Burns in 2018
Kenneth Lauren Burns
July 29, 1953
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Residence||Walpole, New Hampshire, U.S.|
|Alma mater||Hampshire College|
Amy Stechler Burns(m. 1982–1993)
Julie Deborah Brown(m. 2003)
Kenneth Lauren Burns(born July 29, 1953) is an American filmmaker, known for his style of using archival footage and photographs in documentary films. His widely known documentary series include The Civil War (1990), Baseball (1994), Jazz (2001), The War (2007), The National Parks: America's Best Idea (2009), Prohibition (2011), The Roosevelts (2014), and The Vietnam War (2017). He was also executive producer of both The West (1996, directed by Stephen Ives), and Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies (2015, directed by Barak Goodman).
Baseball is a 1994 American television documentary miniseries created by Ken Burns about the game of baseball. First broadcast on PBS, this was Burns' ninth documentary and won the 1995 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Informational Series.
Jazz is a 2001 documentary miniseries, directed by Ken Burns. It was broadcast on PBS in 2001, and was released on DVD and VHS on January 2, 2001 by the same company. Its chronological and thematic episodes provided a history of jazz, emphasizing innovative composers and musicians and American history. Swing musicians Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington are the central figures. Several episodes discussed the later contributions of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie to bebop, and of Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane to free and cool jazz. Nine episodes surveyed forty-five years (1917–1961), leaving the final episode to cover forty years (1961–2001). The series was produced by Florentine Films in cooperation with the BBC and in association with WETA-TV, Washington.
The National Parks: America's Best Idea is a 2009 documentary film for television, DVD and companion book (ISBN 978-0307268969) by director/producer Ken Burns and producer/writer Dayton Duncan which features the United States National Park system and traces the system's history. The series won two 2010 Emmy Awards for outstanding writing in episode 2 "The Last Refuge", and for outstanding non-fiction series.
Burns' documentaries have earned two Academy Award nominations (each for 1981's Brooklyn Bridge and 1985's Statue Of Liberty) and have won several Emmy Awards, among other honors.
The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, are a set of awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry, given annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), to recognize excellence in cinematic achievements as assessed by the Academy's voting membership. The various category winners are awarded a copy of a golden statuette, officially called the "Academy Award of Merit", although more commonly referred to by its nickname "Oscar". The award was originally sculpted by George Stanley from a design sketch by Cedric Gibbons. AMPAS first presented it in 1929 at a private dinner hosted by Douglas Fairbanks in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
An Emmy Award, or simply Emmy, is an American award that recognizes excellence in the television industry, and is the equivalent of an Academy Award, the Tony Award, and the Grammy Award.
Burns was born on July 29, 1953, in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Lyla Smith (née Tupper) Burns,a biotechnician, and Robert Kyle Burns, at the time a graduate student in cultural anthropology at Columbia University in Manhattan. The documentary filmmaker Ric Burns is his younger brother.
Brooklyn is the most populous borough of New York City, with an estimated 2,648,771 residents in 2017. Named after the Dutch village of Breukelen, it borders the borough of Queens at the western end of Long Island. Brooklyn has several bridge and tunnel connections to the borough of Manhattan across the East River, and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge connects Staten Island. Since 1896, Brooklyn has been coterminous with Kings County, the most populous county in the U.S. state of New York and the second-most densely populated county in the United States, after New York County.
Cultural anthropology is a branch of anthropology focused on the study of cultural variation among humans. It is in contrast to social anthropology, which perceives cultural variation as a subset of the anthropological constant.
Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in Upper Manhattan, New York City. Established in 1754, Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is one of nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence, seven of which belong to the Ivy League. It has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world.
Burns' academic family moved frequently. Among places they called home were Saint-Véran, France; Newark, Delaware; and Ann Arbor where his father taught at the University of Michigan.Burns' mother was found to have breast cancer when he was three and she died when he was 11, a circumstance that he said helped shape his career; he credited his father-in-law, a psychologist, with a significant insight: "He told me that my whole work was an attempt to make people long gone come back alive." Well-read as a child, he absorbed the family encyclopedia, preferring history to fiction.
Saint-Véran is a commune in the Hautes-Alpes department in southeastern France in the Queyras Regional Natural Park.
Newark is a city in New Castle County, Delaware, United States. It is located 12 miles (19 km) west-southwest of Wilmington. According to the 2010 Census, the population of the city is 31,454. Newark is home to the University of Delaware.
Ann Arbor is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan and the county seat of Washtenaw County. The 2010 census recorded its population to be 113,934, making it the sixth largest city in Michigan.
Upon receiving an 8 mm film movie camera for his 17th birthday, he shot a documentary about an Ann Arbor factory. He graduated from Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor in 1971.Turning down reduced tuition at the University of Michigan, he attended Hampshire College, an alternative school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where students are graded through narrative evaluations rather than letter grades and where students create self-directed academic concentrations instead of choosing a traditional major. He worked in a record store to pay his tuition. Studying under photographers Jerome Liebling, Elaine Mayes and others, Burns earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in film studies and design in 1975.
8 mm film is a motion picture film format in which the film strip is eight millimeters wide. It exists in two main versions — the original standard 8 mm film, also known as regular 8 mm, and Super 8. Although both standard 8 mm and Super 8 are 8 mm wide, Super 8 has a larger image area because of its smaller and more widely spaced perforations.
Pioneer High School is a public school in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 2010, Pioneer was listed as a "Silver Medal School" by the U.S. News & World Report.
Hampshire College is a private liberal arts college in Amherst, Massachusetts. It was opened in 1970 as an experiment in alternative education, in association with four other colleges in the Pioneer Valley: Amherst College, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Together they have since been known as the Five Colleges or the Five College Consortium.
In 1976, Burns, Elaine Mayes, and college classmate Roger Sherman founded a production company called Florentine Films in Walpole, New Hampshire. The company's name was borrowed from Mayes' hometown of Florence, Massachusetts. Another Hampshire College student, Buddy Squires, was invited to succeed Mayes as a founding member one year later,.The trio were later joined by a fourth member, Lawrence "Larry" Hott. Hott did not actually matriculate at Hampshire, but worked on films there. Hott had begun his career as an attorney, having attended nearby Western New England Law School.
Roger M. Sherman is an American filmmaker – a cinematographer, director, producer, still photographer, and author best known for his work in documentary cinema. He is a founder of Florentine Films. His most widely recognized documentaries are Alexander Calder (1998), Richard Rogers: The Sweetest Sounds (2001), Don't Divorce the Children (1989), Medal of Honor (2008), The Restaurateur (2010), Zapruder and Stolley: Witness to an Assassination (2011), his upcoming two-hour PBS special, The Search for Israeli Cuisine, The Rhythm of My Soul (2006), and The American Brew (2007). His films have won an Emmy Award, a Peabody Award, and two Academy Award nominations, among other honors.
Walpole is a town in Cheshire County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 3,734 at the 2010 census.
Florence is a village in the northwestern portion of the city of Northampton, Hampshire County, Massachusetts. Having a thriving silk industry in the 19th century, the village was named in 1852 after Florence, Italy, for its own thriving silk trade in Europe.
Each member works independently, but releases content under the shared name of Florentine Films.As such, their individual "subsidiary" companies include Ken Burns Media, Sherman Pictures, and Hott Productions. Burns' oldest child, Sarah, is also currently an employee of the company.
Burns worked as a cinematographer for the BBC, Italian television, and others, and in 1977, having completed some documentary short films, he began work on adapting David McCullough's book The Great Bridge, about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.Developing a signature style of documentary filmmaking in which he "adopted the technique of cutting rapidly from one still picture to another in a fluid, linear fashion [and] then pepped up the visuals with 'first hand' narration gleaned from contemporary writings and recited by top stage and screen actors", he made the feature documentary Brooklyn Bridge (1981), which earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary and ran on PBS in the United States.
Following another documentary, The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God (1984), Burns was Oscar-nominated again for The Statue of Liberty (1985). Burns frequently collaborates with author and historian Geoffrey Ward, notably on documentaries such as The Civil War , Jazz , Baseball , and the 10 part TV series The Vietnam War (aired September 2017).
Burns has gone on to a long, successful career directing and producing well-received television documentaries and documentary miniseries on subjects as diverse as arts and letters ( Thomas Hart Benton , 1988); mass media ( Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio , 1991); sports ( Baseball , 1994, updated with 10th Inning , 2010); politicians ( Thomas Jefferson , 1997); music ( Jazz , 2001); literature ( Mark Twain , 2001); war (the 15-hour World War II documentary The War , 2007); environmentalism ( The National Parks , 2009); and the Civil War (the 11-hour The Civil War , 1990, which All Media Guide says "many consider his 'chef d'oeuvre'").
According to a 2017 piece in the New Yorker, Burns and his company, Florentine Films, have selected topics for documentaries slated for release by 2030. These topics include country music, the Mayo Clinic, Muhammad Ali, Ernest Hemingway, the American Revolution, Lyndon B. Johnson, Barack Obama, Winston Churchill, the American criminal justice system, and African-American history from the Civil War to the Great Migration.
In 1982, Burns married Amy Stechler, with whom he had two daughters, Sarah and Lily; As of 2017 [update] , Burns resides in Walpole, New Hampshire, with his second wife, Julie Deborah Brown, whom he married on October 18, 2003. She is the founder of the non-profit Room to Grow which aids soon-to-be parents living in poverty. They have two daughters, Olivia and Willa Burns.the marriage ended in divorce in 1993.
Burns is a descendant of Johannes de Peyster Sr. through Dr. Gerardus Clarkson, an American Revolutionary War physician from Philadelphia, and he is a distant relative of Scottish poet Robert Burns.In 2014 Burns appeared in Henry Louis Gates's Finding Your Roots where he discovered startling news that he is a descendant of a slave owner from the Deep South, in addition to having a lineage which traces back to Colonial Americans of Loyalist allegiance during the American Revolution.
Burns is an avid quilt collector. Approximately 1/3 of the quilts from his personal collection were displayed for the first time at The International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska from January 19 to May 13, 2018.
Burns is a longtime supporter of the Democratic Party, with almost $40,000 in political donations.In 2008, the Democratic National Committee chose Burns to produce the introductory video for Senator Edward Kennedy's August 2008 speech to the Democratic National Convention, a video described by Politico as a "Burns-crafted tribute casting him [Kennedy] as the modern Ulysses bringing his party home to port." In August 2009, Kennedy died, and Burns produced a short eulogy video at his funeral. In endorsing Barack Obama for the U.S. presidency in December 2007, Burns compared Obama to Abraham Lincoln. He said he had planned to be a regular contributor to Countdown with Keith Olbermann on Current TV. In 2016, he also gave a commencement speech for Stanford University criticizing Donald Trump.
The Civil War received more than 40 major film and television awards, including two Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards (one for Best Traditional Folk Album), the Producer of the Year Award from the Producers Guild of America, a People's Choice Award, a Peabody Award, a duPont-Columbia Award, a D. W. Griffith Award, and the $50,000 Lincoln Prize.
In 2004, Burns received the S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.
As of 2010 [update] , there is a Ken Burns Wing at the Jerome Liebling Center for Film, Photography and Video at Hampshire College.
In 2012, Burns received the Washington University International Humanities Medal.The medal, awarded biennially and accompanied by a cash prize of $25,000, is given to honor a person whose humanistic endeavors in scholarship, journalism, literature, or the arts have made a difference in the world. Past winners include Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk in 2006, journalist Michael Pollan in 2008, and novelist and nonfiction writer Francine Prose in 2010.
In 2013, Burns received the John Steinbeck Award, an award presented annually by Steinbeck's eldest son, Thomas, in collaboration with the John Steinbeck Family Foundation, San Jose State University, and The National Steinbeck Center.
Burns was the Grand Marshal for the 2016 Pasadena Tournament of Roses' Rose Parade on New Year's Day in Pasadena, California.The National Endowment for the Humanities selected Burns to deliver the 2016 Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities, on the topic of race in America. He was the 2017 recipient of The Nichols-Chancellor's Medal at Vanderbilt University.
Burns frequently incorporates simple musical leitmotifs or melodies. For example, The Civil War features a distinctive violin melody throughout, "Ashokan Farewell", which was performed for the film by its composer, fiddler Jay Ungar. One critic noted, "One of the most memorable things about The Civil War was its haunting, repeated violin melody, whose thin, yearning notes seemed somehow to sum up all the pathos of that great struggle."
Burns often gives life to still photographs by slowly zooming in on subjects of interest and panning from one subject to another. For example, in a photograph of a baseball team, he might slowly pan across the faces of the players and come to rest on the player who is the subject of the narrator. This technique, possible in many professional and home software applications, is termed "The Ken Burns effect" in Apple's iPhoto, iMovie and Final Cut Pro X software applications. It has long been used in film production where it is known as the 'rostrum camera'. Burns stated in a 2009 interview that he initially declined to have his name associated with the software because of his stance to refuse commercial endorsements. However, Apple chief Steve Jobs negotiated to give Burns Apple equipment, which Burns donated to nonprofit organizations.
As a museum retrospective noted, "His PBS specials [are] strikingly out of step with the visual pyrotechnics and frenetic pacing of most reality-based TV programming, relying instead on techniques that are literally decades old, although Burns reintegrates these constituent elements into a wholly new and highly complex textual arrangement."
In a 2011 interview, Burns stated that he admires and is influenced by filmmaker Errol Morris.
The Civil War is a 1990 American television documentary miniseries created by Ken Burns about the American Civil War. It was first broadcast on PBS on five consecutive nights from September 23 to 28, 1990. More than 39 million viewers tuned in to at least one episode, and viewership averaged more than 14 million viewers each evening, making it the most-watched program ever to air on PBS. It was awarded more than 40 major television and film honors. A companion book to the documentary was released shortly after the series aired.
Keith David Williams is an American actor, voice actor, comedian and singer. He is known for his co-starring role as King in Platoon and as Childs in The Thing. He has acted in many mainstream films, such as Crash, There's Something About Mary, Barbershop and Men at Work.
Geoffrey Champion Ward is an American editor, author, historian and writer of scripts for American history documentaries for public television. He is the author or co-author of 18 books, including five companion books to the documentaries he has written. He is the winner of five Emmy Awards.
The War is a seven-part American documentary television mini-series about World War II from the perspective of the United States. The program was produced by American filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, written by Geoffrey Ward, and narrated primarily by Keith David. It premiered on September 23, 2007. The world premiere of the series took place at the Palace Theater in Luverne, Minnesota, one of the towns featured in the documentary.
An acoustic shadow or sound shadow is an area through which sound waves fail to propagate, due to topographical obstructions or disruption of the waves via phenomena such as wind currents, buildings, or sound barriers.
Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson is a documentary by filmmaker Ken Burns based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Geoffrey C. Ward (2004). In Burns' signature style the 220-minute film serves as a biography of Jack Johnson, the first African-American Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, as well as a documentary of racism and social inequality during the Jim Crow era against which Jack Johnson lived in defiant opposition.
Greg Barker is an American documentary filmmaker and producer. In 2011, The New York Times described Barker as “a filmmaker of artistic and political consequence.”
Ric Burns is an American documentary filmmaker and writer. He has written, directed and produced historical documentaries since the 1990s, beginning with his collaboration on the celebrated PBS series The Civil War (1990), which he produced with his older brother Ken Burns and wrote with Geoffrey C. Ward.
Brooklyn Bridge is a documentary film on the history of the Brooklyn Bridge. It was produced by Ken Burns, Roger Sherman, Buddy Squires, and Amy Stechler in 1981. The film included interviews with personalities such as New York Times architectural critic Paul Goldberger and writer Arthur Miller plus film clips featuring Bugs Bunny and Frank Sinatra. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It was narrated by historian David McCullough who wrote the book the film was based on.
The Congress is a 1988 documentary film directed by the Emmy Award-winning director Ken Burns. The Florentine Films production, which focuses on the United States Congress, aired on PBS in 1989. Narrated by David McCullough, the documentary features use of photographs, paintings, and film from sessions of Congress, in its implementation of the Ken Burns Effect. Scenes from the Academy Award-winning Frank Capra film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington are also used. The work features numerous interviews from writers and historians including Charles McDowell, David McCullough, Cokie Roberts, George Tames, David Broder, James MacGregor Burns, Barbara Fields, and Alistair Cooke. Many congressmen are specifically referred to, including Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Jefferson Davis, Thomas Brackett Reed, Joseph Gurney Cannon, George William Norris, Jeannette Rankin, and Everett Dirksen. The film also includes focus on the Congress' work during pivotal periods in United States history, including the Civil War, Civil Rights Movement, and Women's suffrage. The documentary was released by PBS, on DVD in 2004. Footage of the Capitol from the film was later incorporated into Burns' later masterpiece, The Civil War.
The West, sometimes marketed as Ken Burns Presents: The West, is a 1996 television documentary miniseries about the American Old West. It was directed by Stephen Ives and featured Ken Burns as executive producer. It was first broadcast on PBS on eight consecutive nights from September 15 to 22, 1996.
Dayton Duncan was the writer and co-producer of The National Parks: America's Best Idea documentary produced by Ken Burns, and has also been involved for many years with other series directed by Burns including The Civil War, Horatio's Drive, Baseball and Jazz. For the 12-hour series The West about the history of the American West, broadcast in 1996, Duncan was the co-writer and consulting producer. It won the Erik Barnouw Award from the Organization of American Historians.
Lynn Novick is a U.S. director and producer of documentary films widely known for her work with Ken Burns.
Stephen Ives is an American documentary film director and original founder of Insignia Films. Among his productions are The West (1996), Reporting America at War (2003), Roads to Memphis (2010), and Grand Coulee Dam (2012), and the four-part series Constitution USA (2013) which aired on PBS in the summer of 2013. PBS broadcast his most recent aired work, The Great War, in three parts (2017).
The Roosevelts: An Intimate History is a 2014 American documentary film directed and produced by Ken Burns. It covers the lives and times of the Roosevelt family, including Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican and the 26th President of the United States; Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat and the 32nd President of the United States, a cousin of Theodore; and Eleanor Roosevelt, the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, a niece of Theodore who had wed Franklin. As a result of the influence of Theodore and Franklin as Presidents, as well as Eleanor as First Lady, a modern democratic state of equal opportunity was begun in the United States. The documentary film begins with the birth of Theodore in 1858 and ends with the death of Eleanor in 1962.
Defying the Nazis: Sharps’ War is a 2016 documentary film directed by Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky. The film is about the untold story of Waitstill and Martha Sharp, an American minister and his wife from Wellesley, Massachusetts, who left their children behind in the care of their parish and boldly committed to a life-threatening mission in Europe. Over two dangerous years they helped to save scores of imperiled Jews and refugees fleeing Nazi occupation across Europe.
The Vietnam War is a 10-part American television documentary series about the Vietnam War written by Geoffrey C. Ward and directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. The first episode premiered on PBS on September 17, 2017. The script is by Geoffrey Ward, and the series is narrated by Peter Coyote.
Lawrence "Larry" Hott is an American academic and documentary filmmaker.
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