Why create a video biography? Some reasons for reluctant relatives.

It’s too much work. I don’t look good on camera. I don’t have much to say. I already have lots of photo albums – why should I make a video?

If you’ve tried to convince a reticent parent or grandparent to sit for a video biography interview, you’ve probably heard excuses like these. Than again, maybe you’re the parent or grandparent offering up the excuses. So why is a video biography an invaluable addition to any family history effort? And how can you overcome resistance to such a project, either from other family members or yourself? Here are some answers to those excuses.

It’s too much work. No doubt about it – a video biography requires organization, planning, passion and some technical savvy. But that doesn’t mean the project needs to be overwhelming. If your family is creating the video, the key to success is breaking the process down into steps, like those outlined in the Family Legacy Video Producer’s Guide. If you’re hiring a video biography company to produce the video for you, make sure you find a company that will clearly explain and usher you and your family through each stage of the production – and let you know what role you need to play and what elements you need to provide.

If you’re the one pushing for the video, offer your subject lots of support. Tell him or her you’ll help sort and organize photos, films and memorabilia. Schedule regular visits or phone calls in order to delve into family history and life stories. Tell him/her that you’ll keep all the notes and write the questions; all he/she will have to do is sit down in front of a camera and talk to you. Offer any and all help needed to relieve your subject’s burden (or perceived burden).

I don’t look good on camera. Let’s face it: A lot of people just don’t like cameras. But a lot of people do like television. And this is a chance to tell his/her life story on TV. It’ll be fun, it’ll be exciting, it’ll be a chance to see how television programs are made. And, for your subject, it’ll be easy. Offer to videotape in your subject’s home, or in another location in which he/she is comfortable. Let your subject know that he/she is a revered family figure and you’re creating this video for posterity. Of course you’ll use professional lighting and sound techniques to make him/her look and sound great.

I don’t have much to say. Well, we know this isn’t true. Your parents, grandparents (or you, if you’re the subject) have lived very full and interesting lives. Let your subjects know how important their stories and recollections are to you and how much they’ll be treasured by future generations. If they’re worried about freezing up during the interview, reassure them that you’ll be there with them and that the experience will be less of an interview than a conversation between the two of you, or between your subject and a caring and interested professional interviewer. In short, they’ll be in a very safe environment, surrounded by people who care what they have to say and will do their best to make them comfortable saying it. In the end, your parents or grandparents (or you) will probably be surprised at how much they did have to say.

I already have lots of photo albums – why should I make a video? Photo albums, especially those packed with vintage family photos, are wonderful keepsakes and family history resources. But, photos don’t talk. And to enjoy the photos you need to have the album in your hands. Video biographies lend new life to old photos. Combine them with your parents’ and grandparents’ recollections, add some music and movement, and those vintage photos are given a dramatic new lease on life. And its easy to distribute multiple copies of your video biography on DVD, giving your photos a much greater family audience than they would otherwise have.

Properly produced video biographies can emotionally engage an audience like no other medium, and allow family members for generations to come to share the experience of watching and listening to Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, or you relate precious life stories. If your subjects have already written personal histories in book form, a video biography makes a valuable companion piece.

Finally, video biographies, and the process of making them, are just plain FUN. Isn’t that reason enough?