Oscar-Winning editor Walter Murch credits FileMaker Pro as key to his movie-making process

Award winning editor, Walter Murch, best known for his work on films such as Apocolypse Now, Cold Mountain, Jarhead and The Talented Mr. Ripley, gives his first video interview describing his use of FileMaker Pro databases in the making of many of his landmark movies.

Video interview highlights:

• B.C. (Before Computing) index cards were used to capture details of each scene and each shot. Each card was manually numbered, entered into a logbook and the entry was correlated with film stored in large cans. He remembers thinking back in the 70’s, “Someday we’ll be able to have a computer in the editing room, and we won’t have to do this all by hand…it was kind of lusting after something that didn’t exist.”

• In the mid-80’s, Macs arrive in the cutting room and FileMaker followed soon after to greatly improve the information-gathering process. “That’s the nature of a film, that there is a huge amount of information about every shot. How you access that information as quickly as possible, and then derive results from that, can inform how you shoot the film and how you edit the film.”

• FileMaker makes storyboarding of screen captures possible. Images of key moments in a specific shot are gathered, printed and posted to a board in the editing room. The process makes it clear to everyone on the team what the most important actions, expressions or moments are to a particular scene. “FileMaker is the database repository for all of those thousands of photographs that we extract from the film, which are very valuable things for me in editing…”

• As the industry moves to digital, “more film…just increases the information overload. You need a tool of some kind, like FileMaker, to get access to (and) to penetrate through that jungle of information.” Based on his experience, “…if you put the right information in, and you manipulate it to give you the right information out, it can…allow you to predict things later on. It could save millions of dollars ultimately because you’re predicting the future….it’s a limited slice of the future, but it really is a significant one.”

Mr. Murch describes and demonstrates three databases used to organize and manage his film projects:

FileMaker, Inc. (http://www.filemaker.com) develops award-winning database software. Its products include the legendary FileMaker Pro product line for Windows, Mac and the Web, and the new Bento personal database for Mac. FileMaker Pro won 46 awards, more than its next eight competitors combined, from 2003-2007 in the U.S., and a total of 129 awards worldwide during this time. Millions of customers, from individuals to large organizations, rely on FileMaker, Inc. software to manage, analyze and share information. FileMaker, Inc. is a subsidiary of Apple Inc.


  1. Let’s not forget Murch used Final Cut Pro to edit Cold Mountain while shooting in Romania, the first major picture to use FCP. They were able to setup four Macs for the same cost of one Avid workstation.

  2. Interested folks should check out the documentary on the history of film editing called “The Cutting Edge.” Walter Murch was interviewed while editing Cold Mountain in FCP. He still had the wall of 3×5 storyboards along one wall of his studio. Oh, and his workstation is high; he stands while editing.

  3. That’s a very cool video that unfortunately just ends abruptly and sends you to go try to find the rest on FileMaker’s website. Doesn’t even give an exact URL– just an index page. Dissapointing.

  4. FileMaker Pro 9 is a great app, and one I use almost every day. But I have to say it leaves a lot to be desired on the user interface (UI) side. I just can’t believe those guys and gals developing it don’t seem to want to improve it to match the current level of Apple’s own apps. It honestly looks very “Windozian” to me in many respects, in a Windows 95-era sort of way. Or on the Mac side, it looks similar to ClarisWorks 2.1’s database module, which is where I started using it.

    If anyone knows why it has to continue to look so ugly and lack modern UI improvements, please fill us in!

  5. drmacnut, I agree with you on the basic UI stuff. Things like checkboxes and scroll bars just look like they are 10 year old standards.

    My belief is that FileMaker Inc. is focusing on things like Bento and other targeted efforts. There is a long list of outstanding issues that FM developers have been crabbing about. My current gripe is how runtime FM solutions are produced with a non-functional close button. Makes no sense.

    That said, FileMaker’s come a long way, and it’s probably my favorite app of all time.

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