Tips for Making a Family History Video from Every Story Media
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Ever since my interview with Rachel LaCour Niesen of Save Family Photos, I’m on a family history kick. I can’t get enough! I was delighted to hear from Lyn Jackson, owner of Every Story Media, who creates multimedia videos for families as a way of recording and preserving their family history. I asked her for some tips for making a family history video and she was so generous to share some of her secrets in our interview.
Tell me about yourself and your business. Where are you from? What is your professional background?
I grew up in a college town in Maine, one of four girls. Naturally curious, I’ve always loved learning about people, what makes them tick, and why. My name is Lyn Jackson and my new company, Every Story Media, is a natural extension of who I am and what I’ve always loved to do; ask questions, interview people, hear and share their amazing stories. An added bonus is that now I get to preserve these wonderful stories – family histories – forever on video for both current and future generations.
At Every Story Media, we create beautiful, broadcast-quality personal history videos from the individual stories of people’s lives. Family and friends can watch these family stories on DVD at home or on their computer anywhere in the world. We weave together edited portions of interviews with multiple photos and a variety of music. Creating these videos is an amazing and fun experience for everyone involved. They’re a priceless and precious gift that lasts forever.
My mother was an inspiration for starting the company. I’m the daughter of a truly pioneering woman who worked as a newspaper reporter and also hosted her own TV talk show in the 1960s. Remember, this was at a time when few women worked outside the home and barely any were on the air at all, let alone in any “news” capacity. I didn’t set out to follow in my mother’s footsteps, yet in many ways I did.
I thought I wanted to study International Affairs. But after getting involved in the campus radio station as an undergrad, writing and producing a personal history video documentary and being chosen for an internship at a TV station, I was hooked. After I graduated from college, I worked in video production for several years and then went to grad school. I received a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Columbia University in New York.
How did you get the idea to start documenting personal histories on film?
The idea for Every Story Media evolved over time but it finally all came together several years after both my mother and my father-in-law passed away. Almost immediately after my mother died, I suddenly realized I had so many questions that I’d never get to ask her. Both my husband and I were sad and disappointed that we did not have the stories of our amazing parents on video. We wouldn’t be able to see their smiles and the twinkles in their eyes, hear their laughter and funny, wonderful stories in their voices, and most importantly, share with and pass on their experiences to our children and grandchildren.
We wanted to be actively involved in helping people capture and preserve their family stories for now and for future generations to pass on forever. It is our mission now to make sure that families understand and appreciate the importance of family history and take steps to save and share their stories.
We believe there’s little that’s more important than preserving family history and culture. Research shows that one of the best predictors of future happiness in children is an upbringing with a strong family narrative – knowing family history and traditions. And an Allianz Insurance company survey shows that both Boomers and Elders value saving and sharing family stories, traditions and culture as a legacy significantly more than they value leaving an inheritance of money or even personal possessions. So make sure you tell your stories on video and encourage your loved ones to do the same before they’re lost to time.
What’s your business model? Are you a one-woman show?
While I’ve been working in this or related fields for at least a couple of decades, my business, Every Story Media is new. Just starting out, I work with an excellent videographer/editor/producer. I certainly see the business growing.
What are your goals for the future of your business?
One goal is to have the idea of capturing family stories on video become more customary than it is now. Another is to have people appreciate the value of preserving their own family history and to make it a priority to record parents and grandparents on video. We also see ourselves expanding to include business stories, histories and beyond.
What kind of video and lighting gear do you use? Is there one piece of gear you can’t live without?
We pride ourselves on capturing and editing excellent, broadcast quality video … and audio. Far too often, audio is an afterthought – with potentially disastrous results. We shoot with Canon DSLR cameras, which offer superb image quality and shallow depth of field. Most of the interviews are shot with a 50mm lens, also known as the “nifty-fifty.” It’s excellent in low light and again, provides outstanding quality. We capture two channels of audio with lavalier and boom-mounted shotgun microphones recorded on an external Tascam digital audio recorder.
We believe that our ability to seamlessly weave together the interview is one crucial element that sets Every Story Media apart. Editing is performed on Apple’s Final Cut Pro X.
What tips could you offer to those who want to record their own family member’s histories?
One way to start is to look at and sort old photos. They’ll inevitably spark conversation and some great stories. Even if no one remembers exact details, there are always stories that go along with the photos.
There are definitely affordable and good quality cameras out there. Even cell phones are decent quality. Again, don’t overlook audio. If you’re recording someone with a cell phone and don’t have an external microphone, get as close to your subject you can. Put the light source behind the camera so your subject is not back lit.
Above all, the important thing is to just get started! So many people say they want to do this but life gets in the way and it never gets done because too many of us don’t make it a priority. So make it a priority. It’s fun! Most people LOVE talking about themselves. When you ask people to tell you about their lives, it shows that you value and appreciate what they have to say. Make sure you’re questioning them in a relaxed setting. Make sure the interview location is quiet and free from distractions.
What kind of demand are you seeing for your services?
More and more people understand that experiences bring more joy than possessions and recording their family history is an amazing experience. Every time we tell people what we do, people get excited and inevitably begin telling us some of their own – and always great – stories. It’s not just Boomers or Elders who appreciate what we do, younger people often tell me they want to record their grandparents or aunts and uncles. Many siblings love the idea of chipping in together to produce a beautiful heirloom video that their family will cherish and be able to pass on forever.
Anything else you want to share?
We love what we do and nothing brings us more joy than the opportunity to do such rewarding work. When people see their finished videos, they’re often moved to tears, but they’re happy tears. We love to interview and help people capture and preserve their stories. We travel anywhere. Our main mission however, as I said, is to make sure that people preserve their family stories in whatever way possible. We are always happy to help – just ask! A good resource is the Association of Personal Historians.
Tanya Goodall Smith
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