Ken Burns: Here and There

Rochester, NY – Ken Burns: Here and There is a poetic and personal look inside the legendary filmmaker’s life and four-decade career. Footage of Burns at work and at home, interviews with close collaborators, and the profound observations of Burns himself provide illuminating insights into the man. Ken Burns: Here and There airs Monday, December 7 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV

Burns reveals his life’s path, from struggling young filmmaker to award-winning director and producer of some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made, including the Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, The National Parks, Country Music and The Vietnam War.

The importance of belonging, community and a sense of place emerge as themes in his life. He reflects on his own geographic touchstones, from the Brooklyn Bridge to the tiny town of Walpole, New Hampshire, the safe harbor where he arrived in 1979 and has lived and worked in “splendid isolation” since. Residents and friends attest to the town’s influence on the filmmaker and vice versa.

“My films all focus on the importance of place in our lives,” said Ken Burns. “As Dante shows in his kind and generous film about our work, small-town New Hampshire is critical to who we are as filmmakers, even as our team has expanded to include editors and filmmakers in other parts of the country. I’ve been very fortunate to work and live in a town that has embraced our filmmaking as part of its fabric. I am so happy to have a chance to share this story and am hugely appreciative of the attention the film has brought to our art and town.”

Behind-the-scenes video gives an inside look at the filmmaker’s process and attention to detail, from sound mixing to scoring sessions with musicians like Yo-Yo Ma to recording the voices of Edward Hermann, Josh Lucas, Paul Giamatti, the late Eli Wallach and others as they bring characters to life. Writer Duncan Dayton speaks movingly of their decades-long relationship as partners and friends.

Burns believes that film has the power to inspire people to action. He relates the impact of a New York Times story about an Idaho family who came to the city and walked the Brooklyn Bridge because “they’d seen a documentary on public television” about it. And the joy he felt when the U.S. Secretary of the Interior called to report that attendance had increased by 15 million visitors after The National Parks aired. “That was more than a third of our audience,” says Burns, “who got up off their duffs and went out and did something.” 

Photo: Ken Burns filming interviews for "The Roosevelts," which premiered on PBS in 2014.
Credit: Courtesy of Daniel J. White

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