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Ken Burns on his filmmaking influences and first love of history

by Todd VanDerWerff.


Since he began his career in the early ’80s with his Oscar-nominated documentary Brooklyn BridgeKen Burns has been one of the most prolific and critically acclaimed documentarians in U.S. history. That’s fitting, as the man’s great subject is the scope of the nation’s backstory, the ways that events both major and minor draw us together as Americans—or perhaps push us apart.

Though best known for his PBS miniseries, like The Civil War, Baseball, and The War, Burns has also made a number of smaller films and projects, including The Address, a short feature about students with learning disabilities working to memorize the Gettysburg Address. Burns sat down with The A.V. Club at January’s Television Critics Association press tour to talk about the notable firsts in his career, including how he uses techniques from feature filmmaking to liven up still photographs, how he came to American history as his subject matter, and how one of his first contributions came from a legendary political boss.

Read the rest of this article from AV Club.

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  • Chuck Scott April 24, 2014, 8:22 AM

    I always find it strange that Burns never mentions the NFB film City of Gold as an influence. It was the creator of the Ken Burns effect before Ken Burns even thought about making movies.