TORONTO — Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has a lot on the go. So perhaps it’s no surprise that when he manages to find time to squeeze in media calls, it’s when he’s literally on the move.
He conducted a recent phone interview on a train travelling from Baltimore to New York, and while passing Philadelphia he rattled off a staggering list of projects underway:
There’s the sequel to his nine-part Baseball series, a history of the Dust Bowl, a look at the Vietnam War, a story on the Roosevelts (Franklin, Eleanor and Theodore), and a piece on the infamous “Central Park jogger case,” in which five Black and Hispanic men were falsely convicted of the gruesome assault.
Then there’s The National Parks, the 12-hour, six-part series about the U.S. parks system which airs on PBS in September.
“All these things sort of exist in different rooms of the editing house and different parallel tracks in my mind,” Burns says by way of explaining the mountain of activity.
“It’s like kids, you never mistake one for the other and yet the love is the same. The projects are the same way and I feel fortunate in public television that I get to have the creative control, that is to say, make the films that I want to make.”
If there is any project that holds greater sway than the others, Burns admits to having a special fondness for his 2007 triumph, the 15-hour documentary The War, which makes its Canadian debut on History Television this weekend.
It was spectacularly received by audiences and veterans when it first aired, drawing the highest ratings public television had seen in a decade and eliciting countless more stories from military veterans.