Ken Burns on the power of story
July 11, 2012
Legendary documentary Ken Burns says that the best stories are about "One plus one equals three." A good story is more than simply the sum of its parts. There is something beyond the words and the data and the images. In this short film below by Tom Mason and Sarah Klein, Ken Burns givens a very candid and brief look into what he thinks story is all about. There is not just one way — one formula if you will — for describing what good story and good storytelling is. It's complicated and professional storytellers will give you different answers. However, there is a lot of good stuff in this very short film that should inspire you to think deeper about your own storytelling ideas and techniques in your own work. For example, Burns touches on the idea of truth in documentary storytelling. But as he says, there are many truths. This is a sentiment echoed by the work of Robert Mckee as well who has said “What happens is fact, not truth. Truth is what we think about what happens.” The film itself is a good example of what is possible with just first-person interview footage and positive manipulation of the material.
"We all think that an exception is going to be made in our case and we're going to live forever. Being a human is actually arriving at the understanding that that's not going to be. Story is there to remind us that it's just OK." — Ken Burns
For me, the best speeches are stories. Listing facts and figures and statistics bore me. I recently saw a woman talk about physics in a way that was amazing, dynamic and compelling, all because she told a good story.
Posted by: Michael Platania | July 11, 2012 at 11:07 AM
The ordinary into extraordinary. The extraordinary only possible beginning with the ordinary. That is the story.
Thank you for sharing, Garr.
Posted by: JennyRho | July 11, 2012 at 12:55 PM
This wonderful film reminds me of the "truth" of this favorite quote: "The universe is made of stories, not of atoms." (Muriel Rukeyser)
Thank you for all you do Garr to inspire us to be storytellers!
Posted by: Catherine Cerullli | July 11, 2012 at 07:15 PM
As usual, unusual ideas) Thank for sharing, I'll read it.
Posted by: http://freelib.in.ua | July 12, 2012 at 01:49 AM
When a racist in 1942 was confronted with Robinson's playing baseball for Brooklyn, they were forced to either give up baseball, switch loyalty to another team, or to embrace an African-American playing for their favorite team. Such is the power of story.
Posted by: iPad Application Development | July 12, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Nancy Duarte says, "Personal Stories are the emotional glue that connect your audience to your message."
I, and I'm sure Ken Burns and Garr Reynolds agree.
Posted by: Fred E. Miller | July 13, 2012 at 05:26 AM
Very inspired video. Really learn something powerful today.
Posted by: Kent | July 14, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Wonderful story, Thank you for sharing,i learned much
Posted by: electronic boutique | July 16, 2012 at 10:25 PM
" All story is manipulation", that is a very powerful statement. The real masters of storytelling do it without the audience realizing. Great video, thanks for sharing.
Posted by: Nasser Ismail | July 17, 2012 at 12:11 PM
I also have passion in producing historical documentary, Mr. Burns gives me the 'reason' why. My mom also died of cancer when I was 17. "It is close to home..."
Posted by: Ria | July 17, 2012 at 10:13 PM
The back was the video which is deep and beneficial.
Posted by: イククル | August 08, 2012 at 07:01 PM