My wife and I had a remarkable experience during my recent vacation. Our route took us through Santa Fe, New Mexico. Two former video biography clients (a husband and wife – I created legacy videos for his mom and her dad) hosted a dinner for me and my wife at a wonderful restaurant – and invited a couple dozen of their friends (all of them entrepreneurs) to meet us. It was a night of delicious food and wine and sparkling conversation – plus an opportunity to spread the Family Legacy Video brand. I was profoundly moved by this expression of appreciation.
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In many ways, technology has certainly shrunk our world. All you have to do these days to get in touch with someone on the other side of the globe is dial a phone or log on to the Web; within seconds you can be chatting, either by voice or text. It’s easy as pie. But let’s say, after doing some research, you find that the video biographer you want to hire is located in another part of the country, like Tucson, Arizona? How easy will it be to work with someone who may be hundreds or thousands of miles away?
The short answer is that a long distance relationship with a video biographer can work quite well. In fact, I’ve worked with clients from coast to coast and points in-between. But there are some things to consider when looking for a professional outside your local area.
Might as well deal with this issue first. Not a week goes by that I don’t get a call from a prospective client asking me if I can travel to their location outside Arizona. When I say yes, the next question is usually, “Does travel add to the cost?” Quite honestly, it does. A video biographer living and working in your area doesn’t have to bear the expenses that come with airfare, hotel rooms and rental cars. Your local pro also won’t need to spend an extra day’s worth of time traveling to your location and back home. In all fairness, it’s only right to reimburse the video biographer you hire for travel expenses. Personally, I don’t “mark up” travel – I just pass along the actual costs to the client. I can either add the costs to the agreed-upon budget or subtract them from the budget. Let’s say I have a budget of $20,000 and travel expenses of $2,000. To be able to devote all of the $20,000 to the video, I would add the $2,000. The client would then pay a total of $22,000. If the client can’t go as high as $22,000, I can subtract travel expenses, leaving $18,000 to devote to the actual video production.
Staying in contact during the course of production is crucial. You’re likely to have lots of questions about the process and your video biographer will also need information from you. Some people prefer chatting face-to-face or just feel more secure dealing with someone local. However, a professional video biographer, working long distance, can consult with you and conduct preinterviews over the phone just as effectively as in person. One word of caution: You and your video biographer SHOULD NOT rely entirely upon e-mail. E-mails can sometimes be cryptic and incomplete; they also don’t convey emotion well. When I want to send a reminder or ask for a small bit of information, e-mail is fine. For anything more than that, I prefer to pick up the phone and call.
If you do choose to work long distance, you’ll need to decide how to best get your family photos and other mementos into your video biographer’s hands for scanning and shooting. If you’re comfortable shipping your items make sure you wrap them well and cushion them to guard against damage. Clients have been shipping me photos, singly and in albums, for years. Nothing has ever been lost. The only damage in all these years resulted when a client sent a glass-covered photo that wasn’t properly protected, resulting in some breakage. While shipping long distance has worked fine, I understand that some families may be uncomfortable with the thought of packing up their old photos and trusting them to FedEx. That’s why I always ask my long distance clients if they have any photos or other items that they aren’t comfortable shipping – or that wouldn’t be practical to send to me. Knowing that, I can build in some extra time before or after the interview taping to scan or shoot the keepsakes on location.
The foundation of a successful video biography is a well-researched, conducted and recorded interview. But just as important as what the storyteller says during his or her interview is what viewers see. Many times it’s just fine to have the storyteller on screen. Other times, the interview can be wonderfully enhanced by visuals that illustrate the incidents, people and places being described.
What do I mean by visuals? Photos, certainly. But visuals can also include family movies, newspaper and magazine clippings, yearbooks, wedding invitations, journal entries and memorabilia like medals, awards and trophies, etc. Knowing what kinds of visuals can best enhance a storyteller’s legacy video is one of the strengths a professional video biographer brings to the table.
When I first sign a client, we talk in a general way about the kinds of visuals that may be available within the family. Then, after I learn more about the storyteller during the preinterview process, I’ll send the client a specific “wish list” of all the visuals I think will help contribute to the video. After the on-camera interview, I often follow up with a final list, based on other stories that surfaced during the videotaping. These lists guide my clients during their searches for the perfect images to include in their legacy videos – and will often give them ideas for items they might never have considered. After all, as a professional visual storyteller I’m used to thinking visually – and I use this experience to help direct and inspire my clients as they search through their family archives.
Knowing how to use these visuals effectively is another strength a professional video biographer brings to a legacy video project. But that’s another story. Before you can use those visuals, however, you have to find them. And before you can find them, you have to know what to look for. A professional video biographer is just the one to guide you on “the hunt.”
How time flies! It just occurred to me that Family Legacy Video, Inc. has been in the personal history video business for ten years – having incorporated in August of 2003. I’ve helped many individuals, families and organizations preserve, celebrate and share their stories over that decade – and I look forward to creating many video biographies and legacy videos in the years ahead. Perhaps Family Legacy Video® will create a custom video biography for you!
You own a pretty nice consumer camcorder. You’ve dabbled in editing. You’ve even created birthday video DVDs for family members. AND you’ve decided that this is the year you’re going to create that long overdue video biography featuring your grandparents, or your mom and dad. After making that decision, you’re immediately confronted by another – whether to attempt to create the legacy video yourself or hire a professional personal historian/video biographer to work with you and for you. If you have the financial resources, there are definite benefits that come with hiring a pro.
In order to proceed smoothly, a video project needs to be organized from start to finish. A professional video biographer can bring years of organizational experience to the table. A pro can talk with you about your goals and wishes for your video and then design a production that meets your needs and your budget. A pro knows how to start a legacy video project and then proceed efficiently each step of the way. A true professional treats you, the client, like the executive producer – consulting you and ushering you and your family through the process.
A professional video biographer will be well-versed in visual storytelling techniques. He or she can offer you a number of ways to approach and treat your family stories and storytellers. And a pro will have a realistic idea of the cost and time involved in the different options he or she offers you. A real pro will be able to show you samples of past work so you can make informed decisions about the creative direction of your legacy video.
Your storytellers deserve to be presented in the most flattering way possible. A professional can insure that your storytellers look and sound their very best on camera. This means professional lighting, knowing how to compose a pleasing shot and using a high-end camera to capture the image, along with top-notch microphones to ensure great sound. A pro will also know how to make a storyteller feel safe and comfortable during the interview in order to ensure an effective “performance.”
The final edit is where the magic happens. A video biographer who is an experienced editor can take all the raw elements collected during the production process (interviews, photos, films, music, sound effects, etc.) and turn out a program that exceeds your wildest expectations.
Best of all, a professional video biographer can be working on your project steadily, not squeezing it in during a free moment here and there like you may have to do. This means your video biography actually gets finished – and doesn’t get put off for yet another year.
True, you’ll have to pay for the service – but in the end, the value a professional can bring to your project may be well worth the price.
I recently interviewed two Korean-era vets for my Rotary club’s veterans project. This’ll make 9 interviews so far, with the first 7 being WWII vets. Hope to have these latest two up on the web and off to the Library of Congress by the end of the summer. If you’d like, check out what my club is doing for our vets at the Catalina Rotary Veterans Project site.
I’m excited to be able to add another trophy to Family Legacy Video’s trophy case! It’s an Award of Distinction from the 2013 Communicator Awards. The honor came in the History/Biography category for the video biography entitled Isabelle Smith Lamb: Getting Down to Business. This four-part legacy video series featured the life story of Isabelle Lamb of Hoquiam, Washington and Tucson. You can view a clip from Isabelle’s custom video biography here.
The Communicator Awards is the leading international awards program honoring creative excellence for communications professionals. The international video competition attracted over 6,000 entries this year. The Communicator Awards are judged and overseen by the International Academy of the Visual Arts (IAVA), a 600+ member organization of leading professionals from various disciplines of the visual arts dedicated to embracing progress and the evolving nature of traditional and interactive media.
It happens every time I give a presentation about video biographies and Family Legacy Video: folks come up to me afterwards to say what a great service I perform and how they wish they’d created legacy videos for their parents or grandparents before it was too late. My heart always goes out to them, because I know how I would have felt if I hadn’t preserved my grandmother’s stories on video. Now that Gram is gone, I don’t think I could forgive myself if I’d let the opportunity pass. I recently received an e-mail from a Family Legacy Video client describing how thankful she was for a video biography she hired Family Legacy Video to create four years ago. I think her note provides an object lesson on the value of legacy videos:
Dear Steve, I hope you are doing well. I wanted to write to thank you and tell you how grateful I am we did a legacy video of my mom and her sister four years ago. Recently, I gave birth to our second daughter, Phoebe. A week later, my mom died unexpectedly in her sleep. Fortunately she was with us that week and spent some time holding Phoebe, but obviously Phoebe will never get to know her. A few days after it happened I remembered we had made the video and I felt a sense of relief. At least, I realized, she will have the chance to get to know her grandmother and hear her stories when we watch her video. I haven’t been able to look at it yet since she died because it’s still just too raw, but I hope to soon. I look forward to remembering her full of life and joy, as she was when she was alive. Thank you so much for the service you offer and for encouraging me to do this. I am so so grateful.
I urge you to take a cue from the letter above. Preserve your storyteller’s remembrances while there’s still time. And remember, Family Legacy Video is here to help.
If you watch too much Home & Garden Television (HGTV) like I do, you’re well familiar with the “reveal.” This is where the designer ushers his/her clients (usually the clients have their eyes closed) into their newly redesigned/rebuilt room or space, asks them to open their eyes, and then enjoys their reactions. As a video biographer and personal historian with clients spread throughout the U.S., I’m not often able to be present when a completed legacy video is “revealed” for the first time. But I do enjoy the feedback from my clients and storytellers and find it quite fulfilling.
I recently delivered a Family Legacy Video Q&A™ that a client hired me to produce for her dad. My client’s response made my day. I thought I’d share it with you:
My Family Legacy Video® is perhaps the most valuable possession I will ever own. It is an irreplaceable treasure for my children, my children’s children. In his video, my father speaks with candor and clarity for two hours about his life, telling stories I’ve never heard before and will treasure forever. I am touched beyond explanation for the gift Steve Pender has given us. My dad is the most beautiful man, and this heartfelt interview, woven exquisitely, makes my heart sing with joy and gratitude for our Family Legacy Video® of the man who will always be my Daddy.
Wow – it sure doesn’t get any better than that.
Answer: When it’s not created by Family Legacy Video, Inc.
I feel the need to point this out because “Family Legacy Video” is a registered trademark belonging to Family Legacy Video, Inc. Yet, I’m always running across production companies using “Family Legacy Video” to describe and promote their video biography/legacy video services. Just found a couple of more this past week. In most cases, I think folks just think “Family Legacy Video” is a generic term, like people who say “Kleenex” when they mean “tissue,” or “Xerox” when they mean “photocopy.”
Since a Family Legacy Video® produced by my company stands for a high-end video biography product and service, I’m naturally very protective of my brand. So remember: A video biography or legacy video is NOT a Family Legacy Video® unless it comes from Family Legacy Video, Inc.