Press Release back to list
04.02.2021

ACCLAIMED FILMMAKERS KEN BURNS AND LYNN NOVICK ON FILMMAKING DURING THE PANDEMIC, DIVERSITY IN THE INDUSTRY, AND THE NEW DOCUMENTARY, “HEMINGWAY”

FOLLOWING CRITICISM OF PBS, BURNS SAYS HE “WHOLEHEARTEDLY” SUPPORTS THE NEED TO INVEST IN FILMMAKERS OF COLOR AND INCREASE DIVERSITY AT PBS

LISTEN + FULL TRANSCRIPT HERE

This week on the CBS News podcast FACING FORWARD with MARGARET BRENNAN, Brennan was joined by acclaimed documentary filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Burns and Novick discussed how the pandemic forced their team to adapt, dissecting the complicated layers of Ernest Hemingway in their latest project, diversity in the filmmaking industry and what chronicling the COVID-19 pandemic may look like in the future.

Full transcript of the episode available at CBSNews.com here. The latest episode of FACING FORWARD is out now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and wherever podcasts are available.

Excerpts from this week’s episode:

  • Burns reacts to criticism of PBS that cites his outsized relationship with the organization as the reason why filmmakers of color are being crowded out of opportunities: “I don’t take it personally. In fact, I wholeheartedly support the need to invest in filmmakers of color and to increase the diversity and inclusion in PBS. PBS already does it better than any other place, but we have room to improve. In fact, with our films, we get a significantly small amount of money from PBS and we go out and raise money from other sources. And I’m- I want to try to figure out how to work with PBS and others to just sort of be completely supportive of- of their objectives. It’s very important that we do this. It’s been what my work has been about. We’ve been trying to tell a complicated American history from the very beginning that was diverse and inclusive. And so I don’t take it personally. I- I understand completely why it could be identified that way. But this is work that I know that PBS is committed to working on and having a real conversation and not just a, you know, a Band-Aid approach.”

  • Novick on choosing Hemingway as the subject of their latest film: “It’s coming out today in a very interesting and important time in our society, as you said, where we are reckoning with our history and dealing with the complicated, you know, hard truths of who we have been as a nation and our failure to live up to our ideals. And Hemingway is right in the middle of that. And we’re not celebrating him, per say, for his flaws… And we’d like to think that there’s a way to see what he has to say in conversation with the moment that we’re in, in terms of his masculinity, in terms of his attitudes about race and ethnicity, in terms of his attitude about colonialism in America. It’s all in there. And a critical reading of Hemingway is a great way to actually investigate all the things that we’re talking about.”

  • Burns on mental illness as a growing global health crisis: “The fact that it’s occurring in the pandemic… in which a kind of magnifying glass has increased the heat on so many people, particularly our young people who are struggling with remote learning, but also others where loneliness, a classic American affliction, is there… I think a lot of it will be addressing, particularly in younger people, the you know, how we reach out, how we sort of lock arms and try to provide the kind of soft landings that that that we can provide as a society working together rather than as sort of a society of just rugged individualists, sink or swim kind of mentality. And it takes a kind of sense of our collective value, you know, the collective freedom, what we need, not just what I want in order to make any kinds of inroads in that.”

  • Novick on being a female filmmaker and gender equity in the industry: “I think it’s great that there are two women nominated in the best director category. And it shouldn’t be unusual. Why? Women are half of the population, you know, and it’s shocking in a way that it’s taken this long to get to that point for the Motion Picture Academy. But when you look at the documentary world, it’s a very different picture… So I think it’s a complicated picture and we just sort of paint with too broad a brush… the voices that have been privileged in our society for hundreds of years have been male, and so women have had to assert themselves to be heard and to be taken seriously. We are in a place where things are- have been moving and are moving in a much better direction.”

CHEAT TWEET: What do Hemingway and a pandemic have in common? Celebrated documentary filmmakers @KenBurns and @LynnNovick join @margbrennan on #FacingForwardPod to talk filmmaking during COVID and how their next subject fits into today’s historical reckoning.

Follow Margaret Brennan on Twitter at @margbrennan and follow the conversation on social with #FacingForwardPod. Get more FACE THE NATION online at CBSNews.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Get the FACE THE NATION newsletter delivered every Sunday to your inbox here. On the go? You can also listen to FACE THE NATION episodes on CBS News Radio stations or your preferred podcast player.

Discover more CBS News podcasts at cbsaudio.com/podcasts.

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Press Contact:

Hugo Rojo

202-913-6818

RojoH@cbsnews.com