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NMPBS ¡COLORES!: Paul Barnes

NMPBS ¡COLORES!: Paul Barnes


Funding for COLORES was provided in part by
Frederick Hammersley Foundation. The Nellita E. Walker Fund for KNME-TV
KNME-TV Endowment Fund KNME New Mexico PBS Great Southwestern Arts
and Education Endowment Fund… …and Viewers Like You
>>THIS TIME, ON COLORES! IN THIS SPECIAL 30 MINUTE COLORES, CO-PRODUCER
AND EDITOR PAUL BARNES, KNOWN FOR HIS COLLABORATIONS WITH KEN BURNS ON SOME OF THE MOST SEMINAL
WORK IN THE HISTORY OF DOCUMENTARY FILM MAKING, SHARES HIS EXPERIENCE CREATING THE CIVIL WAR.
FIRST PREMIERING IN SEPTEMBER 1990 THE CIVIL WAR HAS BEEN REMASTERED FOR HIGH DEFINITION
BROADCAST.>>What I really loved about it was that they
were going to look at it from all aspects, from all sides, and they wanted to get at
the emotion of it, they wanted to get at the humanity of it as well as the politics of
it and the meaning of it.”>>IT’S ALL AHEAD ON COLORES!>>Narrator:
Between 1861 and 1865 Americans made war on each other and killed each-other in great
numbers. If only to become the kind of country that could no longer conceive how that was
possible. What began as a bitter dispute over union and states’ rights ended as a struggle
over the meaning of freedom in America. At Gettysburg in 1863 Abraham Lincoln said perhaps
more than he knew, the war was about a new birth of freedom.>>Why is this story important
to you?>>The Civil War is a crucial part of American history I believe. It occurred
when we were still a very young nation, and we were founded as a nation with slavery as
part of our basis. From the time we became a nation until the war broke out there were
numerous attempts to come to terms with that. The country was beginning to come apart over
that issue, how can you have a true democracy if a large part of the population is enslaved?
It just doesn’t make any sense. It was a really tough issue and a very tough fight, and I
think that unfortunately it was so hard that I don’t think any measure of compromise or
any measure of law making was going to be able to bring it to any kind of an end. It’s
almost as if we had to explode. The war had to take place in order to really address the
issue, and to really get rid of it as a part of our basis of who we were as a nation. Every
once and a while there’s a war that is a right war that is fought for a really good cause,
and that’s necessary because there’s not going to be any way to irradiate a problem unless
it happens. It’s unfortunate I hate war I’m totally anti-war, but I have to say
that the Civil War was a war that this nation had to fight.>>How does one tell the story
of war?>>Well the thing I loved about working on the film and i was the principle editor.
I didn’t write it, Jeffery C. Ward and Rick Burns and Ken wrote the script. Ken and his
brother Rick conceived the whole project Ken directed the whole film; it was really their
project. What I really loved about it was that they were going to look at it from all
aspects from all sides. They wanted to get at the emotion of it; they wanted to get at
the humanity of it as well as the politics of it and the meaning of it. So they looked
at it from the top down from Lincoln and Lee down, and they looked at it from bottom up
with the common foot soldiers and the slaves that were involved in the struggle. They looked
at it from the North from that side, they looked at it from the perspective of the south
as well. Mary Chestnut is a wonderful character in the film. You see what the Southerners
went through with this huge eruption in their culture in where they lived and how they had
to face those horrors on a daily basis. Even the changes that they were beginning to think
about in terms of why this erupted happened. The multi-faceted part of telling this story
was wonderful to me. I always loved history and film making; so working with Ken is like
the ideal for me it’s like both of my loves combined it’s the perfect job. But I have
to saw all the stuff I learned about the Civil War in History class in middle school, high
school and college didn’t match the experience of making the film. I think that the letters
and diaries that they were finding to make voice excerpts from were so extraordinary
to me the language was so beautiful. It brought those characters to life in such wonderful
ways that I suddenly understood the history so much better because it was personalized.
>>Narrator: The Civil War was fought in ten thousand places. From Val Verde, New Mexico
and Tullahoma, Tennessee, to Saint Albans, Vermont and Fernandina on the Florida Coast.
More than three million Americans fought in it, and over six hundred thousand men, two
percent of the population, died in it.>>How do you start with the process?>>Oh lord,
we never start without a script Ken refuses to start to edit without having a really solid
draft of the script. The script has often gone through maybe three, four, five drafts
before he lets the editors begin to cut until he’s happy with the overall shape on paper.
But again it’s on paper it’s not the full thing. Once you start to put the music and
the images to it, suddenly it takes on a different life and a different life of its own, a different
dynamic. So you keep changing and shaping those elements together between the audio,
between the visuals, between the music, between the sound effects until you get the right
kind of blend. But it’s a constant process, the editing process, I mean were changing
and drafting new cuts and sequences all the time. Ken is a master of that in the cutting
room, he still amazes me when he comes in because he’s such a great storyteller, but
he’s also a great story teller on film.>>Narrator: Exactly at 1 o’clock a giant artillery barrage
intended to soften up the Unions defenses before the attack began with a deafening explosion.
(explosion) Mead had just left his commanders finishing
their lunch, as an orderly served them butter, a shell tore the man in two.
(explosions) A storm broke upon us so suddenly that numbers
of soldiers and officers who leaped from their tents or lazy siestas on the grass were stricken
in their rising with mortal wounds and died. Some with cigars clamped between their teeth,
some with pieces of food in their fingers.>>The flying iron and pieces of stone struck
some men down in every direction. About thirty men in our brigade were killed or wounded,
Elijah Hunt rose.>>Narrator: To keep up his men’s courage General Winfield Scott Hancock
rode up and down the line without flinching at the screaming shells. A brigadier urged
him to take cover, Hancock refused. “There are times” he answered, “When a core commander’s
life does not count.”   Union artillery began to fire back.
(explosions)>>We sat and heard in silence. What other
expression had we that was not meant for such an awful universe of battle? All in the rear
of the crest for a thousand yards was the field of the shells blind fury. Ambulances
passing down the Tarrytown road with wounded men were struck. The hospitals were riddled. 
Frank Haskell.>>Narrator: Suddenly, the Union guns fell silent, to conserve ammunition for
the attack Meade was sure was coming. And, to lure the enemy out into the open fields.
It worked.>>Bellamy: Can you speak a little bit about captivating the imagination of the
viewer?>>Barnes: Ken talks about part of his aesthetic being what he calls emotional
archeology.  Its, you dig up the past, and you discover these treasures, but you don’t
want it just to be objects.  You don’t want it to just be a dull thing.  It’s like what’s
the feeling, what the emotion, what’s the meaning behind it all? And so, the whole attempt
in making these historical films is to bring the past alive, and this technique he has
developed, I mean it does it so beautifully because you’re looking at these objects, these
photographs, which are still, but you take a living text that still has such life and
vibrancy to it, you have a wonderful actor read that, and you combine that text over
these beautiful photographs that, you allow the audience to imagine that they’re actually
seeing newsreel in a certain way. One of the big challenges in making “The Civil War” was
that the battles were hard to visualize. Photography was new, it was only 22 years old when the
Civil War started. The lenses were slow, the cameras were cumbersome, you had to hold the
shutter open for forever to get an image, and if there was action in front of it, it
would all blur. So there was no way to do action photographs during the battles. So,
it was photographs of empty battlefields before the battle started, or battlefields littered
with bodies after the battles were over, or you had present day live shots of the battlefields,
photographed in beautiful light in moody situations. Or, you had paintings. There were an awful
lot of very good paintings done of Civil War battlefields that we could rely on. But again,
they’re all static. They’re all still.  What really brought it to life is to fill up the
soundtrack with sound effects. So that we had gunshots and cannon fire and men shouting
and running, so that the soundtrack was more active than the visuals were.
(Gunfire, soldiers yelling)>>Narrator: When the first southerners came
within 200 yards, Union General Alexander Hayes told his men to fire. 11 Cannons and
1700 musket went off at once. Entire regiments disappeared.>>Bellamy: Can you speak for
a moment about language and the importance of language in this film?>>Barnes: The thing
about Ken’s films, language is always key. The text is as important to him as the visuals.
And, when I teach editing to my students I often say audio, you know, sound, is half
your movie. So, part of the aesthetic that we have developed over the years, in terms
of editing, is to pay as much attention to the text and the language in the text as to
the visual choices. Ken goes out of his way, and Jeff goes out of his way to select the
most beautiful quotes from these letters and diaries, where this language is really
rich and dynamic, and emotional. So that the language itself draws the audience in. And
then in terms of our visual style, when there’s a great quote we actually try to slow the
visuals down. We don’t overcut and throw a lot of visuals at the audience at once. But,
we’ll just select one or two or three images to cover entire quotes, so that rather than
distracting the audience with a lot of changes visually we try to get the audience’s ears
to work more. And hear the text and the language more by letting them sit with an image and
be comfortable with the image, like the slow zooms in that Ken does on people’s faces,
like when Lincoln is making an extraordinary speech, there’s a long minute and a half zoom
in on Lincoln during one of his inaugural speeches that, it’s so brave, I mean who does
a shot for a minute and a half with a complex speech going over it.  But, it’s incredibly
effective because you hear the words so much better and by going in on this man’s face
you also feel the emotion that’s behind the intellect that wrote these words. And, I think
the combination of the two works incredibly well. There’s a wonderful quote, of Frederick
Douglas, that comes, kind of ends the introduction, and in the early drafts, the early cuts, that
quote wasn’t there. It was in a different position in the film. And, as we were working
on it, Ken kept thinking that that is so key what Douglas was saying, he decided to move
it, to be basically the end of the introduction.  So that the final word of the way we introduce
the film is given to Frederick Douglas. And, it’s a heartrending quote, it’s about the
sufferings of his people. He talks about the blood of his brothers and sisters and that
the institution of slavery, it’s so vile to him. I mean that’s the nature of the quote
at the end of the introduction. And, we use this beautiful, it’s an aerial across one
of the rivers in the south, with this sunset light on it, so that the water is like blood
red and the banks are in dark silhouette. It’s a very, very moody image. When Douglas
mentions the blood of his brothers and sisters, you see that in the water. There’s an incredible
correlation between the two things.  When Ken was filming the interviews he had heard
about a 104-year-old woman who was in an old-age home in Pennsylvania I believe it was.  Her
name was Daisy Turner and her father had been an ex-slave. And she was one of the oldest
descendants still living in the late 1980s when Ken was making the film.  And so, he
heard about Daisy, he read some articles about her and, she could be very articulate about
her heritage, and so he thought lets go try and see what we can get from Daisy. And unfortunately
the day they got there, because she’s 104 years-old, her mind wasn’t as lucid that day. 
They stumbled around with questions and she wasn’t giving him what he was hoping for and
things he had read about in articles about Daisy. And they were about to stop and pack
up and go, very disappointed, but then Daisy said “well since you’re here do you want to
hear the poem?” And, Ken said to Daisy, “What poem?” She said “Well, it’s a Civil War poem
about a soldier in the Civil War, and I can tell it to you.” And he said “yes, absolutely,”
And she, Daisy just launched into this long narrative poem about this one soldier and
his death during the battle of Gettysburg. And, just a continuous stream, no stumbling,
no stopping, no ums and ahs, just, it’s like she memorized it when she was 12-years old
and she just never forgot it. And, it was just extraordinary.  When Ken showed me the
footage in the cutting room, I was just blown away.  I just thought this is a gift.  It’s
like a great treasure that you’ve captured here.  And then he kept thinking how can
we use it, how can we use it. And, working with the scriptwriter Jeff, they figured out,
why don’t we… it was long, you couldn’t hold the whole thing onscreen the entire time,
and so, Ken and Jeff came up with the idea of breaking it up and using it as a way to
frame the story of the Battle of Gettysburg. And so she became a structural device in a
beautiful way for the entire battle of Gettysburg sequence in episode 5 of The Civil War. 
It just lifted the film into a different dimension, you know, it was a drama and a poetry to it
that was almost Homeric. It was just, I mean, again, it’s just part of the unexpected things
that happen in production that become wonderful parts of the final project. It’s so memorable.
>>Bellamy: How do you make a choice to leave something in or take something out?>>Barnes:
It’s a tricky decision, but it has to do, I think, with the vitality and dynamic of
it. If it’s really hitting you hard, it’s something that’s going to stay. If there’s
any kind of weakness to it, if an actor’s reading is weak, of a quote, so that the language
suddenly doesn’t soar, we might remove it. One thing that Ken always does when we’re
screening is that he puts himself into the position of the audience. He forgets who he
is.  He is making this film for a larger audience, and so he sits there and just says
“I’m a blank slate. I’ve never seen this before. I’ve never researched this before. Hit me
with it.” And, it’s kind of an uncanny ability that he has. And, he sits there and he’s taking
notes constantly on the script, and he’ll cross out things that aren’t working and he’ll
checkmark things that are great, and then as an editor we sit together and he’ll say
“This quote really doesn’t work. Let’s take, let’s remove that one, let’s take this one
that’s down here, let’s put it up in that position and that has much more life to it,
and because it’s his film, he’s directing it, that’s his way of directing the editing
throughout the course of putting the project together.
>>Bellamy: Tell me a little about the excitement around the restoration and the format for
the restoration.>>Barnes: We’ve done the restoration of “The Civil War” for a number
of different reasons. First of all, it’s for preservation. I mean, not to pat myself on
the back, or pat Ken on the back, but I do think it’s a classic American film. It’s so
widely used in classrooms still, middle school, high school, colleges all around the country.
In fact, in numbers, the statistics about how much it is used in classrooms has gone
up over the years.  It hasn’t gone down. And, it’s a twenty five year old film. It
still has the kind of emotional effect on people who see it in the present day.  We
want it to live for further generations, and you know, the technology that created the
film, the audio, the film, is deteriorating. Its 25 years old.  Some of the film is even,
Ken started making the film five years before it was broadcast, so it’s even 30 years old.
The audio elements, the film elements are beginning to deteriorate unfortunately. 
So, we took the original negatives, 16 millimeter, we scanned them on to 4Kdigital computer files
and then basically we reconstructed the entire film in a high definition version for broadcast
using the 4K digital files. We also went through and completely color corrected the entire
thing, so it’s more beautiful than it’s ever been. It’s crystal clear. The focus is extraordinary.
There’s a funny thing in 16 Millimeter called the film weave, where it, when you broadcast
the film, you’d see little bit of movement, almost like it was being, you’re rocking on
a boat. We were able to stabilize the film weave, so now all of the images are rock steady
when you see them. I think if you saw it 25 years ago, it’s going to just look like something
completely new. And I think your experience of watching it might be richer because of
how beautiful it is. The Civil War series is one, it’s the main way that a lot of people
in America learned the history of the Civil War. Time and time again, people will tell
us, they learned from watching the series not from reading books, unfortunately. I mean,
part of making these films was to draw people to read books and to learn more about their
history, but again if the starting ground is watching The Civil War then it is so important
that the next generation and the generation after and the generation after, this preservation
is going to allow the film to live that long.>>Bellamy: What is really important for people
to know about this production?>>Barnes: It was probably the major crisis in our nation’s
history. And, at its root is race. The war was fought to free the slaves. The war was
fought to give African Americans a better life in this country. And, as we all know,
after the Civil War, for all of Lincoln and Republican Party’s good intentions, reconstruction
was a miserable failure, and that race is still a major issue in this country that is
still not resolved. Just the events in the last couple of years, it only brings it home
even more. One of our historians Barbara Fields, a historian at Columbia University, says in
the introduction to the film, “sadly the Civil War is still being fought. And sadly, the
Civil War can still be lost.” And this is something she said 25 years ago when the film
was first made. And unfortunately it’s still true today. And, I think that what’s important
about the Civil War is that it raises these issues. There’s resonances from the history
of the Civil War that resonate into the present.  These issues of race are something that we
need to know about, we need to think about, we need to talk about, we need to open up
the dialogue, continue the communication about where we are going as a country in relation
to race.>>Bellamy: What can stories add to that conversation for you?>>Barnes: I mean
I think one of the beauties of the Civil War is the through line of the slave experience,
from ordinary slaves whose letters and diaries still survived.  We use these wonderful quotes,
Frederick Douglas is a main figure throughout the series. And, I think when you hear these
voices and them telling their own stories, one slave named John Boston, you know, who
escaped from the south, went north, his wife and son are still down there, and he writes
his wife a letter saying how much he wants to fight and struggles to get her and their
son back into freedom.  I mean it’s a brief passage from a letter but it is so powerful.
And, I think that those kind of stories that thread through the whole Civil War series
brings the whole experience of African Americans in this country to life, I think it’s only
going to increase people’s empathy, so that people of color are no longer the other. 
I mean it’s always the attempt when we deal with race in our films to humanize and to
make people realize the experience of so many of the historical figures we’ve dealt with
in our films, from Frederick Douglas to someone like Jack Johnson the boxer in the film we
made about him, the race issues that come up in The Roosevelts, it’s a part of the American
fabric, and it’s still something I think we’re still trying to heal.>>Bellamy: Why tell
stories?>>Barnes: Stories are a way to learn. It’s a way to increase people’s understanding.
It’s a way for people to empathize with other human beings, from time in memoriam, I think
that’s why we tell stories. And it shows the good side of our nature, it shows the bad
sides of our nature, and you can learn lessons from both. And I think the more that you hear
these stories, you see these stories, you take these stories in, you understand these
stories, and you feel these stories, the more empathy that you’re going to create within
yourself as a human being. I think that’s why it is so important. And again, it’s
the kind of, because the Civil War has so many aspects and so many sides to it, you
can feel and see from all these different points of view, you know.  You feel what
Lincoln is feeling, what Grant is feeling, what Lee is feeling, what Mary Chestnut is
feeling, what John Boston or Frederick Douglas is feeling.  And you feel the kind of hopes
and aspirations and successes and failures that all of these individuals had in dealing
with this crisis in American history. And, I think it’s an incredibly rich experience.
And, I think that what you take away from that is something that can be applied to today.
We need to know our history. We need to know who we are as a people. We need to know who
we are as a nation. We need to know why we were founded. We need to know what those ideals
were. We need to figure out how to make those ideals become real, and not just, you know,
needless words on a piece of paper. And, that’s why we make these films.>>NEXT TIME ON COLORES!
ACCLAIMED ALBUQUERQUE LANDSCAPE PAINTER BETTY SABO SAW PAINTING AS A WAY TO EXPRESS EMOTION.
>>Nobody paints adobes in snow like Betty. I can’t tell you how many people do them,
probably a thousand. So when you say what makes her work different? It isn’t. But
it’s better.>>THE MAN WHO WON’T LIVE WITHOUT LOVE, PETER ASHER, HAS MOVED EFFORTLESSLY
FROM HIT MUSICIAN TO POWERFUL PRODUCER. [SONG]>>CREATIVE HUB EMPAC HOSTS CUTTING-EDGE ARTISTS
AND PERFORMANCES.>>The particularity at EMPAC is that for visual artists especially, who
normally have the constraints of like a white, cube gallery space, is here the limits are
taken away from them.>>INDIE BAND DAVE BUKER & THE HISTORIANS SHARE THE PROCESS OF PRODUCING
AN ALBUM.>>You want to make a certain kind of music and you want to record it and you
want it to be good, it’s all dependent on how hard you work.>>UNTIL NEXT TIME, THANK
YOU FOR WATCHING.

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