Ken Burns Shares How He Is Able to Work on Over Six Films at a Time, the Power of Listening to His Gut and Why Collaboration Is Key

'If I were given a thousand years, I wouldn't run out of topics.'

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2 min read

From different management styles to collaboration techniques, everyone has their own way of tackling projects and getting work done. And one prominent filmmaker has found that constant planning, thorough research and working on multiple projects at a time are some of the secrets to his success.

Ken Burns is an award-winning filmmaker, known for famous documentaries like The Civil War, Baseball and Jazz. With many years of experience under his belt, Burns shares his processes for creating thought-provoking films, many of which have helped mold the genre of documentary films today.

Related: Ken Burns Talks About Leadership, Productivity and Achieving Immortality Through Storytelling

For one, Burn’s work ethic is tireless. Ideas are constantly brewing in his head, and he’s always working on something, whether it’s brand new or 10 years in the making.

“I’m now working on six or seven films [right now], which is insane,” he told Entrepreneur. Because of this style, Burns is already thinking 13 to 14 films ahead -- he’s even planning the films he hopes to create in the 2020s right now. 

And how does he choose which films to focus on?  Simple: He listens to his inner voice.  

“It’s a gut feeling,” he says in a video for Entrepreneur. "Maybe there [are] 50 or 60 things that I’m thinking about and then every once in awhile one drops from your head to your heart and you go, ‘[I’ve] got to do that one.’”

And his latest one is set to drop this month. Partnered with director, Lynn Novick, Burns’ new 10-part documentary series The Vietnam War, which took him over 10 years to create, will be debuting on Sept. 17 on PBS.

Related: Tap Your Hidden Strengths to Unleash Your Leadership Skills

Watch the video to learn how Burns thinks of new ideas, takes on new projects and plans his work schedule. To hear more from Burns, check out an in-depth Q&A with him here. 

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