Ken Burns On Story

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I have to admit that I did not know why the Ken Burns effect in iMovie is called “Ken Burns effect”. Now I learned that there is a filmmaker called Ken Burns who was the first to use this effect frequently in his movies. Alright. Now here he is, talking about how to tell great stories.

So what makes a good story, according to Ken Burns? You just have to see the big picture. Be it the irony of fate of someone who just won a big war, goes to the theater – and is assassinated. Or the hypocrisy of a person who proclaimed freedom and equality for everyone while he literally owned 100 people. “The good guys have really serious flaws and the villains are compelling”, Ken Burns says.

This reminds me of a screenwriter who managed to write a screenplay about some internet start up called Facebook. Aaron Sorkin managed to look beyond the facts and figures and wrote a story about the desire to be accepted and friendships getting destroyed by betrayal. In its core, or “emotional truth”, als Ken Burns might say, it reminded me of an ancient Greek drama – big, universal emotional themes and highly emotional turning points and dilemmas.

I really liked the part where Ken Burns talks about his documentary BASEBALL. But he does not talk about the sports:

“I made a film on baseball once, and it seemed to me that there was a dilemma for the racist about what to do about Jackie Robinson. If you were a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and you were a racist, what do you do in your lives? You can quit baseball all together. You can change teams. Or you can – change.”

Very interesting stuff, for me it was 5 minutes well spent.

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