Q3 2020

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40 C I N E M O N T A G E F E A T U R E By Peter Tonguette L ong before he became a pop culture icon in his own right thanks to such sweeping, multipart nonfiction ep- ics as "The Civil War" (1990), "Baseball" (1994), and "Jazz" (2001), Ken Burns was once a maker of scrappy indepen- dent documentaries. American Factories KEN BURNS DID IT. SO DID MICHAEL MOORE. BUT A LOT OF DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKERS DON'T GO UNION. IS THAT ABOUT TO CHANGE? Burns' first and second films, "Brook- lyn Bridge" (1981) and "The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God" (1984), were each hour-long examinations of fairly specialized subjects—the first, a portrait of the famous suspension bridge linking Brooklyn and Manhattan, and the second, a study of a religious movement that took root in America in the eigh- teenth century. Those early films had something else in common, too: Neither were unionized projects. "In the very beginning, when I was working on my Brooklyn Bridge film, I figure I lived on about two cents an hour for about five years," Burns said. "You Ken Burns: "We wanted to serve the creative people we were hiring." P H O T O : G E T T Y I M A G E S

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