Ric Burns is an internationally acclaimed filmmaker known for his dramatic, elegant and sweeping historical documentaries. His most recent work is the Emmy award-winning NEW YORK: A DOCUMENTARY FILM, a seven-part, fourteen-hour series that chronicles the city’s remarkable rise from a tiny Dutch trading post on the edge of the world to its preeminence today as the economic and cultural capital of the modern world. The first five episodes of NEW YORK were broadcast nationally on PBS in November 1999 as a special presentation of the WGBH series The American Experience; Burns is currently at work on the final two episodes of the documentary.
NEW YORK, which Burns
directed, wrote with James Sanders, and produced with Lisa Ades, generated
considerable critical acclaim.
Burns, who began his filmmaking career in the mid-eighties, is well-known for his work on the acclaimed PBS series THE CIVIL WAR (1987) which he produced with his brother Ken and wrote with Geoffrey C. Ward. He has received numerous awards for his work on the series, including two Emmys (for producing and for writing), the Christopher Award, the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award, and the Producer of the Year Award of the Producer's Guild of America.
In 1991, Burns directed CONEY ISLAND, an hour-long study of the amusement empire which Time magazine named one of the top ten television programs of 1991, and which the Chicago Tribune called "one of the best documentaries you will ever see." The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1991 and was broadcast nationally on PBS in February of that year, went on to receive the Erik Barnouw prize of the Organization of American Historians and the Chicago Film Festival's Silver Hugo Award, among other prizes.
In 1992, Burns wrote and directed THE DONNER PARTY, a ninety-minute history of the ill-fated pioneer group, which premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in September 1992 and aired nationally on PBS that October. Critically acclaimed across the country -- Time magazine named the film one of the top ten television programs of 1992 -- the film received a Peabody Broadcasting Award from the University of Georgia; a Writer's Guild of America Award for Outstanding Achievement of 1993; the D.W. Griffith Award of the National Board of Review for the best television program of 1992; and the Outstanding Documentary award of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. In addition, the film was nominated for two Emmys (for writing and directing), as well as receiving nominations from the Director's Guild of America (for directing) and the American Cinema Editors (for editing).
Burns’ six-hour documentary
series, THE WAY WEST, produced with his partner Lisa Ades,
was broadcast nationally on PBS in May 1995. The series, aired as
part of The American Experience, received The Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia
Silver Baton award, The Writers Guild of America’s award for Outstanding
Achievement, and the National Educational Media Network’s Gold Apple
Burns graduated from Columbia College in 1978, where he earned a B.A. in English literature, summa cum laude; he went on to earn a first-class honours degree in English literature from Cambridge University (England) in 1980, and an M. Phil. in English literature from Columbia University in 1982.
In the spring of 2000, Burns received the prestigious John Jay Award from Columbia College, the school’s highest honor for distinguished professional achievement. (Past honorees include poet Alan Ginsberg, playwright Tony Kushner, and ABC News chief Roone Arledge.)
Burns and his wife, Bonnie Lafave, live with their two young sons in New York City.