Our Shared Story: A Letter from the Director

Join the film crew on an emotional, educational and hopeful journey to produce The Story of Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies.

Story of Cancer Trailer (3mins) from WETA NATIONAL on Vimeo.

“What is it that I’m fighting?”

That simple but fundamental question was posed to Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee by a patient who had just been diagnosed with cancer. As he considered the magnitude of the question, Sid realized that we, as a society, had not yet provided an answer.

Thus, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer was born.

Four years after Sid’s biography of cancer became a New York Times bestseller, I am honored to adapt his Pulitzer Prize-winning book to film. The Story of Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies is a three-part, six-hour major television event that will chronicle the past, present and future of cancer at a moment of enormous promise in the search for a cure. Our film looks back over thousands of years, from the first documented appearances of the disease, through the many moments of real and false progress, to the much-ballyhooed “War on Cancer” in the 1970’s. At the same time, we delve deeply into the experiences of a set of cancer patients as they undergo their journeys with the disease; and we explore the very latest breakthroughs in treatment and prevention that are creating enormous excitement in the cancer field.

While the premiere of the film is still a year away, an incredible team of cinematographers, editors, researchers, producers, audio engineers (and so many more) have been hard at work crafting the final film out of hundreds of hours of footage. The Producers’ Blog is an exclusive look at this process — from Q&A sessions with members of the crew to profiles of those we’ve interviewed and the lessons we’ve learned along the way. I invite you to join us on this journey and share in the challenges and the joys that come with making a documentary of this magnitude.

Everyone involved with this project has at some point been affected by cancer. Executive Producer Ken Burns lost his mother when he was just 11 years old, an experience that he has said fueled his desire to “wake the dead” in his films. Given our deep personal connections to the subject, I am especially honored to share our cinematic process with you here on The Producers’ Blog.

For all of us involved, The Story of Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies has been an emotional, educational and hopeful endeavor. I hope that the stories we share here on The Producers’ Blog will be the same for you. So please, spend some time with these stories and come back often. I look forward to sharing this journey with you in the weeks and months ahead.


Barak Goodman

Producer and Director, The Story of Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies

tags: ,