Welcome to the July issue!
Our summer reruns continue this month, with a reprise of articles from 2005 and 2006.
This summer has been a busy one for Family Legacy Video, Inc., with travels to Idaho, Minnesota, and New York. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to fit a vacation into the travel schedule as well – wouldn’t that be nice! I trust you’re enjoying these “lazy hazy days” as well.
I hope you enjoy this issue of the Family Legacy Video® Producer’s e-Newsletter. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone toll-free (888.662.1294) with any questions or comments you have.
Cheers! – – Steve Pender
August 2005: Another Opening, Another Show
Imagine you’re in a theatre, waiting to see the latest hit musical. The house lights dim. Audience chatter ceases. Then, from the orchestra pit, comes the first notes of the overture. During the next few minutes you enjoy a sampling of the musical delights to come. Your excitement builds, your anticipation grows, and, by the time the curtain rises, you’re totally focused on the show.
Think of the opening of your family history video as the overture to your program. An effective opening can create a mood, establish a visual style and set the stage for your entire program. Do the job well and you’ll rivet your audience’s attention to the television screen.
You can have a lot of fun creating your opening. Look at it as an opportunity to let your creativity soar. An opening gives you the opportunity to pull together various elements from throughout your video and combine them in interesting ways. It also gives you the chance to use visuals or interview segments that might not fit in the body of the video.
Here’s what I mean. At one point during an interview with my grandmother, I asked her if she ever thought she’d be the head of such a large family. She paused, then asked me if I knew how many family members we had. “No,” I answered. She then looked off into space and quietly said, “We have a lot.” It was an amusing exchange and offered a wonderful glimpse into Gram’s personality – but it just didn’t fit anywhere in the main part of the program. So, I put it right up front. The show opens with that brief exchange. Then my grandmother’s image freezes, music begins, and we see a series of stills from throughout her life that culminate in the show’s title. Music ends, we fade to black, and then fade up on the first segment.
Opening sequences can be simple or complex. The route you take depends on your creativity, editing expertise, available visual and audio resources and, of course, the time you have to devote to it. Here are some (but certainly not all) of the elements you can use:
A great way to establish mood. Try starting your music (just a few notes is usually fine) before showing the first visual. It’s a great way to alert your audience that the show (or segment) is beginning.
A quote from a diary or letter can be an effective way to set the stage for what is to come. You can also create a short preamble that sets up your story, a technique George Lucas used in his Star Wars movies.
A short “sound bite” from an interview (as described above) can be used to good effect.
A brief photo montage set to music can clue the audience in to the people and places the program will feature.
If you are advanced enough using your editing software and a program like Photoshop, you can “cut out” people and elements from photos and move them in and out of frame while layering them against an interesting background like a map, a slow pan of the old family homestead or a series of shots of the subject’s country of origin.
Start thinking about your “opening overture” now. It’s the key to a truly successful video. Not only will you have a great time creating it, but I’m sure you’ll earn “boffo” reviews from your audience.
February 2006: 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 think I 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 think I 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?