Welcome to the September issue!
I hope you had a wonderful summer. The highlight of the season for Family Legacy Video, Inc. was our first international legacy video shoot – in Italy! This month, I tell you all about it.
I hope you enjoy this issue of the Family Legacy Video® 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
Preserving an Italy Family Legacy on Video.
Breathtaking mountain views, centuries-old churches, friendly people, mouth-watering food and wine – these would be some of the highlights of any trip to southern Italy. For Family Legacy Video, they formed the backdrop for one of our most memorable legacy video shoots to date.
THE PHONE CALL
It was a sunny Tucson morning in late February when the office phone rang. On the other end of the line was a gentleman named Tony, who was looking for information about Family Legacy Video’s services. After chatting for a while, Tony asked about travel. Could we interview some family members in the Detroit, Michigan, area? Given that on-location recording of life stories is our specialty, and that Family Legacy Video crews have routinely traveled between the east coast of the U.S. to the west coast and Hawaii, I told Tony we’d be happy to come to Michigan.
“How about Italy?” he asked.
I explained that we hadn’t yet had the opportunity to shoot overseas, but that we’d be happy and excited to do so.
After we ended the call, I did some research and drafted a preliminary budget.
A week later, Tony gave my proposal a “thumbs up.” We were off and running.
Tony had been born on a small farm in southern Italy in the late 1940s. In the early 1950s, when he was four years old, Tony, his mom and dad, and a cousin emigrated to the U.S. in search of a better life. They wound up in Detroit, joining other relatives who had preceded them.
Thanks to hard work, thrift, and an entrepreneurial spirit, the family thrived. Tony grew up, graduated high school and college, served in the Marines, married and started a family, and then bought and built a very successful business, one that two of his sons run today.
The first stage of the project involved shooting three life story interviews in Michigan, with Tony, his wife, and a cousin who had been a young girl in Italy during WWII.
After we accomplished those, we set out to plan for stage two: our trip to Italy.
Tony’s ultimate goal was to record a visit to the places in Italy that figured greatly in his family history and to impress upon his grandchildren the hardships of farm life, and how those challenges prompted his mom and dad to look for a better life in America. We planned to visit the church where his parents were married, the old stone farmhouse where he was born, the place where women walked daily to get the water they needed (the farmhouse had no running water or electricity), the small town nearest the farm, and other areas of interest. Plus, Tony planned to chat, in Italian, with various family members and friends along the way.
The shoot promised to be exciting and ambitious. Some careful planning was needed to ensure success.
Since travel to Europe is expensive, I decided early on that flying all of the crew and gear across the ocean would be prohibitively expensive and logistically challenging. So I decided to bring a core group of four people: myself as producer/director/interviewer, my long-time director of photography Dan, my trusted soundman Chris, and my creative and organized still photographer/production assistant Halina. We’d carry a small amount of sound, camera, and computer gear with us, but hire the rest of the crew and equipment we’d need locally.
Finding that local Italian crew and gear was the next challenge. My DP and I scoured the Web, touching base with a number of production companies in and around Rome. We finally settled on a cameraman who could supply the gear we needed, was fluent in Italian and English, and could supply us with a make-up artist and drone operator as well.
With our team set, we settled on shoot dates, booked airfare and hotel rooms, and on July 28 we set out to join Tony, who had traveled with his wife and youngest son to Italy several days before. It was really happening.
Our flight to Rome was uneventful, and soon we were in our rental van heading south on the Autostrada. Two hours later we arrived at our hotel, a very lovely locally-owned property on the main road into Arpino, the mountain town that would be our base of operations for the week. That evening we accompanied Tony and his family to an outdoor pizza festival in the nearby town of Santopadre. There, seated among the locals in the town’s piazza, we savored the local pizza, celebrated our safe arrival, and looked forward to the week ahead.
Before we could start shooting, we had some planning to do – and our first two days were devoted to scouting locations and creating a shooting schedule. On Day 3 of the trip, we were ready to shoot – and we brought quite an arsenal to bear: Two cameras for interviews and b-roll; two small GoPro cameras that we mounted in Tony’s SUV, one offering a view out the front and one for recording Tony and his family in the vehicle as they drove to various locations; a drone to capture stunning views of the countryside and properties we visited; a complete sound package with wireless and boom microphones, mixer, and digital recorder; a digital SLR for stills; and all the requisite items like stands, reflectors, lights, sand bags, and walkie-talkies.
The days that followed were exhilarating, emotional, productive, and hot (we did most of our shooting outside during the steamy Italian summer).
Day 1 saw us visiting a monument to immigrants from the area who left seeking a better life abroad; recording a conversation between Tony and the local official who was a liaison for immigrants; capturing dazzling aerials of Tony and his son atop an ancient medieval tower; and recording Tony’s visit with a favorite cousin and his wife (who cooked us a delicious meal!).
Day 2 began with Tony and his family making a pilgrimage to the now abandoned stone farmhouse where his life began. While there, Tony lead our cameras through the few rooms where his parents and grandparents slept, cooked, and sheltered their animals. After the tour, Tony sat for a poignant interview on the home’s overgrown and moss-covered stone steps. Then it was off to the community water area – where Tony showed us three stone troughs, still fed by pure mountain water gushing from a single pipe. Here, the women from the local farms congregated to do laundry and to fill heavy ceramic pots with water that they carried, either on their heads or on mules, back to their families.
Day 3 tested our driving and drone-piloting skills. The streets in Arpino were extremely narrow to begin with, but the alley leading up the church we were visiting that day was nail-bitingly slender. Leaving Tony and family behind in the piazza, the crew drove up with our side view mirrors folded, praying all the while not to meet traffic coming from the opposite direction – which we did, of course, causing us to reverse course a couple of times. But we made it, set up our cameras, launched the drone, and radioed Tony to begin his drive. Amazingly, he made it without encountering other traffic. And the drone footage tracking his progress was amazing. The rest of the morning was spent covering an emotional visit to the beautiful church where Tony’s parents said their wedding vows. That afternoon, we recorded aerial views of Arpino’s piazza, the place where Tony’s family and other farmers would come to sell their produce and animals. We finished just before a summer thunderstorm rolled in.
Day 4 brought us back to the little town of Santopadre. We interviewed Tony in a particularly scenic spot, and then recorded the fun as some of the local ladies gathered around Tony to chat. We ended the day on a musical note, visiting more of Tony’s nearby cousins who performed some traditional accordion tunes and dances for us. (And fed us as well!)
These are just the highlights (I could go on for pages) of a legacy video shoot that was an amazing experience for all concerned.
THE NEXT STEPS
After one more trip to Michigan to scan and shoot photos and family memorabilia, we’ll move into postproduction. We have a ways to go before we wrap up this project, but I’m certain we have the makings of a marvelous legacy video, one that will allow Tony to show current and future generations of his family exactly where, and who, they came from.
As for Family Legacy Video, Inc., we’re proud that we were able to apply the professionalism, organization, creativity, and flexibility to our first overseas shoot that we routinely bring to our domestic projects. We’re now ready to tackle other legacy video projects away from U.S. shores. And hmmm, maybe we should think about changing the company name to Family Legacy Video Worldwide?
– Steve Pender