This month I had the privilege of being an exhibitor at RootsTech, a 4-day gathering of the genealogy community in Salt Lake City. The event features keynote speakers, workshops, networking and the biggest expo floor I've seen. This article journals the experience.
I heard about RootsTech last year from colleagues who work for family legacy and photo preservation companies. Attending this conference is a no-brainer, but Salt Lake City isn't exactly close to San Diego. How would I get there? What would I bring? Where would I stay? How would I endure a 4-day expo by myself? I submitted my application and punted these questions until later. RootsTech accepted me as a vendor and the event went on calendar.
I successfully booked a room at a Holiday Inn across the street from the convention center. Nice. To make the trip smoother and less stressful, I decided to arrive a couple days early. The expo started Wednesday night, so I would arrive on Monday. Plenty of time to get my bearings, buy provisions and set up.
I've done several expos, and I'm proficient at building an expo table. I always put my transcribed books on display because my words cannot do them justice. People need to turn the pages to really see the value of the Reflection Package. People don't always immediately grasp the custom documentary concept when I explain it, but everything clicks when they see the book.
After my grandfather's passing in October, I remastered and reprinted his book. The book I created for him was my first ever, and it was a prototype. I wasn't pleased with the binding or the layout, and after he passed I remade his book and shared it with the family. I found a new book bindery just minutes from my home (Golden Rule Bindery), and they create handmade hardcover books. My grandfather's book was ready for pickup just in time for the trip. It's the best book made by Eternal Roots to date, and I couldn't wait to display it at the expo.
The Drive North
After packing my bags and my car the day before, I hit the road on Sunday, February 25th. Interstate 15 literally goes from my home all the way to Salt Lake. Las Vegas is (almost) the halfway point, so it made sense to stop there for the night. I've always been curious about the South Point resort on the southern tip of the Strip, and the room was only $90, so the decision was easy. I met an old friend for dinner, played some craps, and I was back on the road the next morning. I haven't been north of Las Vegas since I was a teenager, so the area was a strange blend of foreign and familiar.
Once you get an hour north of Vegas the topography shifts, and you start seeing beautifully jagged and colorful rock formations and mountains. After passing through the Nevada resort town of Mesquite, there is a 40-minute ride through an Arizona canyon in the northwest corner of the state. Soon after that you're in St. George, Utah. What a beautiful state. I was there in late February, so it didn't take long until snow was visible on the ground. I had a couple pit stops, but was determined to check in to the hotel before the sun set. I arrived at the hotel late Monday afternoon. Snow was everywhere from a recent storm, and the weather was in the mid-40s.
The Expo Hall
Here are some photos of my empty booth and the expo hall under construction. The last photo is a view of my hotel from the convention center entrance.
I arrived early enough to see the big vendors (Ancestry, 23 and Me, etc.) using cranes to set up elaborate booths. My booth was in a remote corner of the expo floor, but it was near a breakout room and the food court, so I was quite happy with the location.
I used my hotel room as a staging area, efficiently loaded my wagon with most of the expo materials, and did a rough setup for the booth.
This is the registration line. It was a total zoo. I came back the next morning when they opened, at 7:00, and got my badge in a matter of minutes.
Eternal Roots Booth
The day before the expo began. I like the concept of having an open booth that invites people in.
The main feature of the rear table is a computer monitor with a muted promo video on loop (with subtitles). This table featured some mentions of Eternal Roots in the media, a opt-in sheet, brochures, and my grandfather's transcribed book. I felt a little nutty watching the same video over and over, so I swapped through a few videos over time.
The main table has a branded tablecloth, more transcribed books, brochures, and a digital photo frame (barely visible on the right). Through the course of the week I experimented with moving materials around the table. To anyone having an expo table, I learned the hard way long ago never to put out too many pens. People will grab them by the handful and walk away without looking at your materials. I put about a dozen pens in a cup, and move it deeper into the table. That way you have to come in and look around if you really want that pen.
The Website Facelift
For some time I've been aware that the copy on my website was getting dated, the package details needed massaging, and the package thumbnails needed replacement. Life always got in the way, and I have been too busy serving clients to polish the website (hence the reduced blog posts lately).
The night before the expo, when I was thinking I could unwind a bit, I reviewed my website from the eyes of a casual RootsTech attendee, and had a little freak out. The site had 2-year old copy that was badly dated. The project has evolved greatly and the packages have been refined. Even the FAQ page was dated. I stayed up until 2:00 a.m. the night before the expo, rewriting much of the copy and headers on my website. I also changed the package thumbnails. I had been meaning to do this for some time, but the expo provided excellent motivation.
The expo started Wednesday night, February 28th, for a 2-hour preview session. Some vendors were still setting up. I set up the day before and had a stress level of zero. Because of the massive size of the expo floor, it took a while for attendees to trickle back to my corner of the room.
I start my Reflections interviews by asking clients about their ancestry. Most people don't know anything beyond their grandparents, and many people know little about them. Not this crowd. Genealogy enthusiasts can proudly recite their heritage going back hundreds of years. They were delighted to learn that I provide a vehicle to record their ancestry through the video and book format.
I was impressed with the variety of vendors at the event. There were ancestry and DNA-related services, online forums where families can share stories and records (like a closed Facebook), photo preservation/digitization services, and vendors who provide a variety of related services, the "other" category. I found vendors who convert family stories into illustrated children's books, people who created framed family trees, and even family themed board and card game creators. I plan on following up with several vendors to explore strategic partnerships.
I fall in the "other" category. I found several vendors who provide services similar to me, but we all had nuances that differentiated us. They all were focused on either video or book, but none of them do both. Some of them were brand new and had little to no work product. Others were more established. One person approached me to say she records life stories just like me, then commenced a lecture on everything I was doing wrong (meaning different from her). She charges 3x my fee, her videos are 1/3 my length, and she doesn't create books. I certainly agree my price point is too low, but we're all pursuing our passions in our own way. People have the choice to select the interviewer who is the best fit. I have grown greatly by accepting critical feedback, but sometimes you need to take it with a grain of salt.
I learned there is a difference between genealogy research and DNA research. There are different companies filling each need. Some people like researching the stories of their ancestors, while other people like researching their genetic roots (they are not mutually exclusive, of course).
The floor got a quieter when breakout or keynote sessions were active. I used those opportunities to sit and rest or walk the room and network.
The final day of the event is known as Family Day. This is where people could attend for free, and there were large family groups coming through. The booth next to me, Connect2Family, had a bowl of mints on the border of our two booths, and it did a great job of bringing people in. Taking a cue from my neighbor, I put a stack of Eternal Roots tote bags on a chair next to the mints, and watched them fly. Anytime I saw someone struggling to hold brochures and the many things one obtains at an expo, I promptly offered them a bag to help. I was surprised to see very few vendors doing this. I wish I did this on Day 1, because by the end of the day my bag supply was nearly depleted.
By the end of the event I was ready to get home. I broke down the booth in record time. Unlike setting up, where I took a couple trips I got everything stacked in the wagon in one take (clearing out my bag supply that day really helped).
I got back to my room, loaded the car, packed my bags, then went to a nearby restaurant for a celebratory burger and beer.
All week long we were under a snowstorm forecast. The storm was supposed to hit during the conference and be done before the drive home. I awoke Sunday morning, travel day, to a whiteout. Snowfall was heavy and the streets had not yet been plowed. This San Diegan, driving his non-chained Nissan Altima, was not prepared to drive in weather like this, but this is what you expect coming to Utah in the winter, right?
I left the hotel at 9:00 and drove out into the icy and unplowed street, and found myself fishtailing and hydroplaning in no time. I found my way to the freeway, and that's where things got hairy. I'm sure Utahns (I heard that's the official nomenclature) are totally used to this, but I learned quickly that you disregard the lane divider lines, which you can't see anyway, and just follow the ruts of the cars ahead of you. Snow was falling sideways, visibility was poor and I was battling my foggy windshield. I had a police officer behind me as I started. While that would normally make me nervous, I took comfort knowing I would have immediate assistance if I spun out. I drove by a couple people who had that misfortune. By the time I got through South Jordan, the weather eased up and my knuckles turned less white. By the time I hit Provo the weather was even more intense, and I couldn't see beyond 50 yards. The weather didn't ease up until I hit the middle of the state, then the southern portion of the state was as beautiful as it was while driving north. I snapped this picture while driving through southern Utah. (I totally pulled over and didn't take this while driving!)
Overally, attending RootsTech was a wonderful learning experience. It's also therapeutic to have some time away from family and go on a solo roadtrip. The heart grows fonder with absence, and it's great to be back home with my family. I have a ton of follow ups and videos to send, and strategic partnerships to explore. I'm leaning heavily towards attending the event next year.
Video Navigation is Now Easier!
It's been a long time since I've written a blog post, I know. The last few months I've been so busy with video creation, mostly commercial videos, that my blog has been neglected. Hopefully you didn't get hit by any tumbleweeds in here.
Sometimes the best ideas materialize when you aren't trying. Yesterday I had an epiphany about how I could improve the custom documentaries, but struggled with how to communicate this discovery. I decided against creating a video to explain the concept (my video idea backlog is ridiculously long already), and figured this was a great opportunity to communicate the concept here in the blog. In summary, I found a way to make the documentary videos (averaging 3 hours in length), more accessible and navigable, and thus more valuable.
Suppose we created a beautiful Reflection video for your father, a 3-hour documentary about his life, including his ancestry, childhood, career, family, etc. The video is professionally edited, musically scored and replete with photos to compliment the stories. The video file is delivered to you on the custom flash drive shown below. You open the folder and click on the solitary video file to begin watching.
You're interested in watching the chapter where your father shares the story about meeting your mother, or about his military service or college years. You would open the video file, and because this is not a DVD with chapters, you would have to scroll the timeline cursor to the section you want to watch, looking for visual cues to find the correct place. I already create title screens for each chapter, but you would still have to manually scan through the video timeline to find them. It's inconvenient and burdensome. While I'm proud of the videos I create, this has been the only negative I've encountered with using flash drives (instead of DVDs) to deliver the videos. It's a hassle to find the specific section of a 3+ hour video you want to watch.
Going forward, I am going to provide you with the option of watching the entire long-form video, or individual chapters. This way you can easily find the subject matter you're interested in, and will spend much less time scrolling through the video timeline. The idea is to make the video more user-friendly, accessible and navigable.
Here's how I'll do it. One file will be the completed long-form video, in all of its 3+ hour glory. I will separately edit and render each chapter into a distinct video file with a descriptive file name. If you're only interested in watching the musical introduction, or if you want to see the Reflections chapter (always my favorite), then you can go right to it.
Below is a mockup of what the interior of the flash drive will look like upon delivery to you. I hope this improves the user experience and brings you closer with your loved ones.
Today I am writing about about the power of creating a video to show someone how much you, and others, love them. This is more meaningful than any gift you could buy, or words you could write in a card.
I had the privilege of making two Tribute videos this summer, where people expressed their love for their husband and father. Even better, I attended parties where the videos were presented as a surprise to the "tributee" (get used to it, it's a word now). This blog post explores the experience from inception to completion. I hope it inspires you to take action.
Chris & Angie
Earlier this summer I was contacted by a new friend Angie, whose 13th wedding anniversary was coming up. She wanted me to create a video for her husband Chris, but not his life story. She wanted to create a surprise video for Chris, featuring her, their kids, and his parents, talking about him.
After silencing reflexive thoughts of, "I don't offer that," and "I've never done that before," I realized the idea was brilliant. I said, "Why haven't I thought of this already?"
The first step was coordinating with Chris's parents, who live in Florida, to set up a Zoom interview. Yes, a couple in their 80s managed to use Zoom. We had a video conference for an hour, and they had a ton of material. They were full of stories about Chris's personality, resilience and character. They were a lot of fun to interview, and the tone was perfect.
Something interesting happened at the end of the call. Chris's dad pulled out a birthday card he got from his son, and started reading from it. I let the process flow, but did not know how or if the content would be useable. However, as he continued to read from the card, sharing intimate words from his son that obviously touched him, I envisioned the words on screen as dad talked - subtitles!
The final video contains an outro titled, "Chris in His Own Words," where his dad reads from a couple cards he got from his son. I added soft music, subtitled the words to give them resonance, and faded in and out with pictures of Chris and his parents. It's powerful.
Next I went to Angie's home, when Chris was away, to interview her and her kids. Angie's kids are the same ages as my own, so I felt comfortable asking them questions about their dad. It also didn't hurt that I interviewed my own daughter earlier this year. (You can learn about that project here.)
The kids did great. I spent less than 5 minutes interviewing each of them. I thought it would be fun to have them sit on an oversized bear during the interview. Not only did it help them relax, it made for an awfully cute setting.
Next I interviewed Angie, and got strong testimony about how they met, how their marriage remains strong 13 years later, their parenting and her favorite memories.
I created a musical intro montage, but it was much more than a photo slideshow with a couple title screens. I took some of the most salient comments from Chris's family, like his son saying, "He always supports my dreams," and sprinkled them throughout the intro. That was the easy part. With the intro out of the way, I was staring down four interviews (about two hours total) and a couple hundred photos that had to be condensed to about 30 minutes, something watchable at a party.
Candidly, this project taxed my ability. I thought I was being efficient, but I edited the footage in a way that resulted in more work for myself, not less. Regardless, I created four chapters, covering his childhood, personality, marriage/parenting, and closing reflections. I got choked up watching it, so I had a feeling it would resonate. I'm glad to have been challenged here, because that's where you get better - I certainly did improve. This experience equipped me to handle the next one.
Attending the Party
I attended Chris and Angie's party, along with my wife and kids. Chris and Angie were new friends - I had just met them a couple months prior, and the universe of my knowledge about them was gleaned from what I learned in the Tribute video. The challenge for me was to socialize with Chris, while hiding how much I knew about him. I really struggled when he asked how my business was coming along, especially when he said he would love to have me interview his parents, but doubted they could figure out remote conferencing. I wanted so badly to respond that they did just fine! As such, I tried to keep the conversation focused on common interests, and away from my business. I must have acted aloof and strange.
It was a huge relief when Angie sat Chris down on the couch, with her laptop in hand, and said she had a surprise. She managed to get the video, saved on her laptop, to play on their TV, and it looked and sounded great. Chris was floored that his family took the time to create this tribute to him. I could only imagine how it must feel to watch your wife, kids and parents talking about you with such reverence. No other gift could replicate that feeling. The best reward for me was watching Chris watching his own Tribute video. I also transcribed the video into a book for Chris's parents. (Pictures below.)
The experience inspired me to create a new package. Here is a 1-minute video I created to promote the Tribute Package.
I later met Chris and Angie at a networking event, and delivered their books in person. I was doing videography for the event, interviewing people to create a sizzle reel for a client, and Chris and Angie were generous enough to do a quick testimonial. See below.
I wanted to create a top-shelf package for people who really wanted to go all-out. Instead of creating something new, or just adding more time or photos to the pre-existing Reflection Package, I created a hybrid, the Legacy Package. This is a blend of Reflection and Tribute. You get a 3-hour life story interview, along with a Tribute video (the surprise element is optional.) (You can learn about the package here.) Soon thereafter I had my first Legacy client.
I was contacted by my friend Rhonda to create a Legacy project for her father Terry. Terry is an electrical engineer who has been active in the desert/Baja racing community his entire life, and his 75th birthday was coming up. Rhonda wanted a life story interview (called Reflection) condensed to a short version that could be screened at his birthday party. She also wanted to do a surprise Tribute video, featuring his kids, in-laws and grandchildren.
When I showed up at Rhonda's brother's house for the first round of Tribute interviews, I found myself interviewing 12 people. They were eager to share their memories and impressions, and I realized I was memorializing a special person. The next week I interviewed Terry himself. Because the Tribute portion was a surprise, I had to pretend I didn't know as much about him as I did. I felt like I was attending Chris's party all over again.
The evening of Terry's interview I went to his friend's home, where I had 11 more interviews. I also received recorded testimony from a daughter out of state. I would be lying if I said I wasn't having a mild panic attack about the volume of videos to sort through, including a couple hundred photos.
I whittled down the Reflection interview, 3.5 hours long, to 24 minutes, including a musical intro. Terry's favorite song is Hotel California, so I opened the video with a clip of Terry sharing a memory of listening that song over and over while offroading in Baja in the 1970s. The song then begins, and the video scrolls through old photos of Terry racing in the desert, mixed in with clips of him sharing deep thoughts about his family and the freedom he feels while travelling.
The Tribute video opened similarly, except I used a live and extended version of Hotel California, and showed brief slow-mo clips of the family and friends who participated in the interviews. The soundtrack was live, so it included a cheering audience. The live audience cheering as Terry's family are introduced created a really cool effect.
To keep the video moving and concise, I cycled through each of the speakers, talking about Terry's personality and memories, then the video closed out with each of them saying a personalized message to Terry, right into the camera. Here are a couple screenshots where I had all the participants get together when we were done shooting.
I was also privileged to attend Terry's birthday party, along with about 60 others. (Seriously, you have to respect someone who can rally that volume of people to their birthday party.) I perched myself in the back of the room, so I could watch the crowd watch the video. Terry is in the oversized chair in the middle.
In closing, a Tribute video is a very powerful gift for a loved one. Imagine receiving a surprise video from your spouse or kids, containing testimony from friends and family, coupled with photos and music, all about the impact you have had on their lives. Regardless of whether you use Eternal Roots for this process, I strongly recommend that you look in to doing this yourself.
You can learn more about the Tribute Package here. I'm happy to share some insight if you want to make one yourself.
I love to write, but I've been working on so many projects, coupled with summertime travel and having the kids at home, that I have barely updated my blog once a month. I have been so deep in activity mode that I haven't been able to come up for air to talk about it.
The product offerings at Eternal Roots are constantly updating and evolving. I cleared out a few packages that were redundant/unnecessary, and two new packages took their place.
This package will get (or at least deserves) its own blog post, but a few words must be said here. I worked with a wonderful family to create a tribute video for the husband as an anniversary surprise. I interviewed his parents in Florida (via Zoom) and his wife and kids, having them share what he means to them. I made a fun intro montage for his video, then broke up the video into chapters, with photos spread throughout. I was privileged to be at the party where his wife surprised him with the video, and I got to watch him watch a video about himself. I saw so much value in this gift that I had to offer it for others.
I decided to keep the body of the video, where the subject matter is deeply personal, confidential for the family. It's too intimate to share. However, I made a minute-long video that largely tracks the opening montage. I had a blast working on this project and can't wait for another opportunity. You can learn more about the Tribute Package here.
Here is the promo video I created for the Tribute Package:
Most of my clients have opted for the Reflection Package, which is the three-hour video that results in a video and book. I wanted to create a premier package with something extra, not just extra filming time. I decided to merge Reflection and Tribute, to create the Legacy Package. This includes a three-hour life story interview, coupled with a tribute video, which may or may not be a surprise to the tributee.
Next week I'm starting on my first Legacy Package. I'm doing a life story interview of a family patriarch, and am under a time crunch to get it completed before his birthday party. I'm going to condense the video down to the salient parts, approximately 30 minutes, so the family can watch it together at the party.
I'm also going to be interviewing his six children and their spouses for the tribute portion. Last I heard they're keeping it a surprise. I'm interviewing the children first, so when I interview the patriarch, I will play down the extent to which I know his family. (I'm a lawyer, I'm good at this kind of thing!)
You can learn more about the Legacy Package here.
Moving Client Projects Ahead
My main priority is always moving forward with client projects. I never have "downtime," as I can fill a whiteboard with projects and ideas. However, my default activity is always on the custom documentaries themselves. With so many moving parts, creating a three-hour video with photos, and a transcribed book, the projects needed an efficiency overhaul.
I have created guides detailing every step of the custom documentary process (there are a few dozen), and this enables me to track where every client is and is going next. I am also creating guides for my clients in pdf form, so I can educate them on what to expect at every stage.
I recently finished a project for Fred Harrison. His wife found me in a magazine feature, and hired me for a Reflection interview. Here are some pics of his book.
At the conclusion of Fred's interview I invited him to play a tune on his organ (he plays at his church), and Fred obliged. I like to create musical montages to open the Reflection videos, and decided to use Fred's own organ playing in lieu of a licensed track. I created a chronological slideshow of his photos, and faded in and out of him playing the organ. I sent this to Fred to get him excited about the upcoming video, and it gives me a chance to show the world what I'm doing.
I'm presently working on a project for the Chism family. It's amazing how you can sit down with someone who is so different from you on the surface, but as we get deep discussing life, all kinds of parallels emerge. We had a fascinating discussion about faith, spirituality, philosophy, parenting and personal growth. Here is a screen shot of the book I'm making for him (it isn't printed yet).
I'm working on his video right now. I prefer to do the book first, then the video kind of edits itself because I already know what goes where. The other night I finished the intro montage. Enjoy!
This is the name I'll be using for business promotional videos. When I set out on this adventure I thought I would only be doing life story interviews, and promotional videos for businesses were not on my radar. I started making them for colleagues on my Partners page, and got more detailed and experimental over time. This caused my editing skills to climb, and that crossed over to my life story videos (see above).
I've been talking about Prosperity videos on social media for months now, stating my intention to launch a "package" for it shortly. Something was always holding me back, and I think it was subconscious. I'm now grateful I held off, because this is much more than a "package." There is a multitude of potential offerings here, and it needs to be branded separately from Eternal Roots.
The plan is to create a Prosperity Videos page here on the Eternal Roots website. Eventually I will break it off to a separate website. We'll launch it once my rockstar graphic designer wife Nicole has finalized the logo.
Meanwhile, here are some of the things I've been working on, and these offerings will be available under the Prosperity brand.
Business Promotional Videos
This is where it started. I began interviewing colleagues about their businesses. Nothing fancy. Each time I would add something new and push myself.
Here is a video I made for a caregiver company in Temecula. This is one of the first ones I created. They provide cooking, cleaning, transportation and companionship services for the elderly.
Here is a video I made for a celebration of life memorial planner in Escondido. She really provides a valuable service.
Here is a video I made for an end of life planner in San Diego. She helps people get their affairs in order, which takes the stress off their loved ones.
Here is a video I made for a business optimization coach. We are working together now, and she is helping me streamline my processes and be more efficient, which is exactly what I need.
I am working right now with the business coach referenced above to create a weekly video series where she gives talks on various topics, then does guided meditations. The first four videos are done, but I'm not posting them because Jennifer is going to be sharing them with subscribers only. She starts with a powerful theme, gives personal examples and inspirational quotes, then she goes into a guided meditation. During the meditation I fade between relaxing nature video clips, mostly clips I shot during our recent trip to the Sequoias.
If you're interested in creating a recurring video series for your business, we should talk!
I have multiple upcoming engagements to provide event videography. In general, I will be videotaping the events, conducting interviews, then creating sizzle reels for future events.
Eternal Roots is now a merchant with Trio Rewards, a cash-back rewards program in Orange County. Trio is hosting a networking event next week for its merchants, and I am going to perform videography at the event. My focus will be interviewing the merchants so they can share their projects, and it will become a sizzle video for Trio.
I will also be providing videography for the 1000 Speakers Academy, coming to San Diego in October. This is an intensive training opportunity for aspiring public speakers. They will receive onstage training from acclaimed coaches, and will leave the event with a media kit. I will create sizzle reels for each of the participants, which they can use to promote themselves. I will also create a sizzle reel to promote the second training academy next May.
If you have an event and want to promote it in advance, and have a videographer onsite, then we should connect!
Laguna Woods Media Blitz
There is a 18k population retirement community an hour north of me called Laguna Woods. I'm running a magazine ad in a Laguna Woods publication called Sorbet. The ad is live now, and I'm already getting calls. Next month they will write an editorial about Eternal Roots.
I'm also running a TV spot in Laguna Woods. I created a 30-second ad that will run on several channels and on their message board, and once a month I will come to their morning talk show for an interview. Want to see the ad?
But Wait, There's More!
Reading what I've written above, I'm exhausted. Part of me asks, "am I insane for doing all this?" Perhaps... but I've only scratched the surface here! There's plenty more going on, I'm just too tired to keep typing. I'm too tired to talk about how I've got 200 pages of a book done, which gives advice to law students. That's in the pipeline. I'm too tired to discuss my plan to write a Do It Yourself book, where I teach others how to interview their elders. I'm way too tired to discuss my legal career (I'm a solo practitioner on top of this). I'm also way too tired to get into upcoming podcasts or expos, one of which will feature me as an expert speaker.
But I will end on this - I'm doing a collaboration with Pathe Magazine. They are featuring my DIY series in successive issues in their magazine, but we're starting something fascinating. We are doing a documentary, currently untitled, exploring how humans are more alike than different. In our fractured society, so full of hate and discord, we are going to explore how we are fundamentally alike deep down. I hope it will be a healing salve for the tumult in our society. A promotional video for this project is in the works. We're going to need volunteers to sit for quick interviews, so drop me a line if interested!
In this post I'll explain how I started creating videos on DVD, why DVD was a terrible option for me and my clients, and how I transitioned into producing files on flash drives.
Beginning with DVD
This is a promo picture we shot early on in this project. I'll start this off on a positive note. We initially envisioned creating custom paper DVD cases, in lieu of plastic jewel cases. My wife Nicole is a graphic designer who makes handcrafted wedding invitations (check out her website here), so we played around with some prototype designs. I always loved the label Nicole created for the DVD and it photographed well.
However, we never really settled on how we would package the DVD, and I was more focused on sharing the Eternal Roots message than with packaging. I figured it would work itself out later.
Upon producing my first DVD, I had instant misgivings about using this medium to produce videos. You have to create menu screens and chapter thumbnails. That's a lot of extra time and effort, in addition to creating the video itself. When you think you're done making the video, this extra work is unwelcome. The transcribed book I create is a totally separate time commitment in itself.
The video files are too large to fit on even the biggest DVD, so I had to chop up the video into two files to be burned onto two discs. We then had to print Disc 1 and Disc 2 DVD labels, and multiple discs complicated the packaging process. Even worse, DVDs take forever to burn. My computer whirs loudly like a lawnmower and vibrates while the disc is being written, and I feel like I'm overtaxing my computer if I used it for anything else during the burn. I shuddered to think that one of my recent clients requested three extra copies of the disc for their extended family. I would lose an entire day burning discs! Sometimes discs also turn out to be duds, and they won't play. This means I had to test each burned disc to ensure it worked. This seriously had me questioning the viability of this entire enterprise.
In summary, DVD creation entailed a ton of time and materials, and they were going to become a bottleneck for the entire process. These negatives are just on my end, as the creator.
DVDs are not optimal for the end user either. Most new computers are so thin and light that they do not come with optical drives, so they could only watch the videos in a DVD player connected to a television. Many people own a laptop, but not a television. DVDs are slow and cumbersome to use, and they are vulnerable to scratching and breaking. I would have people calling me to replace discs, and that means more burning for me!
So glad I'm done complaining - now on to a solution!
In early November 2016 I was an exhibitor at a continuing education event for the county bar association (pictured below). The event was for the local estate planning bar, and as an attorney myself, I need to educate this group about Eternal Roots.
I mingled with the other vendors at the event while the attorneys were inside the seminar. I shared my work with another exhibitor named Britta. She initially responded very positively to Eternal Roots, but she candidly said she would be unable to watch my videos because she doesn't own a DVD player, and her computer doesn't have an optical drive. I immediately realized DVDs were not viable for this project, and it only took a few moments to identify thumb or flash drives as the solution. Maybe I should have realized this months ago, but better late than never.
Flash drives are better for the user because they are small and compact, yet more durable than a DVD. They are easier to put in a purse or pocket, and are not prone to scratching or destruction. You pop them into any device that has a USB port, and you're watching the video instantly, without having to navigate menu screens. Even better, you can save the video file to your device, and can upload it to the web, such as YouTube, Facebook, or a website. You can't do that with a DVD.
Flash drives are also better for me because I'm freed from having to create menu screens and burning discs. The act of rendering the video file to .mp4 format takes a fraction of the time it takes to burn a disc. Then I just pop the drive into my USB port and copy the .mp4 file onto the drive. The whole process takes a couple minutes, and I'm spared the noise of disc burning.
I recently saw a catalog of a promotional company - one that puts your logo and name on virtually anything - and remembered that they had custom flash drives available. I figured something woodsy-earthy looking would fit with the vibe of my website, and found a cool model with a faux-bamboo finish. They only had storage up to 8 gigs, and that was way too small for my videos. My sales rep at the company said they couldn't go any higher, and I didn't see other wood options I liked, so I was off on a fresh search.
It didn't take long to find a new vendor that had these gorgeous drives that are cut like little wooden books. I got a quote for 50 units at 16 gigs, uploaded my logo, and this is the prototype they emailed me.
Done! This is it. I requested (and received) a first-time client discount, and the box of drives arrived about a week later. Here's a sexier looking photo of the real thing.
Now I always ensure that I have a flash drive on me because you never know when you'll have an opportunity to share your work with others. I always make a point of showing people these drives when I'm sharing my project, and the drives have made several appearances during podcast interviews. I scrubbed any mention of DVDs from my website and contract template.
The day the drives arrived I posted my first Facebook Live video. I had been phobic of that medium before this day, but my excitement at these drives overrode my fear of recording live. Here is the video I posted.
Since then my videos have increased in size as they increased in complexity. I started adding more photos and a musical montage intro. I started using chapter title screens to compensate for the lack of a DVD menu. The last video I produced was in excess of 19 gigs, so my 16 gig drives were suddenly obsolete. I re-upped on another order of the same drives at 32 gigs, so I have plenty of space (for now).
The moral of the story here is you need to stay humble and coachable, and be receptive to the input of others. I had to check my ego and be open to critical feedback. As a result, I upgraded the product my clients receive, and I can hand out the drives as promotional gifts. It's a win for everyone!
I have been absent from my own blog for way too long. I've had a long list of blog subjects on my To Do list, but life, work and business have been happening, and the blog has been neglected.
However, so much exciting activity has been going on behind the scenes, so I'm doing this post to let you know what's going on, and that I'm still here plugging away.
I left my law firm and went out on my own! I was becoming so busy with Eternal Roots that I had little time or energy left to write reservation of rights letters for insurance carriers. I felt a strong pull to go out on my own and be independent, so I took the leap.
I have been a solo practitioner since April 1st. This required brief time away from Eternal Roots because I had to get some infrastructure in place, doing public speaking engagements, and have had new clients to serve. I have been working with small businesses to rewrite their contracts, and am loving the independence.
Distinguished Lawyer Memorial
For the last couple months I have been working with the San Diego County Bar Foundation creating memorial videos for its annual Distinguished Lawyer Memorial. This is a program to honor prominent attorneys who were nominated by their colleagues to have a permanent plaque in the county courthouse (shown below).
I'll do a separate post detailing this experience because it has been life-changing. This year the Bar Foundation is inducting six attorneys into the DLM, and I was charged with interviewing three people for every attorney being inducted, for a total of 18 memorial interviews. This has sent me all over the county, setting up my gear at at homes and offices, interviewing people about their loved ones and colleagues. I've been to three different courthouses and two churches, and have interviewed attorneys, judges, pastors and family members. The videos will be shown to the legal community at this year's ceremony at The University Club on May 24th.
You can learn about the DLM program here.
I cleaned up my Package list by eliminating a couple redundant packages, and have created a couple new ones.
I snapped this picture at the San Diego County Courthouse, just after interviewing a judge inside. Security met me on the street to ask why I was pointing a camera around, but it's all good.
Attorneys have seen crazy stuff you wouldn't believe. They have litigated cases with fact patterns and personalities that no author could invent. We love sharing battle stories with each other, and I have heard multiple lawyers say they need to write a book to record their stories. They never do! Life gets in the way and they don't have the time or energy. That's where I step in.
I was inspired to create this package after interviewing an attorney about her life story. We were at the three-hour mark before we even got into her legal career. She shared some fascinating trial stories, then we ran out of time. We could have spent the entire allotted time on her legal career. At that moment I resolved to create a vehicle for legal professionals to share their stories. They are too busy to write that book, so I'll do it for them.
You can learn about the Esquire Package here.
This is not yet live on my website, but I'm very excited to launch. This is a vehicle for business owners to share their passion for their work and the value their clients receive. This will consist of an interview of about 10-15 minutes in length, and as with all Eternal Roots packages, your favorite photos will be incorporated into the video to complement your story. If you are open, we can also do the interview over Facebook Live, so your story can be shared on social media in real time. These videos always receive good engagement, and it's great to help people get outside their comfort zones.
This process started unintentionally on my Partners page. I started interviewing my strategic Partners about their businesses, and became more and more detailed with the videos I created. After seeing the engagement my friends received with the videos on social media, I decided to offer this as a package to other businesses.
To those who know me on social media, I've been talking about this package for a few months, so why isn't it live yet? As you can see with the other activity described here, my plate has been pretty full. I want to have a proper promotional video in place when the package goes live, but other things keep popping up. I have several Partner videos in the works, and wanted to get a few more done so I can get their videos out and so I have more material for the promo video. It's coming soon!
This is the whole reason why Eternal Roots exists - to preserve life stories. I interviewed several people over the last few months, and have videos and books to produce. The interview is the easy part. The video and book creation is where the real work happens. It's gratifying to have new videos and books coming out, and it's wonderful to see people so excited about receiving their custom documentaries.
Here is a screenshot of a book in production I recently finished. This client was being visited by his children and grandchildren, and asked if I could have the book ready before their visit. I happily agreed. The client then advised that the family meeting was advanced by a week, and told me not to worry about it. Nonsense. I got the book done, printed and bound, then I drove it to his home so he could have it in-hand before his family arrived.
Several more client projects are in different stages of production, and I can't wait to get the documentaries in their hands. This always has to be my first priority, so this largely explains why tumbleweeds have been blowing through this blog.
I have a quadrant of my white board filled with ideas for future projects, so exciting things are coming once I come up for air. Here is a sampling:
In closing, I wanted you to get an idea about the flurry of activity that has been happening. If the blog has been inactive, it's a sign that I've been very active. As always, I am eager to record your life story and family history!
I am excited to announce the creation of a new package, called Wonder. This is an interview of your child, between 30-60 minutes, where we discuss your child's life, his/her interests, family and future ambitions. As with the other packages, the video incorporates photos of your child and a transcribed book is available.
This package is a 180 degree turn from the other offerings at Eternal Roots, but there is too much value here to overlook. The purpose of this blog entry is not only to introduce the new package, but to tell the story of its creation.
Just as Eternal Roots started with the interview of my grandfather, the Wonder package started with my 8-year old daughter Julia.
I have a large whiteboard in my home office. This is where I deposit thoughts and ideas and To-Do lists, prioritize and plot out upcoming interviews and projects. I leave the bottom of the board blank because Julia is always drawing whales and Pokemon characters. Her artwork makes me happy because it reminds me why I'm doing this project.
I noticed Julia had written her name in my upcoming interview list a couple times. One of us would erase her name, but her name kept reappearing. I like to think I'm an observant person who notices signs, and this occurrence caught my attention. Soon before Christmas I asked Julia if she was trying to tell me something, and asked if she wanted me to interview her. Julia responded that she was just playing around, but it was too late. The seed of an idea had been planted. What if I interviewed her about her 8-year old life? What would it mean to her at 28 years old to have a video of her 8-year old self talking about her life and aspirations?
It didn't matter that Julia was kidding around - I became serious about interviewing her. I shot a Facebook Live video sharing the idea and received positive feedback. I received an email from a friend I've known since high school, with three children, who encouraged me to do it.
I interviewed Julia on New Year's Day. I initially intended to interview her on a comfy chair in my bedroom, but my wife convinced me I should set up in Julia's bedroom. I always prefer to conduct my interviews in the subject's own home, where people are the most comfortable. This was also an opportunity to pan the camera around the room to record what her room looked like at this particular age. We tidied up her room (long overdue) and made the bed. She had been wearing pajamas throughout most of the holiday break from school, so it seemed natural to let her continue. I set up my lighting kit and shot some still photos before we began. As shown in the photo, Julia seemed to enjoy the attention.
I started with basic questions to ease her in. I asked her to spell her last name, state her birthday and hometown, then had her recite the names of her entire extended family. We discussed the recent holidays, her schools, teachers and favorite subjects. I asked about her favorite foods, shows, music, games and activities. In other words, we discussed things she might forget as an adult. This was a snapshot of Julia's life. I then asked if she could visit herself as a 3-year old, what would she say to her younger self? She responded that she would warn herself not to believe her dad when he talked about zombies. (The Father of the Year Award Committee passed on me that year.) I then flipped the question around and asked what she might like to say to herself if she could meet herself at 28 years old. Julia's face lit up and her eyes widened. She started talking about flying cars and future technology. Her energy here was magnetic.
We closed out the interview and I started editing that night. She is only 8 years old, but we have hundreds and hundreds of photos and videos of her. When adult clients communicate the challenge of curating a few dozen photos of their lives to incorporate into their custom documentary, I totally get where they are coming from. It was hard enough curating photos for my 8-year old, so I empathize with senior citizens embarking on this task. It is worthwhile, I promise!
I opened Julia's video with a short photo montage set to music. I inserted an old video clip of my wife's ultrasound when she was pregnant with Julia. The video, which has over 140k views on YouTube, shows a microscopic Julia wiggling around. The video then transitions to our interview.
After careful deliberation, I decided not to publicly share Julia's video. Even though we have already shared much of her life online, I decided to keep this video in-family. I might share some stills or muted video clips, but feel it's best to refrain from publicly sharing. I would show your children the same respect.
That's how the Wonder package came to be. I saw something I interpreted as a sign, I realized it could provide value to others, many decades from now, and I created something special for my family. I hope to do the same for your family. The Wonder package is now live on the website.
My wife and I created this meme a while back. It originally read, "Every Morning Brings Unlimited Possibility and Potential." First thing this morning we swapped out "Morning" with "New Year," and it felt perfect.
I wish you a Happy New Year and hope you pursue your goals and dreams with passion and purpose! So much can change in the scope of a year. One year ago today this project had yet to enter my consciousness. I was preparing to interview my grandfather the following week, but had no idea what was in store for me and didn't have much in the way of goals or objectives for 2016. About two weeks later I resolved to make life story recording my profession, and my world turned upside-down - in an amazing way.
A year ago on January 1, 2016, how did you envision your year? As you sit here today reflecting on your life, are you satisfied with the choices you made last year? Have you been associating with quality people who inspire you and lift you up? There is absolutely no reason why you can't make this an awesome year.
Announcing a Major Facelift for the Website
I launched this website on April 1, 2016. I started with packages titled Basic, Deluxe and Couples. I later added a Memorial package. While I have tweaked the package details over time, the names themselves weren't at the forefront of my mind.
On the morning of December 31st, I received a message from a high school friend, offering constructive feedback. She watched one of my Facebook Live videos, and said she feels inspired by my mission. That's great. The next line identified a typo on my Packages page. This mortified me, so I flew out of bed and cured the problem. Whew!
Next she said the titles of my packages didn't convey the feeling behind the project. She was totally right. You've led a fascinating life, you're hiring me to record your story, and I'm offering "Basic" and "Deluxe" packages? This isn't a fast food restaurant! While I know my products are amazing and deliver priceless value, the package titles were totally flat.
It can be challenging for an entrepreneur-male-attorney to accept critical feedback. When I receive such feedback my reflex is to be defensive and rationalize the status quo. However, I also recognize that I can only be so great in my own head, but my potential is unlimited if I am open to the wisdom and insight of others. I spent the next hour brainstorming package titles that conveyed some emotion. The new Packages are detailed below. The Packages page is located here.
Interview for 1 hour, edited and divided into chapters. May include up to 10 photos incorporated into the video.
Cost $500 (plus tax)
This is the former "Basic" package. This is the simplest and least expensive option. This includes a one-hour interview and up to 10 photos get incorporated on a video. The word "Highlights" does a much better job of capturing the nature of the package because this interview covers the highlights of your life. We cover your major milestones and experiences and give you a platform to concisely share what you need to share.
Interview up to 3 hours, edited and divided into chapters. May include up to 30 photos to be incorporated into the video. Interview is transcribed into a hardbound book, photos included, also divided into chapters.
Cost $1,750 (plus tax)
This is the former "Deluxe" package. This package is 3x longer than Hightlights and include 3x as many photos. This package also includes the transcribed book. The three hours of interview time enables you to really reflect on your life and go deeper. We cover your major milestones and experiences, but this differes from Highlights in that more follow up questions are asked and you have time to share more stories in greater detail. We can also explore the meaning and significance of your life.
Interview you and your partner individually, then together as a couple, for up to 4 hours, edited and divided into chapters. May include up to 40 photos to be incorporated into the video. Interview is transcribed into a hardbound book, photos included, also divided into chapters.
Cost $2,000 (plus tax)
I really struggled naming this one. This is the former "Couples" package. This has been difficult to name because you don't have to be married to participate, so I didn't want to limit the scope with matrImonial references. You also don't have to be different sexes, so I wanted to avoid any gender specific references. I flirted with the title "Commitment," but my wife didn't like the vibe of that word, believing it sounded like someone was locked down involuntarily. We tossed around ideas about the meaning of a committed relationship, and the word "Unity" just fit.
Interview of up to one hour to honor the memory and life story of a loved one. You can do this to honor someone who has passed, or you can do this to honor a loved who who is still with you. May include up to 20 photos to be incorporated into the video. Transcribed book optional. Cost $500 (plus tax)
This package was revised a couple days ago to reflect a change in name and scope. As detailed in a separate blog entry, Create a Tribute Video for Your Parents, I explain why I changed the title from "Memorial" to "Tribute," and I increased the scope to include tribute videos people alive and passed.
This package is reserved for those with terminal degenerative conditions. People may select among the Highlights, Reflection, or Unity packages, and they will receive priority scheduling.
I struggled naming this package because I want to be sensitive and tactful. I initially called it the "Priority Package," but decided that sounded like a UPS or FedEx offering. People with terminal and degenerative conditions have limited time to record their stories, and this is a vehicle for their stories to become eternal.
I'm writing to let you know a package has been modified. I am renaming and reshaping the Memorial Package into a Tribute Package. This project is always evolving and I am always open to improving the 3 P's: Products, Packages and Processes. I am always open to hearing your feedback and making Eternal Roots better.
I conceived of the Memorial Package when I met with a colleague Melissa who owns a related business called Eternally Loved. Melissa is an event planner specializing in celebration of life events. When a loved one has passed, or when someone has a terminal diagnosis, Melissa creates an event honoring and celebrating their life. This enables you to focus on the celebration, and let Melissa handle the details.
When I met Melissa I wasn't set up to record the story of someone who had passed. It hadn't occurred to me. Seeing Melissa's project made me realize I needed to create a package where a loved one could do a short tribute video memorializing the life of another. I created the Memorial Package, an interview up to an hour long, where you could share the decedent's life story and what they meant to you. You receive the same video and book I produce with my other packages.
A friend of mine recently lost his dad, and I told him about the Memorial Package. He responded that his dad isn't here to see the video, and he would prefer to do a video honoring his mother, who is still here. I thought that's a great idea, and concluded the Memorial Package was too narrow in scope.
What if you want to shoot a video honoring a parent or spouse who is still alive? Rather than creating a new package and cluttering my offerings with more options, I decided to reshape the Memorial Package into something broader. Eternal Roots is still available if you want to record a video about a loved one who has passed - that isn't going anywhere. However, I am changing the package name to the Tribute Package. What if your loved one is physically incapable or unwilling to share their own story directly? This is a vehicle for you to do it for them.
You can learn about the options available at my Packages page.
If you can think of an angle that is not covered by the packages I have available, I am open to creating a custom package that suits your needs. Just ask!
Caution: Spoilers Ahead!
Soon before I had the epiphany to launch Eternal Roots, I was listening to The Alchemist on Audible. I love this app. You download audiobooks directly to your mobile device, and can listen to books anywhere you go. I listen while driving, walking around town, and at the gym. The Alchemist, among others, had a tremedous impact on my decision to launch Eternal Roots, and to ride out the adversity that came.
First, a brief summary of the novel. The Alchemist is a fascinating story about a Spanish sheepherder who craved adventure. The book commences at an abandoned church in the country, where the boy spent the night with his flock. Herding sheep used to satisfy the boy's desire for adventure, but he was having strange dreams, and sought out a gypsy to interpret his dreams. The gypsy said he needed to travel to the pyramids in Egypt, and she was so certain his dreams foretold real fortune that she demanded a percentage of the proceeds as payment for her service. The boy then set out on an adventure across the Sahara in pursuit of his personal legend. The theme of the book is that once you identify your personal legend, and decide to take action, the Universe will initially conspire in your favor. This is known as Beginner's Luck. However, the Universe will then test your resolve and challenge you, over and over. The boy's journey included abandonment in a foreign land, robbery, beatings, death threats, loneliness, self doubt and despair. While his resolve often wavered, and he desired to quit and return home to his flock, he overcame the challenges, and ultimately learned the treasure he sought was located in the very abandoned church where the story began. He had to travel to Egypt to learn that the treasure was right under his feet.
The whole point of the book was that he had to grow and develop his character before he could have the treasure. He had to overcome the challenges the Universe threw at him. The Universe doesn't just give you anything; you have to earn it. This boy was tempted over and over to give up and return home, but eventually he got so far, and became penniless, that giving up was no longer an option. That's the meaning I took from this novel. If you aren't successful yet, you haven't earned the privilege of success. If you desire a significant treasure, you must grow into the person who deserves such a treasure.
When I first listened to The Alchemist, I hadn't yet conceived of the Eternal Roots concept. Frankly, I was uncertain how the book applied to my life, although I enjoyed it and thought I understood the story. After I hatched the idea for Eternal Roots, and started encountering the invitable challenges of growing a business from the ground up, I started seeing parallels between my journey and the boy travelling across the Sahara in pursuit of his personal legend.
I'll write separately about all the challenges I've faced here, but my resolve has absolutely been tested. Every decision or idea I've had during this adventure has collided with challenges. I read in another book by Grant Cardone, The 10X Rule, that most people quit their businesses because they fail to comprehend the amount of work necessary to bring a new product or service to the marketplace. Even if you give your product away for free, it will take way more effort to succeed than you ever foresaw. That has proven true here.
Every time I face a challenge here, I accept that I am being tested, and see every roadblock as an opportunity for growth. Finding solutions for problems is exhilarating. In retrospect (not always in the moment), I'm grateful for every challenge because I learn and grow every time. I'm not the same person I was when I hatched this crazy idea, and I know I'll be a completely different person a year from now.
Now go read The Alchemist and pursue your own personal legend!
About the Blog
Here I write about the evolution of this project, the act of preserving life stories and personal development. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.