Why isn’t filmmaker Ken Burns making a documentary for the broadcast giants

Why isn't filmmaker Ken Burns making a documentary for the broadcast giants

The Britney Spears Guardianship, The Scandal of college admission fraud, The Sexual assault charge Against Woody Allen – All of these stories have made headlines in recent weeks after new documentaries offered new insights.

The movies appeared on Hulu’s streaming platforms (Dis(And Netflix)NFLX) And HBO Max (T) To feed the growing appetite for non-fiction.

However, legendary documentary director Ken Burns says in a new interview that he will not be making a movie for the broadcast giants. Instead, he plans to maintain his longstanding partnership with PBS that allows him to have complete creative control and a long production schedule, he says.

Burns, whose new movie was three parts, says, “I’ve been working with public television everything and I’m staying with them.Hemingway“Premiere on April 5”. “They have one foot in the market and the other outside temporarily.”

Burns, who is known for his extensive films on core American topics such as “jazz” and “baseball,” cited the marathon production schedule for his 10-part documentary series “The Vietnam War,” which aired in 2017.

“A TV show that gave me 10 and a half years”

“I could have gone a few years ago – or 10 and a half years ago – to a premium broadcast or cable channel, and say, with my record,” I need 30 million dollars to do Vietnam, “and they would give me,” he adds. “But what they haven’t given me is 10 and a half years.”

“PBS gave me 10 and a half years,” he says. “They gave me six and a half in Ernest Hemingway.”

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With hundreds of millions in the United States isolated at home – and many others around the world – the pandemic has caused an increase in viewership of documentaries. Last April, 34.3 million viewers watched the “Tiger King” murder mystery over the first 10 days available, making it one of the most popular original programs to have been broadcast on Netflix. According to Nielsen.

A documentary series about basketball legend Michael Jordan titled “The Last Dance”, which was broadcast over five weeks from April to May 2020, with an average of 6.1 million viewers per episode, ESPN said Which made it the most watched documentary in the history of the network.

The documentary was a major part of the high-profile production deals reached by the streaming giants and innovators. Last September, Netflix Signed a multi-year production deal With Prince Harry and his wife Megan Markle It is said to be worth over $ 100 millionWhich advocates a large number of projects, including documentaries. Likewise, former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama Signed a huge deal With Netflix in 2018 that includes real-life acts.

However, Burns said he is giving this arrangement with PBS free of pressure to turn a profit, as it relies on a pool of individuals and institutions who support his work.

“It’s not a financial model; it’s a grant model,” he says. “We are raising money from foundations, high net worth individuals, from the public broadcaster, and from PBS itself.”

“We are making [the films] “We are not allowed to place them in emergency situations, and we are not allowed to set any profit margin, and that only happens,” he adds.

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“What that gives me is total control over creativity. If you don’t like these movies, it’s my fault,” he says. “And this is how you want it to be: No excuses.”

Burns spoke to Yahoo Finance Editor Andy Seror on an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer“A series of weekly interviews with leaders in business, politics and entertainment.

Film director Ken Burns spoke to Yahoo Finance editor Andy Seror about “Influencers With Andy Seror.”

A two-time Academy Award winner, Burns has made films for more than four decades on a range of topics ranging from the “Vietnam War” and “Civil War” to “country music” and “Brooklyn Bridge”. In addition to the upcoming film “Hemingway”, Burns will release later this year “Muhammad Ali,” a four-part documentary about the legendary boxer and social activist.

For years, he lived and worked in the small town of Walpole, New Hampshire.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance, Burns welcomed the explosion of the documentary filmmaking industry. He described the early days of his career in the 1980s as what he believed at the time to be a “golden age” but acknowledged how production has improved since then.

“There was an amazing spectrum,” he says. “It’s just getting bigger and more effective.”

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