Tributes & Video Biographies
Sharing Life Stories, Connecting Generations, Preserving Legacies

Getting That Personal History Captured – NOW

I have a new client that I just started working with. One of my customs is to request an invitation to dinner with the family before I start work. This gives me an excellent opportunity to study the social dynamics of each family. I get the opportunity to see them interact with each other in a relaxed atmosphere. I also request to be seated next to the subject(s) so I can see how easy they are to engage in conversation, what their memory is like and other communication traits. This helps me get a read on what they are going to be like working with, provides me the opportunity to develop relatedness so that when I show up for the job, we are already old friends, and gives me a preview of any potential issues that may require attention to during the project development stage. These would be issues like hearing, eyesight, memory, shyness, deference to another family member and other traits that would affect the interview. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to connect socially and has made a huge difference going into each project.

The family I am working with has hired me to create a personal history of their 96 year old mother. She asked me if I’d done any work with someone her age. I had to admit honestly that she was the oldest person I have had the pleasure to work with. But what really startled me about the evening was what an amazing memory this woman has. Her recall of all the events in her life is so detailed that she is able to describe what she was wearing, what the weather was like and who else was there at the time. Not only is her memory sharp as a tack, but she’s put together archival albums of photos and other memorabilia that are in as good condition as they would have been the day she received them. She had her mother’s bridal bouquet, pressed and dried and slipped into a clear page envelope. Her father’s pay stubs from the 1920s, ration cards from WWII…. all with little hand-typed captions under each item describing it’s provenance. I am astonished at the scope and detail of these books, and there are 6, each about 10 inches thick. I was mentally rubbing my hands together with glee, thinking of all the multimedia fun I am going to be able to have with this project!

After our wonderful dinner meeting, I spoke with her son. He is quite eager to get this as comprehensive as possible and feels that at this point, we only have one shot to get it all and that he wants to develop a scope that captures each book and as many events as possible. After discussing several project scenarios, we agreed that while it could take months just to create the scope and project outline, the risks of working with a woman who is 96 are high. I’ve certainly learned the hard way that while we’re turning away to focus on other things, mortality has a way of making itself known with a bang. We have to be very aware of this and try to jump into a large project as quickly as we can. So we’re focusing on the capture phase, without really worrying about what the final project length and presentation will be. It’s important to get this woman on film now, before that opportunity slips away.

You might enjoy reading a similar post where I’ve thought about the issue of time, “There’s No Present Like The Time.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian and video biographer sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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