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.
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.