Lynn Novick is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker. For nearly 30 years, she has been directing and producing films about American history and culture, most recently The Vietnam War, an immersive, 10-part, 18-hour epic she directed with Ken Burns that aired on PBS in 2017. Novick and Burns have long been creative partners and collaborators and together are responsible for more than 80 hours of programming, including some of the most acclaimed and top-rated documentaries to have aired on PBS: Prohibition, Baseball, Jazz, Frank Lloyd Wright and The War, a seven part, 15-hour exploration of ordinary Americans’ experiences in World War II.
The Vietnam War, produced with Sarah Botstein and written by Geoffrey C. Ward, received widespread critical acclaim and was seen by nearly 50 million viewers in the USA as well as millions more in nearly 100 countries. A groundbreaking 360-degree exploration of the conflict, the series features testimony from nearly 100 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as dozens of Vietnamese combatants and civilians from the winning and losing sides.
In 2014 Novick formed an independent production company, Skiff Mountain Films , to produce socially relevant documentary films about contemporary American life. In 2019 PBS will air Skiff Mountain Films’ first production, College Behind Bars, a four-hour documentary series. The film is Novick’s debut as solo director and is produced by Novick, Sarah Botstein, Salimah El-Amin and Mariah Doran. Ken Burns is executive producer.
College Behind Bars tells the story of a small group of incarcerated men and women struggling to earn college degrees and turn their lives around in one of the most rigorous and effective prison education programs in America – the Bard Prison Initiative. Through their experiences, filmed over four years in medium and maximum security prisons in New York State, the film shines a light on the fundamental relationship between incarceration and education, puts a human face on America’s criminal justice crisis, and upends conventional wisdom about the human potential for moral, emotional, and intellectual transformation. The film raises questions Americans urgently need to address: What is prison for? Who has access to educational opportunity? Who among us is capable of academic excellence? How can we have justice without redemption?
Novick is also collaborating with Ken Burns, Sarah Botstein, and Geoffrey C. Ward on a number of projects for PBS: a three part biography of Ernest Hemingway, an exploration of America’s response to the Holocaust, and a series on the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, A series on the history of crime and punishment in America is also in the works. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Yale, and lives in New York City.