Question: What’s the most important step in any video biography project?

Answer: The first one, of course. Unless you take that first step, none of the other steps can follow. But what is that first step – and how do you take it?

Think about a decision you made recently. Maybe you decided to look for a new job, to sell or buy a house, to take a long overdue vacation – whatever the decision, you probably spent some time idly thinking or daydreaming about it. But then came a moment when the time was right and you decided, for whatever reason, to actually DO IT. Like the “big bang” that created our universe, your “big bang” decision set in motion all the steps that ultimately led you to create a particular reality and outcome.

The same process applies to creating video biographies. Have you been kicking around the idea of creating a family or personal history video? If so, that’s great. But idle thought does not a video make. Until you commit yourself and move from daydreaming to actually spearheading your legacy video project, your video will always remain a pipe dream. You need to decide, for whatever reason (a love of family history, the desire to preserve and celebrate yours or a loved one’s life stories), that the time is now and that you are the person for the job.

Once you make that decision, you’ll be amazed at how energized and focused you’ll become. You’ll also find that, according to the old maxim, “When the student is ready the teacher appears.” Once you’re truly ready, resources (like Family Legacy Video® products and services) will start to cross your path. Most likely, your enthusiasm for the project will also inspire other family members to help you.

So that’s the first step. Before you think about how you’d like your video to look, what pictures to include or the kind of music to use – decide to DO IT. Then jump into the project with enthusiasm and energy. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Teaming up to talk about preserving life stories.

Family Legacy Video provides custom personal video biography and legacy video production services.On January 8, 2015, Family Legacy Video’s president, Steve Pender, teamed with author and personal historian Kristin Delaplane for a presentation to the SaddleBrooke Genealogy Club in SaddleBrooke, Arizona, just a bit north of Tucson. Kristin is a recent transplant to Tucson and will release a book, Family History Secrets: The Complete Guide to Capturing Family Stories For Your Heirloom Book, in May of this year. SaddleBrooke Genealogy Club program chair Randy Gibbs found Kristin when searching for someone to address the group about creating print memoirs. Kristin felt the club members would also enjoy learning about options for preserving stories on video. Having discovered Family Legacy Video after moving to Tucson, she invited Steve Pender to share in the fun.

Club members received both speakers enthusiastically, even offering up a spirited round of applause after viewing the sample clips Steve played for them. Afterwards, many attendees remarked about how Steve’s talk opened their eyes to how they could use video to preserve the family stories of their loved ones.

Do you belong to a club, organization or a business in need of inspiring and informational speakers? If so, don’t hesitate to contact Steve Pender. He can craft 20-30 minute presentations for your breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings or even longer talks (and workshops) to fit your needs. And if you’d like a print component, Steve and Kristin are certainly willing to team up again!

Talking video biography.

“Imagine,” I suggested to the attentive group of seniors in front of me. “Imagine for a moment that video technology existed during your great-grandparents’ times and that one day they sat down and recorded the stories of their lives. Imagine also that you could sit down today and watch those video biographies. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” The eyes of most of my audience widened as they nodded in assent. “Well,” I continued. “Video technology obviously didn’t exist back then. But it’s here today. And that means you can do something your great-grandparents couldn’t, which is to create a living, breathing, keepsake that preserves and celebrates your life stories, both to enjoy now and to leave as a precious gift for generations of your families yet to come.”

Family Legacy Video provides custom personal video biography and legacy video production services.With those words, I was off and running on my latest presentation, as part of a Sunday afternoon program sponsored by the Sunrise Neighborhood Assistance Program of Tucson, Arizona. I explained just what a video biography was, described in a nutshell the process I use to create a legacy video and outlined the benefits of preserving personal stories in a video biography format. Most importantly, I showed several sample clips so attendees could see for themselves just how legacy videos look and sound – and see what the possibilities could be for them.

Helping to inform and inspire folks is part of my mission as president of Family Legacy Video, Inc. I realize that many folks don’t know what a video biography is and that they can pass along their life stories and values this way. I always enjoy introducing potential storytellers to the subject. It’s especially delightful when audience members approach me after a presentation to tell me some of their stories and discuss how they can start planning their legacy video. That tells me that they “get it” in terms of understanding the importance of sharing their experiences and wisdom with present and future members of their families.

I also find that when I detail the myriad benefits video legacy projects, I reinforce to myself the importance of the work I do as a personal historian – a valuable side benefit for me.

So if you have a group of folks who you think might like to learn about preserving, celebrating and sharing their life stories with their own personal video biographies, give me call or shoot me an e-mail. I’m only too happy to talk.

Knowing where you came from.

The afternoon Arizona sun shone brilliantly, silhouetting our Navajo guide, Will Cowboy, as he treated us to a traditional Navajo courting song. Sitting in the shade of the “Big Hogan,” a natural ampitheatre in Mystery Valley, we marveled at the power of his voice, which he supported by rhythmically thrumming his hand-held drum.

Family Legacy Video provides custom personal video biography and legacy video production services.Mystery Valley is right next to Monument Valley, which features the mesas and buttes made famous in John Ford/John Wayne flicks like “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.” Halina and I had spent the morning with Will and our small tour group soaking in the awe-inspiring views in Monument Valley. Then, after lunch, Will drove us into what he called his “backyard,” a place accessible only by Navajos or by groups with Navajo guides.

In addition to sharing his musical culture with us, Will took the time during our day together to chat about Navajo traditions and beliefs. During one of those chats, he touched on the subject of family stories. Navajo children, Will told us, start learning family history from their elders at a very early age, and continue hearing these stories until they know them by heart. It then becomes their responsibility to pass along this knowledge to their children and grandchildren.

Now, we’re not talking about tales that cover a generation or two. Navajo family stories can span hundreds and even thousands of years. As Will told us, it’s thanks to his family stories that he knows his people originated in Siberia. Talk about knowing where you came from!

There are many things we can learn from Native Americans, like the Navajos, and one of them is certainly the importance of preserving, sharing and celebrating family stories. This will certainly require a change in the mindset of our “here today, gone tomorrow” culture, where kids are lucky if they even know their grandparents. Being a driver for this change is part of Family Legacy Video’s mission, and with each completed video biography, I feel we’ve helped another generation to know where it came from.

Looking for some free, archival footage? Here’s one option.

World War II bombing runs by B-17s, collecting maple syrup in Quebec, commercials for the Ford Edsel; all of these are examples of historical footage used in past Family Legacy Video® video biographies. There’s an amazing abundance of historical images, both still and moving, from an array of sources, that can help enhance and illuminate the life stories related by family storytellers. A hallmark of Family Legacy Video’s Deluxe Legacy Videos is the use of archival images that lend a “big budget” documentary feel to the productions.

Family Legacy Video provides custom personal video biography and legacy video production services.Archival images and footage do come with a cost, however. First, there’s the time it takes to research, locate and secure the material. This time alone adds to the cost of video biography. But the footage itself can be pricey. That’s why it’s nice to find a resource for free, public domain footage. One that’s been helpful to me over the years is the Internet Archive. The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is a digital online repository of both still and moving images. You’ll find lots of old government and promotional films there, many of them in the public domain. Clips are available for download in a variety of formats. Due to compression, the video is not necessarily pristine, but it is free, and if you’re a creative editor you can always find ways to dress it up in post.

I’ve found shots in some films at the archive that I couldn’t find anywhere else – and that perfectly fit the bill. So check out the Internet Archive; you may find it a valuable free source of images or just a place to go to watch some really neat old films.

The preinterview: The key to a successful legacy video interview.

Organization and preparation are the keys to any successful video shoot, and legacy video interviews are no exception. This is especially true when planning the questions for your video biography session. After all, your life story is unique, and only a set of custom questions designed to elicit the details of your life will do. The key to crafting those questions is the preinterview.

Basically, a preinterview is a discussion we’ll have as we begin planning for your shoot. It takes the form of a casual conversation, or conversations, and can be conducted either face-to-face or over the phone. During the preinterview, I’ll learn just what you want to talk about, as well as the details of your stories. I’ll use that information to draft questions that relate specifically to you and your stories.

Doing my homework with a preinterview helps us to work efficiently once the cameras are recording. Not only will I know what to ask, but because I’ll already be aware of the details of your stories, I’ll be able to prompt you for more information if I catch you overlooking any important facts.

So, as you see, a little homework in the form of a preinterview can guarantee a smooth, successful and enjoyable interview – for all involved.

Working with your video biographer: Collecting visuals.

One of my responsibilities as your video biographer is to usher you through the production process and make the experience as easy for you as possible. That includes taking the time to learn your stories, crafting custom questions for your on-camera interview, and making sure you look and sound your very best on screen. If we’re working together to create a Premium or Deluxe Family Legacy Video®, another critical part of the process involves collecting the photos and other images we’ll use to illustrate your stories and give your legacy video that big-budget documentary look.

So, what kinds of images are we talking about? This list will give you an idea:

• Still photos
• Newspaper/magazine clippings
• Diplomas
• Wedding announcements
• Plaques
• Trophies
• Medals
• Paintings
• Drawings
• Letters
• Keepsakes
• Souvenirs
• Childhood toys
• Family videos (or films transferred to video)

Pulling together all these visuals may appear daunting at first. And there’s no getting around the fact that you’ll need to help with some of the work. Here’s how we’ll collaborate to collect the visuals that’ll help make your video biography so special.

WHAT FAMILY LEGACY VIDEO WILL DO.

After we wrap up your preinterview, I’ll draft what I call an Initial Wish List. This is simply a list of photos and other images I think would be great to accompany the stories you’ve told me. I fully realize you may not have all, or sometimes even most, of the items on the list; it’s just something to help you start your search.

WHAT YOU’LL DO.

You’ll go through your albums, shoeboxes and other archives to see just what you have that’s on the Initial Wish List. You may also want to contact family members to see what visuals they may have. Sometimes you’ll discover photos you forgot about and that will stimulate other stories we can cover during your interview. While the visuals search can be a bit time-consuming, it’s far from being drudgery. Think of it as a process of exploration and discovery. I guarantee you’ll have fun! You’ll need to set aside the photos you find. If possible, make notes in pencil (or use sticky notes) on the back of each photo regarding dates, places, and people. If labeling the photos is too much of an effort for you, we can add some time to do this together after we record your interview.

WHAT FAMILY LEGACY VIDEO WILL DO.

After reviewing the visuals you’ve collected, I’ll either scan or shoot them at your location, at the Family Legacy Video office in Tucson, Arizona, or a combination of both. I fully understand that you may have photos or other family heirlooms that may be too fragile to ship or that you don’t feel you want to part with. That’s quite alright; I’ll certainly respect and accommodate your wishes. If the budget allows, I can arrange to have an extra crew member whose job is to scan your photos while we’re conducting your interview.

THE FINAL WISH LIST.

It’s not usual to get ideas for additional visuals after shooting your interview. If this is the case, I’ll send you a Final Wish List detailing the extra items I’d like. Again, you may or may not have some or even all the items on the list. But heck, it doesn’t hurt to ask. If you can provide extra material, we’ll arrange to ship it to the Family Legacy Video office. Or, if you have a family member or friend with a scanner, I’ll send you the dimensions I require and you can then either e-mail or snail-mail the digital files to me.

THAT’S ALL THERE IS.

Of course, there’ll come a time (usually after you receive the Final Wish List) when I need you tell me I’ve gotten all the visuals you can provide. Once I get that word, I’ll focus on using the images I have to their greatest effect.

So don’t let the prospect of having to comb through your family archives stop you from pursuing your video biography project. I guarantee I’ll make the process as easy on you as possible. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve given your family photos and other visuals new lives that will enlighten and delight generations of your family to come.

A video biography shoot in paradise.

The Family Legacy Video crew just returned from a video biography shoot on Oahu, Hawaii! We spent one day scouting, one day recording an interview with a fascinating storyteller, as well as scanning photos and a final day shooting b-roll and finishing up the photo scans. We added a few days for some R&R, of course. Always a pleasure and an honor to help folks preserve, celebrate and share their life stories. And sometimes we get to go to a really beautiful place to do it!

Another wonderful testimonial.

A recent client, Angela Hallier of Phoenix, Arizona, just sent me a wonderful testimonial. Thanks, Angela!

Here’s what she wrote:

I bought a Family Legacy Video® for my father for Christmas. We did not know what to expect but Steve and his crew were professional from beginning to end. From the preinterview to production, it was seamless and my father felt very comfortable – and he was impressed with the detail and attention given in advance to the areas he would cover in his interview and the actual production of the video. We gathered as a family to watch his video “premiere” – we felt like we were watching a ready-for-TV documentary. The tears and laughter we had as a family watching my father’s video were priceless – not to mention the importance to our family of preserving my father’s memories and stories for generations to come. We cannot thank Steve enough – this was the best investment I have ever made!