The Creative Team as Historian: Inside the Production Process on Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio (1992)
Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio was Ken Burns’s eighth major PBS special, premiering on January 29, 1992. Its production history offers a glimpse into Burns’s working methods at Florentine Films during an extraordinarily heady period for both the producer-director and his still-struggling company. This historical documentary was conceived and created while The Civil War was being edited and later released to wide attention and acclaim, a period when Burns’s professional profile changed dramatically as he became a national celebrity virtually overnight. The heightened work environment and reaction surrounding The Civil War also affected Empire of the Air’s shooting and assembly stages, in minor ways at first, but then more tangibly after the summer of 1990. The production of this PBS special, in retrospect, provides a revealing object lesson into the shared authorship which typically occurs when creating mediated history on film for television.
KeywordsHistorical Narrative Radio Broadcasting Creative Team Public Television Historical Documentary
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