BIO

Documentary filmmaker, PBS writer & producer Ric Burns is a profoundly powerful storyteller whose thought-provoking and deeply poetic films have garnered a devoted following over the last two decades.

Burns is best known for his Emmy Award-winning, eight-part PBS series, New York: A Documentary Film, which Variety called “nothing short of gripping...a monumental documentary series.” When the eighth and final episode – a three-hour portrait of the rise and fall of the World Trade Center titled The Center of the World aired nationally on PBS in September 2003. TV Guide described it as "a majestically composed eulogy" and The Houston Chronicle called it "breathtaking in its scope and execution.”

His other films include the Emmy Award-winning Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film, Ansel Adams, Coney Island, The Way West, The Donner Party, and Eugene O’Neill, which The Wall Street Journal called “a superbly told narrative of America’s greatest playwright.”

Coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, he recently completed a two-hour film, Death and the Civil War, for national broadcast as part of PBS’ American Experience series. The film examines the transformational impact of the Civil War’s staggering death toll and the enduring legacy of that trauma on the nation, the government, and the psyche of the American people. 

Burns began his career working alongside his brother Ken, as co-producer and co-writer of the landmark PBS series, The Civil War. He went on to form his own company, Steeplechase Films, in 1989 to produce his work for public television.

His documentary films We Shall Remain: Tecumseh's Vision and Into the Deep: America, Whaling & The World, an exploration of one of America’s first global industries, aired on PBS in 2009 and 2010. His most recent film, Nantucket, showcases the region's natural beauty and significant role in global history. His 2014 work, Enquiring Minds: The Untold Story Of The Man Behind The National Enquirer, examined the history of The National Enquirer and its publisher, Generoso Pope Jr.

Burns's latest film, The Pilgrims, will air on November 25, 2015 and will explore the lives of the Mayflower’s passengers, connecting the 17th century Atlantic World and the Pilgrims’ experience and ideals with how contemporary America understands itself and its past.

“Ric Burns was one of the most engaging and effective speakers that we have seen. He speaks with insight and passion, and brings to his lectures the same knowledge and artistry so characteristic of his masterful documentaries. A visit by Ric Burns will be an intellectually transformative experience for all lucky enough to hear him.”
-Hanover College, Center for Free Inquiry