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Filmmaker Ken Burns eyes Clyde Cancer Cluster

Tom Jackson • Oct 23, 2013 at 1:10 PM

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns is training his lens on the cancer cluster in eastern Sandusky County and the Clyde area, raising hope that he’ll raise awareness of the effect of the cancers on local families.

Burns is not the director of “CANCER: The Emperor of All Maladies,” a planned six-hour, three-episode public television miniseries scheduled to air in mid-2015, but he’s listed as the executive producer and creative consultant for the project.

The film is directed and produced by Barak Goodman, based on the book “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, according to the film’s website.

Families in the Clyde area know the film isn’t just about them, but they hope it will increase public knowledge about their plight, said Warren Brown, one of the residents interviewed for the movie.

“Our assumption is if we get 15 minutes out of six hours, we’ll be lucky,” Brown said.

Brown’s daughter, Alexa, 11, died of cancer in 2009. The filming in Clyde is being led by Jamila Ephron, a co-producer for Ark Media, who’s a veteran of other documentaries. “She’s a very, very sharp young lady,” Brown said.

Brown said he and his wife, Wendy, were filmed about three weeks ago in their Clyde home. A full film crew showed up with cameras and microphones.    “We spent about four hours on camera,” Brown said. “They asked about the effects of the cancer cluster in Clyde and especially the personal effects of having a child with cancer and the aftermath of dealing with that kind of trauma.”

Brown said he used the interview to share his opinion that research into cancer affecting children should be more heavily funded. Children don’t vote, and they don’t have Washington lobbying groups, he said.

“Kids don’t have a voice,” he said. “If nothing else comes out of the movie as far as our part is concerned, I want that to come out.”

Brown said the filmmakers interviewed others in Clyde, including the David and Donna Hisey family.

David Pollick, Sandusky County’s health commissioner, said he also agreed to appear on camera.

Other public officials turned the filmmakers down.

Pollick said he believes at least one public official ought to appear in the film.

Brown said he had not met or talked to Burns, famed for documentaries such as “The Civil War” and “Jazz.”

“It would be nice to meet Ken,” Brown said.

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