Ric Burns headshot - high resolution. Photo courtesy of Steeplechase Films.

Ric Burns (Director)
Six-time Emmy Award-winning director Ric Burns has been creating historical documentaries for public television for over 20 years. He began his career co-writing and producing the celebrated PBS series The Civil War (1990) with his brother Ken and Geoffrey C. Ward, and has since directed over 30 hours of award-winning films. Among his body of work are some of some of the most distinguished programs in the public television series American Experience and American Masters. 2015 saw the release three films by Burns: American Ballet Theatre: A History, which chronicles the rich history and legacy of America’s only national ballet company, Debt of Honor, which examines how the American government and society have regarded disabled veterans throughout history, and The Pilgrims which brings to life the story of the men and women of the Mayflower, uncovering the forces, circumstances, personalities and events that converged to propel their crossing to the New World.  Burns was educated at Columbia University and Cambridge University. He lives in New York City with his wife and two sons.



Li-Shin Yu (Director)
Li-Shin Yu, a New York-based film editor, has collaborated with Director Ric Burns for the past twenty-three years and is co-directing The Chinese Exclusion Act.  Yu and Burns are best known for their epic series NEW YORK: a documentary film, an eight-part production chronicling the city’s rise from a remote Dutch outpost to the cultural and economic center of the world, for which Yu received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Editing.  Their most recent film The Pilgrims, brings to life the story of the men and women of the Mayflower with a stunning performance by the late actor Roger Rees as William Bradford.  Yu’s other films with Burns include: Enquiring Minds: The Untold Story of the National Enquirer, Death and the Civil War, Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World, We Shall Remain: Tecumseh’s Vision, Andy Warhol, Eugene O’Neill, Ansel Adams, and The Way West.  Their films have garnered multiple awards including Emmys, Peabodys, Writer’s Guild of America, Dupont-Columbia awards amongst many others.  Yu began her career collaborating with other New York independent filmmakers including Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, Sara Driver and Peter Wang and more recently with documentarians Christine Choy, Bill Moyers, Thomas Lennon and Stanley Nelson amongst others.



Robin Espinola (Producer)
Robin Espinola is a producer and writer who has been working on historical programs for public television for over twenty years. With Ric Burns and Steeplechase Films, she has produced five programs for the AMERICAN EXPERIENCE series, including: The Chinese Exclusion Act; The Pilgrims; Death and the Civil War; Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World; and Eugene O’Neill. With Steeplechase Films she also produced Nueva York, a short film for museum exhibition on the history of Latinos in New York. She served as a co-producer for Andy Warhol: A documentary film for the American Masters series. Espinola began working at Steeplechase Films as series archivist for the acclaimed multi-part series NEW YORK: a documentary film. In 2004, Espinola was awarded a News and Documentary Emmy Award for Excellence in the Craft of Research (with Michael Beschloss and Bruce Kennedy) for a Discovery program on Lyndon Johnson and the Civil Rights Act. Espinola’s additional research and production credits include Vote for Me: Politics in America; Malcolm X: Make it Plain (directed by Orlando Bagwell); The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow; George Wallace: Settin’ the Woods on Fire; Blackside’s Great Depression series, and two seasons of the PBS history game show “Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?” Espinola received a BA from Brown University in American Civilization and Semiotics.



STEPHENHEADSHOTStephen Gong (Executive Producer for CAAM)
Stephen Gong is the Executive Director of the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). Stephen has been associated with CAAM since its founding in 1980, and has served as Executive Director since 2006. His previous positions in arts administration include: Deputy Director of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive at the University of California, Berkeley; Program Officer in the Media Arts program at the National Endowment for the Arts; and Associate Director of the National Center for Film and Video Preservation at the American Film Institute.



Donald Young (Producer for CAAM)
Donald Young is Director of Programs for the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM).  He oversees all of CAAM’s program areas, including CAAMFest, funding for filmmakers, national productions, and public television strategies.  Donald has developed and produced numerous programs for the PBS prime time schedule, most recently “Off the Menu: Asian America” by Grace Lee and Gotham Award-winning “Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings” by Tadashi Nakamura.  Upcoming projects include MacArthur Foundation grantee “Daze of Justice” by Michael Siv, and Doris Duke Foundation supported Muslim Youth Voices with Musa Syeed, and a multi-part series on Asian American history co-produced with WETA.  Donald has also produced independent feature films, including “The Princess of Nebraska” by Wayne Wang, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.  Donald has been a panelist for the Sundance Documentary Fund, the Independent Television Service (ITVS), the International Documentary Association (IDA), and many more.  In addition, he has been a Board member for Cal Humanities, National Association of Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC), and the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco.



In this exclusive behind the scenes interview, THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT directors Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu share what inspired them to tell the story of The Chinese Exclusion Act and how knowing this history can help all Americans better understand the American Experience.

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