me as hard. The seasickness doesn't hit me as hard. And I don't feel the sense of Oh my God, I'm just I'm going to sell insurance for the rest of my life because I can never do this again. You know? So if somebody is listening to this that's fairly young, or they're not terribly familiar with the absolute breadth of work that you've done to really change this industry and change the way that people look at film, where do people start if they really want to jump into the best works that you've done and learn more about you and your philosophy of editing?

Walter Murch 1:18:34

I don't know go search online, I guess. Those those books and you know, there's a there's a bunch of lectures that I've given that are that are online, and

Walter Murch 1:18:50

good luck.

Zack Arnold 1:18:52

Well, my recommendation for anybody that this is a required text when I teach at USC is in the blink of an eye, because it's it's very sustained. And it's a really good introduction, where it's a fairly thin book, that's, you know, it's not something that you're like, Oh my god, I'm never gonna get through this. It's a really easy read, but it's very insightful. And there are going to be at least 20 light bulbs that go off in your head. So if you if you have not read in the blink of an eye, and you have any inspiration whatsoever, of becoming an editor, that's the place to start. And that's where I will send people in all I have a link for it in the show notes. But it's very, very easy to find. But thank you so so much for your time. I greatly appreciate it. And I know that my listeners will appreciate it immensely as well. Okay. So thank you so much, Walter. Thank you. All right. Have a good day. Bye. Thank you for listening to this episode of The optimize yourself podcast to access the show notes for this and all previous episodes, as well as to subscribe so you don't miss future interviews just like this one. Please visit optimize slash podcast. And a special thanks to our sponsors ever cast and arrow driven for making today. Interview possible to learn more about how to collaborate remotely without missing a frame. And to get your real time demo of ever Cath in action, visit, optimize slash ever cast. And to learn more about air go driven and my favorite product for standing workstations, the towball Matt, stick around, they're coming up next. Now if today's interview inspires you to take the next step towards a more fulfilling career path that not only aligns you with projects that you are passionate about, but also includes some semblance of work life balance, and especially if you would like support mentorship and community to help you turn those goals into reality. Well, then you and I need to talk because early September I am opening Fall Enrollment for my optimizer coaching and mentorship program, and it sounds like you might be the perfect fit. Over the last three years I have now worked with well over 100 students and I have seen stunning transformations. But the biggest obstacle for most of you has been that the program was just too expensive or require too much time. Luckily, those are no longer problems because I've made the program a lot more affordable and a lot less time intensive for those who have busy lives, but still need an extra push to make whatever the next major transition is in your life. If you would like to learn more and get on the waitlist to be the first to have access to the application when it becomes available, please visit optimize slash optimizer. Thank you for listening, stay safe, healthy and sane. And be well. This episode was made possible for you by you guessed it airgo driven the creators of the Toko mat, my number one recommended product if you're interested in moving more and not having sore feet, your height adjustable or standing workstation. Almost every new person that I meet in this industry starts our conversation with Hey, I got a total map because of you. It's changed my life. Thank you. Listen, standing desks are only great if you're actually standing well. Otherwise you're just fighting fatigue and chronic pain. Not like any other anti fatigue mat. The Toko is scientifically proven to help you move more throughout your day, which helps reduce discomfort and also increases your focus and your productivity. I'm literally standing on one as I read this, and I don't go to a single job without it. And if you're smaller and concerned, the topo map might be too big, or you simply don't have the floor space. Well, there's a turbo mini for that. To learn more visit, optimize slash turbo that's t o p o

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Guest Bio:

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Walter Murch

Walter Scott Murch (born July 12, 1943) is an American film editor, director, writer and sound designer. With a career stretching back to 1969, including work on THX1138, 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.”

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared by Debby Germino and published by Glen McNiel.

The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).

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Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”