When you hear a letter written by Thomas Jefferson being read by actor Sam Waterston or see a photograph showing the intensity in the eyes of a Civil War soldier, you know you’re watching a Ken Burns documentary.

In this episode of My First Big Break, the iconic filmmaker tells the MediabistroTV crew how he channeled his feelings of humiliation into his first masterpiece on the Brooklyn Bridge and reveals how his mother’s death sparked his need to bring the dead back to life, shaping the style we know today as the “Ken Burns Effect.”

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