Personal Histories: Video
Personal histories in video format can be called many things: legacy videos, video biographies, video memoirs and video tributes. The distinguishing factor is that the finished product is a stand-alone video. The video process involves research, pre-interviews, the actual interviews, and editing the interviews to create a coherent story. This process can range from the simplest oral history interview with minimal editing, to a complex story complete with family photos, video and film from the family and archival footage/photos, which put the story into context.
Why choose video?
If you think about your grandparents or great grandparents and you are enthralled with the idea of seeing them—their mannerisms, speech patterns, and animated selves—and preserving them for the next generations of your family, a video personal history may be for you. If you imagine seeing their photographs and hearing their favorite music, edited into a story with an arc, this may be the best medium to choose.
Video personal histories can be in documentary form, framed as a tribute, or commemorating an anniversary or family reunion. Many families choose to make ethical wills on video, often in collaboration with financial planners or wealth managers.
A video history can be delivered on a flash drive, a DVD, placed online on a password protected Vimeo site or YouTube channel, or uploaded into a private family or business website. You will want to back up your video history in at least three separate places: in the cloud, on a dedicated drive (which can be stored in a safety deposit box) and online. Your personal historian will arrange for multiple copies in the format of your choosing.
As with books and audio personal histories, there is a broad spectrum of prices for video histories. If you plan to use this medium, do your research and make sure that your budget is in line with what you are requesting. Ask your potential provider to furnish you with a detailed proposal for your project. The rule of thumb is: the more editing required/requested, the higher the price for the project. Interviews with additional persons will also increase the price. The personal historian will create a contract specifying the agreed-upon scope of the project and your cost.
PHNN does not suggest or provide pricing information, leaving this to each individual personal historian.
What to look for in a video personal historian
Experience. Be sure to see samples of the personal historian’s work. Are the shots well composed? Is there background noise, are the heads of subjects cut off, does the camera jump around? Look for clear signs of professionalism before you hire.
References. Ask for references and look for testimonials on their websites.
Production partners. How will the PH work with your valuable photos and videos? with your family tree? with the research part of your project?
Comfort. Do you feel confident this person will do a good job of telling your stories? Do they see the unique merits of your story, or do they seem to be imposing a cookie cutter approach to your project?