“Red Carpet Premiere” of Ric Burns’s “Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World”

Tonight, Monday, May 10, 2010, is the “Red Carpet Premiere” of Ric Burns’s “Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World”, narrated by Willem Dafoe, beginning at 6:30 pm at the Whaling Museum. The film debuts nationally laster tonight on PBS.

Burns has spoken at the Whaling Museum over the past few years, has filmed around the island and has conducted research at the NHA Research Library for this WGBH “American Experience” two hour documentary that will portray the significance of the American whaling industry from 1620 to 1924, using archival material, interviews, dramatic reenactments, and underwater footage of whales at sea.

Portions of the film were shot in the Whaling Museum’s Discovery Room, and the NHA worked closely with Ric Burns during initial research and documentation. A number of artifacts from the NHA collection were used in the filming of the movie, and they will be on display for this event. The NHA’s Bill Tramposch
and Ben Simons are listed as Project Consultants, and island producer Dan Driscoll is listed as providing Archival Motion Pictures. Special thanks went to Nantucketers Janet and Rick Sherlund, Georgen Charnes, Tony Dumitru, Mark Avery, and Young’s Bicycle Shop.

In November of 1820, thousands of miles from Nantucket, the whaleship Essex sank after being rammed by an eighty-five-foot sperm whale, leaving her twenty crew members to fend for their lives. Adrift for ninety days, most of the crew perished and only eight survived. Herman Melville wrote Moby-Dick after reading an account of the Essex tragedy written by its first mate Owen Chase. The final chapters are reportedly inspired by the sinking of the Essex.

From the PBS website: “For two centuries, American whale oil lit the world – illuminating and powering the start of the industrial revolution, and laying the groundwork for a truly global economy. From its stunning rise as an economic force in the 18th century, to its precipitous decline in the decades following the Civil War, the whaling industry mapped millions of miles of uncharted ocean, opened new seaways and markets, employed the world’s most multi-cultural workforce, and shrunk the globe by bringing once remote reaches of the earth into contact as never before-all the while capturing the American imagination. This film tells the riveting and extraordinary story of the American whaling industry, from its origins off the coast of New England and Cape Cod, through the great golden age of deep-ocean whaling, to the industry’s spectacular demise.”

Watch the promotional trailer

The film was written and directed by Ric Burns, an award winning internationally known documentary filmmaker and writer, who has been writing, directing, and producing historical documentaries through his Steeplechase Films for nearly twenty years.

Ric is best known for his epic series New York: A Documentary Film, which premiered nationally on PBS to wide public and critical acclaim. The eight-part, seventeen and a half hour film chronicles the city’s rise from a tiny Dutch trading post down through its continuing preeminence as the undisputed economic and cultural capital of the world.

Along with his brother Ken Burns, he produced the PBS series The Civil War released in 1990, receiving two Emmys (for producing and for writing), the Christopher Award, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, and the Producer of the Year Award from the Producer’s Guild of America. Other filsm include “Coney Island”, “The Donner Party”, “The Way West”, “Ansel Adams”, “Eugene O’Neill”, and “Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film”.

Ric Burns said of working with Nat Philbrick: “Nat was the first interview we did, and the first interview we wanted to do. Not only did he make a huge contribution to this film, we literally could not have told the story we wanted to tell without him.”

“Nat has an instinctive sense of the resonant information and the details that take hold of our hearts and imaginations,” Burns continued. “There is such an unpretentious poetry to his way of thinking. He’s a treasure.”

Burns is also creating a special twenty-minute orientation “gateway” film for the Nantucket Historical Association, which will capture the essence of Nantucket and it’s place in world history. Burns’ films traditionally use quotations from the prominant personalities of the day, historic images, and either the music of the time or music written today encompassing the music and zietgeist of the time. The film will premiere in 2011. Island author and historian Nathaniel Philbrick serves as an advisor on the film.

NHA staff will answer questions prior to the screening. Popcorn and lemonade will be served. This red carpet event is free; if you can, dress festively, historically, or in creative black-tie for this red carpet event.

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