Personal family documentary films.

Why Family History Films

When an old person dies it’s as if a library was burned

In 2002 while visiting my parents home I discovered dozens of trays of 35mm family slides taken from the 1940’s till about the late 1970’s. There were boxes of 8mm and super 8 family home movies and shelves of family photo albums with amazingly well preserved black and white photographs. Then there were all the VHS tapes of Christmases, family vacations, weddings, funerals, and births. All of it was collecting dust. It occurred to me that this was not unusual. Most families are sitting of piles of wonderful, valuable visual assets with no clue what to do with them.

The Data Rot Enemy

slides_scatteredMany families have converted their old 8mm and Super8 films to DVD. Have you ever watched one of these? Deadly! Ever opened an old photo album from the 40’s? Who are these people? Where was that photo taken? They’re playing Christmas music during a 4th of July celebration! What year was this anyway? What was the importance of the event? Where where they living? I needed to know those things. The images may have been preserved but the identities of these people were slipping away.

The Boredom Enemy

videogame controlsEvery family has well-meaning historians that make good-faith efforts at collecting and copying photos. Some make scrapbooks. Some publish books. Others create slide shows on their computers. These are useful devices, but how do you hold the attention of a younger generation that’s suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder? How do you tell them who they are, where they came from and still get passed the yawn test?

Tools, Talent and Tenacity

As a professional graphic designer I knew how to visually communicate. I saw the problem of data rot and began to collect the photos, the slides the films, the VHS’s and then with a small consumer video camera I interviewed of the family and heirlooms. I shook the family tree till I had scanned every last photograph I could get my hands on.
Then I got to work with some professional editing software and by 2006 I had created a 2-1/2 hour movie. It took time, thoughtful consideration about what to put in and what to leave out, artful choices in music, image movement, editing, pacing and story flow. The result was more than I hoped for and in the process I learned three very important things:
1) Every family has compelling, interesting stories that people want to hear if it’s told the right way.
2) Family members, young and old, connected with the story in a deep and meaningful way.
3) I was good at doing it.

It’s Getting Better

The Family Documentary is a powerful, effective way to connect the younger generation to their past. What was, just a few years ago, too expensive for most families, is now possible for many. The production value gets better with each family documentary project.

Leaving a Legacy

The “greatest generation” is quickly leaving us. What better way to capture who they were, what they did and how they navigated the winds of history can be entertaining, instructive and often life changing. Are there skeletons in your family closet? Bring them and out let them dance. If handled respectfully and carefully, young people respond to the honesty. Family History Films can tether untold generations to their ancestors emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually.