Alumni Explore ‘The Ken Burns Effect’
When Ken Burns speaks at War Memorial Auditorium on Tuesday, March 27, the 2,000-person audience will include a particularly devoted group of fans, about a dozen alumni from the class of 2007. As first-year students in fall 2003, they found their friendship fueled by a shared love of the documentary filmmaker’s work. When they learned that he was coming to speak at Dana Auditorium in November of that year, it seemed like a miracle.
Three of the students, all residents of Binford Hall, showed their appreciation with body paint, attending the lecture with K-E-N spelled on their bare chests. A fourth member of the group, Erin Burns ’07 (no relation), was equally enthusiastic, but remained fully clothed.
They are reuniting to celebrate Burns’ return to Greensboro and, just as they did more than eight years ago, they have come up with a unique tribute to mark the occasion: They are meeting in Washington and, starting Saturday, they will make a pilgrimage to Greensboro to see their hero. They are making a documentary about their trip – “The Ken Burns Effect” – which their website calls a “Ken Burns-style documentary homage to Ken Burns. We are hoping it will feature Ken Burns.”
The film is being co-produced by Erin and Tia Shuyler ’07. “We all appreciate storytelling,” Erin said of the group, “and obviously Ken Burns is one of the greatest storytellers that we have.” During their trip to Greensboro, they plan to take part in activities featured in Ken Burns documentaries – visiting a national park, playing baseball and listening to jazz.
The alumni have made a trailer for their movie. Needless to say, it employs the Ken Burns effect, the technique of creating dynamic video of still photographs by zooming and panning. According to the alumni filmmakers’ website, the term has another definition, too: “The films of Ken Burns brought us together, instilled in us a love for the United States and its history, and taught us the value of public broadcasting and of filmmaking. That is the Ken Burns effect.”
Ken Burns will become the first person to make a second appearance in the Bryan Series when he speaks about his film “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” at War Memorial Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. As of Thursday, there was still balcony seating available. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, those with Guilford ID can receive two tickets by presenting their Quaker Card at the auditorium box office, while supplies last.
The Bryan Series continues on Tuesday, April 10, with Fareed Zakaria, a leading authority on international affairs.
About the photo: First-year students Aaron DeMoss, Matt Haselton, Nate Miller and Erin Burns (l-r) meet Ken Burns outside Dana Auditorium following his speech in 2003. “I … I don’t have to be in this picture,” Burns said just before the picture was snapped, according to Aaron. The photo was taken by staff member Nancy Semones Knox.