Interview: Ken Burns

By CLIF GARBODEN  |  September 25, 2009

But you have to decide what to film, after all.
[No.] Traditionally in a documentary film, you might research for three weeks or three months and then produce a script, and that would be the template for shooting and the template for editing, and you've stamped your thing out. We never stop researching; we start shooting before we interview.

And do your interview subjects write their own material?
It's not written. Every time you see a talking head in a film of mine, it is a happy accident of their answering a question that they didn't know was coming.

Most of my colleagues might say, "That's great, can you say that better?" . . . "Now, could you end it the way you did the first time?" We've never done that. We've never told a question in advance; never had somebody repeat their question — unless we ran out of film and had to start over.

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