Ken Burns

Documentarian, Producer, Writer
Celebrated American documentarian of the 1980s and 90s who gradually amassed a considerable reputation and a devoted audience with a series of reassuringly traditional meditations on Americana. Burns' works are treasure ... Read more »
Born: 07/28/1953 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Filmography

Director (24)

Baseball: The Tenth Inning 1994 - 1995, 1997 - 1998, 2000 - 2001, 2010 - 2011, 2014 - 2015 (TV Show)

Director

Jazz 1994 - 1995, 1997 - 1998, 2000 - 2001, 2014 - 2015 (Tv Show)

Director

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History 1994 - 1995, 1997 - 1998, 2000 - 2001, 2010 - 2011, 2014 - 2015 (Tv Show)

Director

The Dust Bowl 2012 - 2013 (TV Show)

Director

Prohibition 2011 - 2012 (TV Show)

Director

The Central Park Five 2012 (Movie)

(Director)

The National Parks: America's Best Idea 2009 - 2010 (TV Show)

Director

The War 2007 - 2008 (TV Show)

Director

Mark Twain 2002 (Movie)

(Director)

Frank Lloyd Wright 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Director

Baseball 1994 - 1995, 1997 - 1998 (Tv Show)

Director

Frank Lloyd Wright 1996 (Movie)

(Director)

Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Director

Thomas Hart Benton 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Director

The Congress 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Director

Huey Long 1986 (Movie)

(Director)

The Statue of Liberty 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Director

The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)

Director

Brooklyn Bridge (TV Show)

Director

Thomas Jefferson (TV Show)

Director
Producer (14)

Cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies 2014 - 2015 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The Central Park Five 2012 (Movie)

(Executive Producer)

The Central Park Five 2012 (Movie)

(Producer)

Medal of Honor 2008 (Movie)

(Executive Producer)

Mark Twain 2002 (Movie)

(Executive Producer)

Mark Twain 2002 (Movie)

(Producer)

Kurt Russell: Hollywood's Heavy Hitter 1999 - 2000 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Dinah Shore 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

The West 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Executive Producer

Frank Lloyd Wright 1996 (Movie)

(Executive Producer)

Frank Lloyd Wright 1996 (Movie)

(Producer)

Huey Long 1986 (Movie)

(Producer)

Lindbergh (TV Show)

Producer

The Civil War (TV Show)

Executive Producer
Actor (12)

The Late Show With David Letterman 2007, 2009 - 2010, 2012, 2014 (Tv Show)

Guest

Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton As Himself 2013 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

The Simpsons 2011 - 2012 (Tv Show)

Voice

Wordplay 2006 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

Newsradio 1997 - 1998 (Tv Show)

Actor

The Making of Baseball 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

The Making of Gettysburg 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

Gettysburg 1993 (Movie)

Hancock's Aide (Actor)

Alone in the Dark 1982 (Movie)

House Cop (Actor)

Take Off 1977 (Movie)

Father (Actor)
Camera, Film, & Tape (2)

Mark Twain 2002 (Movie)

cinematography (Cinematographer)

Frank Lloyd Wright 1996 (Movie)

cinematography (Cinematographer)
Writer (1)

The Central Park Five 2012 (Movie)

(Screenplay)
Other (2)

Nixon 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Creative Consultant

The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo (TV Show)

Consultant

Biography

Celebrated American documentarian of the 1980s and 90s who gradually amassed a considerable reputation and a devoted audience with a series of reassuringly traditional meditations on Americana. Burns' works are treasure troves of archival materials; he skillfully utilizes period music and footage, photographs, periodicals, and ordinary people's correspondence, the latter often movingly read by seasoned professional actors in a deliberate attempt to get away from a "Great Man" approach to history. Like most non-fiction filmmakers, Burns wears many hats on his projects, variously serving as a writer, cinematographer, editor, and music director in addition to producing and directing. He achieved his apotheosis with "The Civil War" (PBS, 1990), a phenomenally popular 11-hour documentary that won two Emmys and broke all previous ratings records for public TV. The series' companion coffee table book--priced at a hefty $50--sold more than 700,000 copies. The audio version, narrated by Burns, was also a major best-seller. In the final accounting, "The Civil War" became the first documentary to gross over $100 million. Not surprisingly, it has become perennial fundraising programming for public TV stations around the country.

Relationships

Amy Burns

Wife
Frequent contributor to Burns' films separated

Robert Burns

Father
Taught anthropology

Lyla Burns

Mother
Diagnosed with breast cancer c. 1956 died when Burns was 11

Lilly Burns

Daughter
Born c. 1987

Sarah Burns

Daughter
Born c. 1983 pitches for the Walpole Blues, a Walpole, NH little League team

Ric Burns

Brother
Younger

EDUCATION

Hampshire College

Amherst , Massachusetts

Studied under photographer Jerome Leibling

Milestones

2007

Extended his deal with PBS through the year 2022; which calls for him to deliver at least three major new series as well as several smaller-scale documentaries

2006

Directed "The War," a 14-hour documentary about World War II (aired September 2007 on PBS); earned a DGA nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary

2005

Helmed the PBS documentary about heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, "Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson"

2003

Directed the PBS documentary, "Horatio's Drive" about the historic journey of motorist Horatio Nelson Jackson

2001

Directed biographical documentary of "Mark Twain"; screened at Telluride Film Festival; aired on PBS in 2002

2001

Created and directed "Jazz", a 19-hour series for PBS; also served a director of photography

1999

"Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony" aired on PBS (November)

1999

General Motors announced rare 10-year commitment to underwrite several film projects to be directed by Burns (June)

1998

Earned praise for the TV profile of American architecht "Frank Lloyd Wright" (PBS), co-directed with Lynn Novick

1997

Directed and produced the TV documentary "Thomas Jefferson"

1994

Produced, wrote, directed and sshot the nine-part TV documentary "Baseball" (PBS)

1993

Acting debut, "Gettysburg"

1990

Made his signature work, "The Civil War"; debut as musical director

1985

Debut as producer and writer, "The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God" a documentary for PBS (also directed)

1981

Executive produced, directed, shot and edited his first documentary feature, "Brooklyn Bridge"

Bonus Trivia

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Burns' production company, Florentine Films, was named in honor of a teacher he had at Hampshire College who lived in Florence, Massachusetts.

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"If they made equipment from Erector Sets, we'd probably use it," Burns said. "I'm decidedly low-tech. I use the same kinds of cameras and easels and lighting and all that I did when I started. The film, not the equipment, is the thing." - Ken Burns to New York Newsday, Oct. 10, 1993

.

"'The historian Arthur Schlesinger said the problem in our country is too much PLURIBUS and not enough UNUM,' Burns is saying one day over a bowl of chili at Murray's, the local luncheteria. 'If you want to describe my work in a nutshell, it's about UNUM. What is it that makes us cohere? The last 30 years have seen the disentegration of that which brings us together. Every film I've made reminds us of why we should be together. And baseball, like the Civil War, is one of these really clean shots right to the heart of who we are.'" - from "At the Top of His Game" by Christopher Connelly in Premiere, September 1994

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"The root of his vision is not other documentaries, but the movies of John Ford - 'How Green Was My Valley', 'Fort Apache'" - from "At the Top of His Game" by Christopher Connelly in Premiere, September 1994

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