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 widely seen when rebroadcast on PBS the following year. Though Burns has made other nonfiction films for theatrical release, notably an acclaimed and ambiguous portrait of Depression-era Louisiana governor Huey Long (1985), PBS would prove to be his true home. He cast a probing eye on such American subjects as The Statue of Liberty (1985), The Congress (1988) (PBS), painter Thomas Hart Benton (1988) (PBS) and early radio with Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio (1991) (PBS). Burns returned to long-form documentary with his most ambitious project to date, an 18-hour history of Baseball (1994), which aired on PBS in the fall of 1994. He approached the national pastime as a template for understanding changes in modern American society. Ironically, this was the only baseball on the air at the time, as the players and owners were embroiled in a bitter strike.

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 widely seen when rebroadcast on PBS the following year. Though Burns has made other nonfiction films for theatrical release, notably an acclaimed and ambiguous portrait of Depression-era Louisiana governor Huey Long (1985), PBS would prove to be his true home. He cast a probing eye on such American subjects as The Statue of Liberty (1985), The Congress (1988) (PBS), painter Thomas Hart Benton (1988) (PBS) and early radio with Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio (1991) (PBS). Burns returned to long-form documentary with his most ambitious project to date, an 18-hour history of Baseball (1994), which aired on PBS in the fall of 1994. He approached the national pastime as a template for understanding changes in modern American society. Ironically, this was the only baseball on the air at the time, as the players and owners were embroiled in a bitter strike.

Personal Info

Known For Directing

Gender Male

Known Credits 41

Birthday 1953-07-29

Place of Birth Brooklyn, New York, USA

Official Site -

Also Known As

  • -

Directing TV ShowsMovies

2017 The Vietnam War(10 episodes)Director
2016 Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' WarDirector
2016 Jackie Robinson(2 episodes)Director
2014 The Roosevelts: An Intimate History(7 episodes)Director
2014 The AddressDirector
2012 The Dust Bowl(2 episodes)Director
2012 The Central Park FiveDirector
2011 Prohibition(3 episodes)Director
2010 Baseball: The Tenth InningDirector
2009 The National Parks: America's Best Idea(6 episodes)Director
2008 The War(14 episodes)Director
2004 Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack JohnsonDirector
2003 Horatio's Drive: America's First Road TripDirector
2002 Mark TwainDirector
2001 Jazz(10 episodes)Director
1999 Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony(2 episodes)Director
1998 Frank Lloyd Wright(2 episodes)Director
1998 Frank Lloyd WrightDirector
1997 Lewis & Clark - The Journey of the Corps of Discovery(2 episodes)Director
1997 Thomas Jefferson(2 episodes)Director
1994 Baseball(11 episodes)Director
1992 Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made RadioDirector
1990 The Civil War(18 episodes)Director
1989 Thomas Hart BentonDirector
1989 The CongressDirector
1985 The Statue of LibertyDirector
1985 Huey LongDirector
1985 The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to GodDirector
1982 Brooklyn BridgeDirector

Production

2017 The Vietnam War(11 episodes)Producer
2016 Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' WarExecutive Producer
2012 The Dust Bowl(2 episodes)Producer
2011 Prohibition(3 episodes)Executive Producer
2009 The National Parks: America's Best Idea(22 episodes)Producer
2008 The War(0 episodes)Executive Producer
2002 Mark TwainProducer
2001 Jazz(19 episodes)Producer
1999 Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony(2 episodes)Producer
1997 Lewis & Clark - The Journey of the Corps of Discovery(2 episodes)Producer
1996 The West(8 episodes)Executive Producer
1994 Baseball(16 episodes)Producer
1992 Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made RadioProducer
1990 The Civil War(17 episodes)Producer
1989 Thomas Hart BentonProducer
1985 The Statue of LibertyProducer
1985 Huey LongProducer
1985 The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to GodProducer

Acting

2014 OETA's On The Record: Ken Burns
2012 Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself as Himself
2005 The Colbert Report(4 episodes)
2005 The Tim McCarver Show(1 episode)
2004 The Tony Danza Show(1 episode)
1996 The Daily Show with Trevor Noah(1 episode) as Himself
1996 The Daily Show with Trevor Noah(1 episode)
1993 Late Night with Conan O'Brien(2 episodes)
1981 This Week(1 episode)
1952 Today(1 episode)

Creator

Baseball: The Tenth InningCreator
2014 The Roosevelts: An Intimate HistoryCreator
2010 Shooting the WarCreator
2009 The National Parks: America's Best IdeaCreator
2008 The WarCreator
2001 JazzCreator
1997 Lewis & Clark - The Journey of the Corps of DiscoveryCreator
1997 Thomas JeffersonCreator
1994 BaseballCreator
1990 The Civil WarCreator

Writing

2014 The Roosevelts: An Intimate History(7 episodes)Writer
2012 The Central Park FiveScreenplay
2010 Baseball: The Tenth InningWriter
1994 Baseball(9 episodes)Writer
1990 The Civil War(9 episodes)Writer

Crew

1990 The Civil War(9 episodes)Cinematography
1982 Brooklyn BridgeCinematography

Camera

2002 Mark TwainDirector of Photography

By signing up for an account on TMDb, you can post directly to Twitter and Facebook.

You need to be logged in to continue. Click here to login or here to sign up.