Ken Burns Talk

Various thoughts from Ken Burns talk

  • History is the best teacher
  • The goal is to make a film that … “drops out of your head and into your heart.”
  • Race is at the core of the American narrative
  • “All of our films are made in the editing room”  

Process: Reading, scholars, museums, archives, and interviews

  • We’re 80-100 hour a week people.  
  • “Remove the arrogance we have about the past”   
  • “Good history is making you think it won’t turn out the way it did.”   
  • “The internet equalizes…”  
  • “Most of what we do is subtraction…(Analogy to syrup: forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.)   
  • There’s no boundaries in music; WM quote: “Music as the art of the invisible”  
  • KB as conductor of huge orchestra.   
  • When something is going wrong: “Someone, somewhere, let something slide.”  
  • Note about teachers — “more about how to be a person than a filmmaker”  
  • Points at TJ and DoI: second greatest sentence in the English language.   
  • Laws of storytelling are the same, no matter what kind of film you’re making.   (Difference between me and Spielberg is that he can make something up and I can’t.)   

Kevin Powers on Kurt Vonnegut

This is a great appreciation. Two segments:

But let me be more direct about what I really think this book is. “Slaughterhouse-Five” is wisdom literature. It is a book of awe and humbling clarity. Its lessons are so simple that by adulthood most of us have forgotten or taken them for granted only to be stunned upon being reacquainted with their fundamental gravity.

This is merely one example of Vonnegut’s unmatched moral clarity. He, more than any other writer I can think of, could cut through cant and sophistry and dissembling to expose our collective self-deceptions for what they are. His sentences are accusations that let you keep your dignity.