WASHINGTON -- Ken Burns, the co-director of the PBS documentary series "The Vietnam War," runs through a list of a half dozen crisis points that are consuming the country.
After the success of 1990’s “The Civil War,” Burns became a PBS mainstay, an institutional pillar chronicling events in American history and its most influential figures, including the Roosevelts, Frank Lloyd Wright and Thomas Jefferson.
Burns’ output has grown in recent years as he’s taken on the role of executive producer to supervise others’ projects, including co-writing and co-directing daughter Sarah’s “Central Park Five” (2012) and co-directing Artemis Joukowsky’s “Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War” (2016).
But the filmmaker behind “Baseball” (1994), “Jazz” (2001), “The War” (2007) and “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” (2009) continues to produce his own powerful work, too, including this year’s new 10-part, 18-hour film, “The Vietnam War,” made with frequent collaborator Lynn Novick.
In 2007 Burns made a deal with PBS to stick with the public broadcaster through 2022. “I’ve wanted to be a filmmaker since I was 12 years old, and filmmaking is essentially the communion of strangers in dark rooms. That just doesn’t happen,” Burns told Variety in 2016, noting he’s happy to produce for the far-reaching platform PBS affords. “I traded the hundreds that would see it in a film festival … for the tens of millions that watch my films on PBS. That’s a bargain I’ve been happy to make.”
Burns has won five Emmys and been nominated 14 times; he’s also been nommed twice for Academy Awards.