Ken Burns: “All Story is Manipulation”

“All story is manipulation.”

I love this quote from Ken Burns.

Jean-Luc Godard said “Photography is truth, and cinema is truth 24 times per second.” Ken Burns turns that on its head with his perspective on storytelling, along with his personal inspiration in the stories he chooses to tell.

And it rings so true – even in our photos. We manipulate the audience/viewer based on the story we decide to share – be it a single frame or a feature length production. Regardless of the facts present, we are manipulating those facts based on the facts we choose to include. Whether it is framing, crop, spoken words or something else, our creative vision shapes the stories we tell.

[via John Nack]



  1. Cole says

    Eric, thank you for posting the interview with Ken Burns. I found it interesting, touching and thought provoking.
    I also found Ken’s honesty and transparency very inspiring. Thanks, Cole

  2. kevin says

    aaahhh, the power of the image. editorial , yes. notice how the piano music here provides a sense that his words have more meaning.

  3. Bob says

    Thank you for the Ken Burns video interview. I’ve been saying about documentary films that which he says since I was a film student in Hans Richter’s Film Institute in the early 1960s, only not as beautifully as the ones who made the video! Congrats to them, too.

  4. Geoff says

    Having found Mr. Burns, while a master story creator, to at times be at odds with truth-balance in his film creation, the interview was quite telling. The desire to manipulate data and the emotional response of one’s viewers at the expense of the ‘facts’ being presented is a trap all of us are quite capable of falling to. While art itself as expression should be what the viewer receives from it, we are responsible to represent reality that does not disparage the truth if we claim to be recreating or exposing ‘documentary evidence.’ A HUGE problem in the modern world is the lack of honesty and objectivity in media and analysis. Even if surprisingly open in his candor, Mr.Burns’ very words beg that we recognize that such media is not a format to place trust in; do your own research…