Video biography connections – a personal story.

Video biographies are all about making and reaffirming connections – between the past, present and future and with the family, friends and sometimes complete strangers who help us on our journeys through preproduction, production and post production. Here’s a case in point:

Ever hear the story about the shoemaker’s kids? Their dad was always so busy mending shoes for customers that he neglected his own children, who went around with ever-growing holes in the soles of their own shoes, and maybe even barefoot.

Now, my business is custom legacy videos, not footwear. But the old cobbler and I share a common dilemma: How to shoehorn family projects into a schedule dominated by “paying” work. Well, not too long ago I went the shoemaker one better and finished a family project I started years ago: my mom’s video biography.

The three years since her interview just flew by – and I finally resolved not to let a fourth slip past. So I started devoting free hours to the project. My initial goal was to have the video finished in time for Christmas. Then my wife, Halina, and I invited Mom to visit us for Thanksgiving, giving me an incentive to finish earlier so we could premiere the video during her stay. Having that deadline did the trick. I felt a great sense of accomplishment (and relief!) as we screened the video in our Tucson living room, as well as the joy that came from sharing the video with family and friends as my Christmas gift that year.

So where do connections enter into the picture?

To start with, the video gave me an opportunity to reconnect with my mom’s cousin, who lives in Guatemala. I haven’t seen or spoken with her since I was a youngster, but since a portion of my mom’s remembrances touched on her husband (my grandfather’s brother) I thought she might enjoy a copy of the video. I asked Mom for her cousin’s address, packed up the DVD and shipped it off to South America, all the while keeping fingers crossed that it reached the intended destination. What a surprise I had when, a few weeks later, I opened my inbox to find an e-mail with the subject heading, “Hello from Guatemala!” My mom’s cousin was overjoyed by the video and had already shared it with many members of her family. She called the video “a travel through time” and invited me and Halina to visit when we could.

I made new connections and resurrected old ones throughout the process. From the antiques vendor who sent me photos of many of the makeup compacts and lipstick cases produced by a company my grandmother once worked for, to the friendly real estate agent in New Jersey who provided pictures of the retirement community where my mom’s parents lived for a time, to an old friend of my mom’s who e-mailed me some images from their days as Army wives in North Carolina – and to a former next-door neighbor I tracked down who fished out an old snapshot that showed what my boyhood home looked like just before my parents bought it in 1959.

In a larger sense, this personal project left me feeling more connected to my passion for video biography than ever before. It’s a passion I know will continue to drive me to help others to preserve, share and celebrate their life stories on video.

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