Since the Academy Award nomination of Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Burns has directed and produced some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made. His films have won 13 Emmy Awards and two Oscar nominations. In 2008, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences honored Burns with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
His past projects include Prohibition, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, The War, Unforgiveable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, Horatio’s Drive: America’s First Road Trip, Mark Twain, Jazz, Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Frank Lloyd Wright, Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, Thomas Jefferson, The Shakers, Statue of Liberty, Huey Long, The Congress, Thomas Hart Benton, Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio, William Segal, The West, and The Central Park Five.
Burns was director, producer, co-writer, chief cinematographer, music director and executive producer of Baseball and The Civil War. Baseball became the most watched series in PBS history, attracting more than 45 million viewers, and received numerous awards, including an Emmy, the CINE Golden Eagle Award and the Clarion Award. The Civil War was the highest rated series in the history of American public television and attracted an audience of 40 million during its premiere in 1990. The series has been honored with more than 40 major film and television awards.