Archive for the ‘Ken Burns’ Category

A Sort of Homecoming

October 2, 2007

Well, tonight brings to a close the first run of Ken Burns’ The War (although if you missed any of it the entire series will replay on consecutive Wednesday starting tomorrow at 9:00 p.m.). Tonight he will focus in part on what it was like for the millions of men who went off to war to return home and try and live a “normal” life. So as the series returns home, it has put me in a reflective mood as to where the journey has taken me.

I will admit that I have found it difficult to watch at times. As silly as it sounds, I’ve found myself feeling emotionally drained just from watching. I think the series has definitely told the human stories of what Burns’ has called “the worst war” in a way that will change how many people feel about not just this war, but all wars.

For us here at KETC, the stories and memories you have shared with us has definitely changed how we feel about World War II. It is tempting to try and order history by dates, lines on maps, and numbers of killed, wounded, missing. But history is much more than that. And while that’s easy to say, your stories have made it something that for us will be impossible to forget. Thank you again for all your contributions.

Mike

Tough SOBs

September 24, 2007

Well, after all our waiting, Ken Burns’ The War premiered last night on KETC and PBS stations across the nation. We had high viewership here in the St. Louis area, and I’d imagine that was the case across the country. Hopefully you were able to tune in, but if not I’d highly suggest you try and watch this evening at 7:00 p.m. for the second episode.

I won’t give you a long review here. I hope you’ll form your own conclusions. But at the risk of being politically incorrect, one thing I took away from last night’s episode was that the men who fought World War II were tough SOBs, and I mean that most complementary way imaginable. Wow.

4,889 Individuals

September 20, 2007

It’s hard for me to believe that the debut of Ken Burns new film, THE WAR, is actually here.  THE WAR debuts nationwide on Sunday, September 23.  At Channel 9, we’ve been planning and doing this work around WWII for many, many months.   We’ve all been profoundly moved by the conversations we’re having with the community–it’s as if the Channel 9 family has grown much larger as a result of sharing these stories of WWII.  

One of our proudest efforts has been to document the names of all the service men and women from our region who died in service to their country during WWII.  This list includes the names from all branches of the military including the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine.  This list has never been before compiled from our region.  It is hugely powerful to see these 4,889 names and realize all of these brave individuals were just that–individuals with families and hopes and dreams.  Channel 9 has created a living memorial to these individuals with In Honor of St. Louis Fallen:  1941-1945, a one hour production that will air on Saturday, September 22 at 8:30 pm.  This memorial also includes local images and audio interviews that we’ve collected through Your Stories:  St. Louis Remembers World War II.  I think it’s going to be very moving and I hope that you’re as moved as all of us are by these stories.

VJ Day

August 15, 2007

Today—August 15—Is VJ Day, the day Japan announced it would surrender (although the actual surrender ceremony wouldn’t take place until September 2) in 1945. These are the sort of dates we all learned and were tested on during school. And while a certain amount of history knowledge is no doubt a good thing to have (as Ken Burns has pointed out, 40 percent of high school seniors think we fought with the Germans against the Russians during World War II), one thing the Your Stories project has taught me is that fact and dates take on a new significance when you know what is behind those dates and facts. 

An example? Here’s one from the war in the Pacific, the one that ended on August 15, 1945:

  

Lunch with Ken Burns? Oh, Yeah.

August 9, 2007

As Channel 9’s PR person, some of my favorite on-the-job moments have come when my duties have compelled me to do something so cool and awesome that I think, “I can’t believe I get paid for doing this!” That thought came to me a few weeks ago when Ken Burns’ publicist Dave invited me along on two interviews he had set up in St. Louis while K.B. was in town to preview The War. Have lunch with Ken Burns? Oh, yeah.

So, fyi, Ken Burns is charming, cute and trim. Yes, he has great hair and gleaming teeth. I’m just saying that because everyone ALREADY knows that he’s brilliant, erudite and has a mind like a steel trap. At lunch (he ate a hearty salad) he convivially draped his arm over the back of the chair of the reporter seated next to him, fixed her with eyes so intense they seemed to be working with fiber optic technology, and he downloaded thoughtful, considered answers to her questions from his brain to her tiny tape recorder. I’m surprised the machine didn’t explode.

Then we went to the Post-Dispatch, where Burns was put under the spotlight in a small room filled with the newspaper’s editorial board and assorted other editors, writers, a videographer, a photographer, graphic artists and whoever else wanted to show up. Burns was unflappable, relaxed and self assured in the way an astrophysicist would be when questioned by the high school astronomy club. Among intellectuals and people whose interests extend beyond Paris Hilton, Burns is a rock star. He confidently alluded to mythology and ancient history, tossed out quotes by famous people and spoke not just in full sentences and paragraphs, but in fascinatingly worded essays. Hardball questions from the panel seemed to dissolve in Burns’ surety. He even quoted back to the group a statement by Post founder Joseph Pulitzer that Burns had just read in the lobby.

My one moment came at the restaurant, when someone asked how long I had worked at Channel 9. I replied that I have been here since Burns’ earliest documentary, Brooklyn Bridge. Burns’ smiled and leaped up to high-five me. It made me feel for a second as if we were in the same club. But I know better.

Ken Burns, Live from the Sheldon

July 25, 2007

Our blog has become a little bit of a shrine to Ken Burns over the last few days, some might call it extreme but I’d call it well-deserved recognition. In the film world, Burns is recognized for how he’s changed documentary film but for public broadcasting Burns isn’t just our biggest celebrity, he’s also one of our biggest cheerleaders. During his visit on Monday I was really struck by his personal commitment to informative television. He reminded me that television, public or not, has the power to do more than entertain, it informs and even educates.

To that end, The War really does both. The brief hour’s worth of clips shown at the Sheldon Monday night captivated me. It might have been because I was in a room filled with veterans and World War II fanatics or because Burns himself was standing about 10 feet away from me but I was really moved. It wasn’t just me. Some of the audience members were teary-eyed during the hour screening. Others, during the Q & A session with Burns following the screening, asked about how to reach out the veterans in their lives. Every few minutes, the audience would burst into applause.

The icing on the cake came toward the end of the evening. One of the audience members asked Burns what made the World War II generation, the greatest generation, so unique: sacrifice. Burns said that our country uniquely banded together in the spirit of sacrifice not for a race, a religion, or national conquest but for an idea. Whether you call it liberty or freedom or by some other name, our citizens traded personal sacrifice for a collective identity. That’s pretty powerful stuff.

To see selections from the evening with Ken Burns webcast, visit our website at www.ketc.org

Ken Burns, Part 2

July 24, 2007

Ken Burns at the SheldonA bit more on Ken Burns presentation from last night in St. Louis

First off, if you weren’t lucky enough to be in the audience at the Sheldon last night, or if you didn’t catch the live webcast, we now have an archive of his presentation available for you to view.

Unfortunately, we can’t show you the clip reel Ken showed last night. For that, you’ll have to wait until the series premieres on September 23 (7:00 p.m., right here on KETC). But let me tell you, when you see this series you won’t be disappointed. From what I’ve seen, it lives up to the hype and then some.

How’d the live webcast go? Very well, I’d say. Could we have had more eyeballs? Certainly. Will we do it better the next time? Definitely. What will that next time be? Stay tuned… 

Ken Burns

July 23, 2007

Ken Burns is in St. Louis today. The Your Stories project is a direct result of his upcoming series The War, so we are very excited to have him here to promote both the series and our efforts to tell the St. Louis story of World War II.

He will be giving a presentation about his film tonight, and to try and bring his insights to our community in new ways, we will be offering a live webcast of his presentation beginning at 7:30 p.m. (St. Louis time) tonight. This is exciting for us on a lot of levels. First off, this is our first live webcast ever, so we’ve all been learning new things as we’ve gone through the steps of putting it together. Secondly, it is exciting to think of what this might allow us to do in future.

So wish us luck and log on and take a look if you have a chance.

Mike