Lynn Novick Interview: ‘The Vietnam War’ director
“I’ve really been obsessed with the Vietnam War my entire life,” reveals director Lynn Novick when asked about what drew her to making PBS‘s epic, 18-hour documentary “The Vietnam War.” For Novick, the divisive international conflict was “the major story of my life.” She grew up watching “reactions to it, the protests against it, and the crisis our country went through.” So it was almost inevitable that she and frequent collaborator Ken Burns would one day tackle the massive subject for television, examining the war from the perspectives of over 80 eyewitnesses who were affected by the conflict in both America and Vietnam. Watch our exclusive video interview with Novick above.
The directing and producing duo began work on the immense undertaking in 2007, knowing it would come out nearly a decade later. “We couldn’t have imagined what our world would look like,” says Novick, “but nonetheless, we had a very strong sense even then, and certainly now, that our country is extraordinarily polarized, and we’re living in fractious and frightening times.” She believes that a lot of the “subterranean chasms” in our society “can be traced back to the Vietnam War.” It was a “national trauma” that we “never really understood,” and it left America with “unfinished business.”
Novick and Burns’s previous collaborations have brought them an Emmy win for “Baseball” (Best Informational Series in 1995) and nominations for “Jazz” (Best Non-Fiction Series in 2001) and “The War” (Best Nonfiction Directing in 2008). They also received a Peabody Award for their film “Frank Lloyd Wright” in 1998. Altogether their working relationship spans almost 30 years, beginning with Burns’ groundbreaking series “The Civil War” (1990), on which Novick served as an associate producer and post-production coordinator.