Ric Burns won two Emmys for The Civil War, which he produced with his brother, Ken. Through his own company, Steeplechase Films, he has created an extensive body of award-winning work, primarily for American public television. His films include Eugene O’Neill, Ansel Adams, Coney Island, The Donner Party, the six-hour series The Way West, and the seven-episode series New York, completed before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He followed up with an eighth episode, The Center of the World, about the World Trade Center, which he was completing at the time of this interview in 2003.
Of the ideas that cross your desk, how do you decide which to make into films?
For me, in the bundle of words “historical documentary filmmaker,” ...