What do you do when you’re sitting in the same room with quite possibly the most legendary filmmakers of all time? Well, you listen to every word… Every word.
Why do we make films? It would be so much easier not to. The poet Charles Simic said: “I write because I want every woman in the world to fall in love with me.” Whether or not we say it out loud (or even admit it to ourselves), recognition is always on our radar. As it should be.
Forty years ago, legendary editor Walter Murch was working late one night on a film for Francis Ford Coppola called The Conversation (starring Gene Hackman). Like always, Murch was going back and forth through the footage, over and over again, looking to make the perfect cuts. Murch cuts intuitively, in real time. He never goes frame by frame. As the night went on, Murch started to notice something weird happening: Every time he made a cut, it seemed to line up perfectly with Gene Hackman blinking. “I began to get the sense that there was some collaboration going on between myself and…Gene Hackman,” Murch told Radiolab during an interview in 2009. What Murch had stumbled upon wasn’t just a useful editing technique; it was theory for why film editing works.
When we asked Robert Legato about his success rate at achieving the impossible, he didn’t immediately answer the question. He’d never thought about it. This is the man responsible for the visual effects in films like Apollo 13, Titanic, Avatar, and The Jungle Book. A man fluent in the impossible. And yet overcoming it had rarely occurred to him. It’s the exact mind-set, we soon realized, that makes Robert Legato Robert Legato.