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Ken Burns

An American director and producer of documentary films known for his style of making use of archival footage and photographs

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An impressive body of work

  • Sep 27, 2009
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When Ken Burns' epic documentary film "The Civil War" first appeared on PBS in 1990 it became the most watched program ever on PBS.  More than 40 million viewers tuned in.  In the nearly two decades that have followed Ken Burns has produced a number of other impressive projects including 1994's "nine inning" series "Baseball" and the 2001 ten-part feature "Jazz".   For those who bemoan the vast wasteland that is network television any Ken Burns film is deemed a "must see" event.

Ken Burns long and wildly successful association with PBS affords him the time to create films that fully explore the subject matter that he is pursuing.  His use of  "pan and scan"  that has come to be known as the "Ken Burns Effect" is now being frequently imitated by other filmmakers.  This feature enables a widely used technique of embedding still photographs in motion pictures, displayed with slow zooming and panning effects, and fading transitions between them.  It is an incredibly effective tactic and one that his audience quickly embraced.  Likewise, Ken Burns conducts very extensive interviews with experts on his subject and has an uncanny knack of interjecting the most relevant comments at exactly the right time.  What I most appreciate about any Ken Burns film is that I always come away knowing that I learned something.  Meanwhile,  for subjects that do not demand nearly as much time there is the series "Ken Burns American Stories".   What a cornucopia of fascinating topics!   This series of one hour programs features shows such as "The Shakers""Thomas Jefferson", "Mark Twain" and "The Brooklyn Bridge" to name but a few.  

The collaboration between Ken Burns and PBS has been a "win-win" for just about everyone involved.  Ken Burns programs remain among the most highly successful fund-raising shows for the network.  The incredible public response to these films over the past two decades has enabled PBS to underwrite more Ken Burns projects.  Frankly, I don't know anyone who does not enjoy and appreciate the work of Ken Burns.  We await with great anticipation his next project "The National Parks:  America's Best Idea".    Very highly recommended!
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Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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About this actor


Date of Birth 29 July 1953, Brooklyn, New York, USA

Birth Name Kenneth Lauren Burns

Mini Biography

Celebrated American documentarian 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, often serving as writer, cinematographer, editor and music director in addition to producing and directing. He achieved his apotheosis with "The Civil War" (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 fund-raising programming for public TV stations around the country. Burns arrived upon the scene with the Oscar-nominated Brooklyn Bridge (1981), a nostalgic chronicle of the construction of the fabled edifice. The film was more ...

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Filmography: Wordplay
Birth Date: July 29, 1953

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