Posts Tagged ‘legacy videos’

Bring new life to those old family films

by Steve Pender, video biographer & personal historian, Family Legacy Video, Inc.

At my Rotary meeting the other day, a fellow member turned to me and said, “Steve, I’ve got lots of home movies from the 40s and 50s. What I can do with them?” The answer: Lots!

If all you want to do is free your old 16mm, 8mm and Super 8mm films from the back closet and make it possible for you to view them again (without having to set up a screen and projector), have them transferred to DVD. You probably have a local company that’ll do this for you (check with photo developers or with companies advertising video production services). The great thing about this is you’ll be able to pop a DVD into your player and watch your long-ago relatives once again. The downside is that your movies might be transferred in no particular order. You may find yourself jumping decades forward and backward as the reels change. But if all you want to do is preserve your films, this option may be the one for you.

Another option: Use your films to tell stories. Instead of having your footage transferred directly to DVD, get it put on miniDV or Digital 8. These are formats that you’ll be able to use in conjunction with a computer that has digital video editing software. Once your films are on tape, review them. Think about the events they chronicle, the stories they bring to mind and the people they feature. Then transfer your films-on-video into your computer. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to use your films to tell some stories.

There are a number of techniques you can use. You and/or other family members can narrate the films, describing the events and the people as you see them on screen. You can interview family members on videotape and ask them questions about the events and people in the films. Then you can combine the interviews with the films, and with family photos, to create a family documentary. You can also incorporate titles, sound effects and music. Once you’re done, you can output the finished program to tape or burn your own DVD.

Be as creative as time and your ambition allow. Whatever you do, please realize that there’s no reason to let those old family films continue to collect dust. And if you’re not technically or creatively inclined, remember that Family Legacy Video is here to help.

Unexpected benefits of video biographies

by Steve Pender, video biographer & personal historian, Family Legacy Video, Inc.

Video biographies are certainly wonderful ways to capture and preserve your precious personal stories and family history. They also tend to generate surprise benefits as well. Here are a few examples from Family Legacy Video’s files:

Uncovering an Olympic moment.
Mary-Lou and Dick are a wonderful couple here in Tucson, Arizona. Mary-Lou’s dad was a track star for Cornell around 1910. He also ran in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. During the course of producing their video biography, the couple asked me if I thought there might be film of the 1912 race. I checked with the International Olympic Committee – and sure enough, they uncovered a film clip from that long-ago event. Long story short: A copy of that race, on DVD, now occupies a place of honor in Mary-Lou and Dick’s family archives. By the way, when Mary-Lou, who is in her eighties, watched the clip of the race, it was the first time she saw her dad run. Her reaction: “You can’t imagine what a thrill it was to see Dad running. That was an amazing thing you did for us but it meant the most to me. Thank you again and again.”

Reconnecting with family.
Doug hired Family Legacy Video to create a video bio featuring his mom, Marion. She detailed events that her kid sister never knew occurred. After watching the video, her sister and other relatives rekindled their relationships with Marion. Here’s how Doug described what happened: “Mother’s only surviving sister, who is seventeen years younger, was not aware of the Washington adventures and many other items that the three older children had experienced. Mother and her sister are now much closer because of the video. Many nieces and nephews with whom she’d had little contact are now in touch with her again. Thank you for providing us with a Family Legacy Video that will be passed down and enjoyed by our family throughout the coming generations.”

Inspiring a new interest in family history.
Family Legacy Video recently taped a conversation between two brothers, Will and Pren. They had a great time recounting their family history and adventures. The project inspired Pren to do even more to preserve his family history. According to his daughter: “One of the hidden benefits of this project was the search for family photos to include in the video. I really enjoyed looking through them all with my parents, and labeling them for future generations. What a treasure! I am so glad we did this now. My father has been so inspired that he has taken on a new project – he found boxes and boxes of slides in the basement of his Illinois home and has been scanning them. He’s really enjoying it and it’s been great to see those old photos too.”

Finally telling the full story.
Len made his fortune in Peru, arriving there early in 1940. He had many fascinating adventures, both business and personal, to relate. He was most interested in detailing his business success. At the end of his interview (which stretched over three days) he had this to say: “I am very appreciative. I look forward to giving my children my background. I’ve always told them a little bit here and a little bit there, but never the complete story.”

Every video biography project Family Legacy Video undertakes results in benefits like those above. So don’t wait – get started on your family video biography project today. The benefits, both apparent and unexpected, will thrill you.

By the way, you’re invited to view sample legacy video clips at Family Legacy Video’s Web site.

Personal History: Work of the Soul

by Steve Pender, video biographer & personal historian, Family Legacy Video, Inc.

“The work that personal historians do is sacred. It’s the work of the soul. It’s blissful and heartfelt work.”

So said James Walsh as he began his presentation at an annual conference of the Association of Personal Historians. Walsh teaches history at the University of Colorado in Denver. He focuses on the oral tradition. This tradition – passing along history through the stories of the participants – is near and dear to the hearts of all of us creating video biographies, whether we do it as a profession or as a hobby.

Walsh continued by recounting an African proverb that says there are two stages of death. The first stage is sasha. Sasha are people who have passed away physically – but the living still remember them and tell their stories. So the sasha are not yet dead. The second stage is zamani. Zamani are people who have also passed away physically. However, the living no longer remember them, nor do they tell their stories. Zamani are truly dead.

What a powerful proverb – and it connects perfectly with the quote at the beginning of this article. Speaking for myself, the work I do as a personal historian, as a video biographer working through Family Legacy Video, does make me feel blissful and is certainly heartfelt. It is indeed sacred and the work of the soul. And it is dedicated to making sure my clients and my family remain sasha, not zamani, after they depart this physical world.

And yet there are many who feel they have nothing to say, that their life stories don’t merit telling and preserving. To this I offer another story related by James Walsh. He was a young man from a Pennyslvania steel town, blue collar through and through, plopped down in the middle of Duke University thanks to a wrestling scholarship. He had little in common with his classmates and felt quite insecure in class. As a result he sat in the back, saying little.

One day, his professor pulled him out of class. “Walsh,” asked the professor. “Why aren’t you talking in class?” “Well professor,” the young man answered, “I guess I don’t think my ideas are very good.” With that, the professor slammed down his fist. “Let me ask you this,” he exclaimed. “How many people in the history of the planet will ever see the world from your perspective?” Walsh thought for a moment and then answered, “No one.” “So,” said the professor. “If you won’t tell us what the view is like, who will?”

Exactly – who will describe the unique views and perspectives of your life, or those of your parents, grandparents or other relatives if you or they do not?

The answer is obvious. By capturing and preserving our stories through video biographies we celebrate our unique views of the world and of our places in it. We share and relish our video bios while we’re alive. And then, after we depart this earthly coil, our stories, as told by us, remain to be enjoyed by future generations of our families, keeping our memories alive, connecting our family past with its present and future – and keeping us sasha.

If this isn’t sacred, the work of the soul, I don’t know what is.

If you’ve already started preserving your family storytellers on video, bravo! If you haven’t begun yet – start. Now.

And remember that Family Legacy Video is here to help.

On quilts and life stories.

spender-110x161by Steve Pender, video biographer & personal historian, Family Legacy Video, Inc.

My wife, Halina, visited a quilting expo recently. She came back with vivid descriptions of the many beautiful, handmade quilts on display. As she spoke, some of the patchwork quilts I’ve seen in the past came to mind. You probably know the kind, the ones composed of fabric swatches of all shapes and colors. And I realized these quilts had parallels to family history.

How? As I see it, our families certainly are “crazy quilts,” composed of people of all shapes, sizes and colors; sporting a wide range of political leanings, philosophies and religions. In our family quilts, life stories are the swatches; memories are the threads that bind those swatches one to another. Stitched together, each life story becomes an integral part of the whole. And just like the quilts created at quilting bees, each of our “family quilts” has its own personality and character.

But fail to record those life stories and memories will begin to fade; the ties that bind, that tell us who we are and where we come from will loosen. Our family quilt will lose one swatch, then two, then more. Pretty soon our quilt will start looking like Swiss cheese. Eventually we may have no quilt at all.

That’s why I think recording family history, particularly through video biographies, also known as legacy videos, is so important. Video serves to keep our stories and storytellers alive. The greater the number of life stories we collect and pass on, the more complete our family quilts will be. And as the years pass, our quilts will grow larger, keeping each of us warm in the knowledge of where we came from and where we fit into the fabric our own family history.

Like to see some video biography samples? You’ll find clips from a variety of legacy videos at Family Legacy Video.

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