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Old May 21st, 2009, 02:48 PM   #1
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Life History Videos

Hello everyone,

I'm thinking of offering a life history video product and am in the research stage. I have a couple of question for any who is doing these. My basic idea would be to video tape a person talking about their life history, either a specific event or just a chronology of their life. I will edit and produce a DVD for them. I think the end product would be about 1 hour long and would include some pictures that they subject would have and maybe even cutting in some existing video footage they may have.

So, is anyone here doing these and if so how much do you charge? I'd like to produce a very high quality video, basically a personal documentary. Also, if you do offer these as part of your products, about how much time do you estimate from the beginning the end of the project.

I normally do stage show video production as well as subject documentaries and some independent films so I have all the production equipment to do these. I was envisioning that the actual shoot would take about 4 to 5 hours for setup, interview, b roll capture, and breakdown. I'd probably spend about a week in the editing suite. does that sound doable or is it overkill?

I'd really appreciate hearing any of your thoughts and experiences.
Thanks,
Garrett
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 03:19 PM   #2
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Garrett,

I read this post yesterday and was going to respond but I chose to wait for other to go first. Since no one else has, I'll respond. My opinion is based solely on the marketing aspect.

I'm assuming the life story video subject is not a notable, popular figure that the general population would know or much care about.

Just whom would you market this product to? I would assume the subject of the interview because I can't really think of anyone else who would be interested in commissioning this type of project.

So put yourself in the place of the "client". How much would you be willing to pay for someone to produce a video of your life story?

There's all kinds of producers making all kind of videos. There probably is someone somewhere doing this. I would probably do one of these life story productions if someone sought me ought and was willing to pay a good chunk of change but I would never try to market this service. It just doesn't seem to be a profitable venture.

Jeff
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 03:46 PM   #3
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I don't think it's a bad idea at all to explore.

I recently shot something along these lines as a favor for a relative, and the end result- though not a retail product that will move units- was something very important to the family and something that will only increase in value over the years.

If I were you, I would make one for free for someone, but apply all your professional skills and do your best, as if it were a paid gig.

This will: A) Tell you how much work it takes- so you could price it accurately B) Give you a finished example to show & shop to prospective clients, and C) Tell you if you can even pull it off.

Maybe it will be overkill, maybe it won't cut it, but at least trying one will be a good test of the idea.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 08:36 PM   #4
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I like the idea.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 11:37 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Emery View Post
Garrett,

Just whom would you market this product to? I would assume the subject of the interview because I can't really think of anyone else who would be interested in commissioning this type of project.

Jeff
One answer is that this would become part of a Family History/Genealogy project.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 11:44 PM   #6
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I had a friend bring up this kind of idea not too long ago. It pertained more to wills and passing along info etc... to heirs.

I mulled it over and realized this kind of product is all about sales.

If you can find the people willing to fork it over, then it will fly, but your average person has a lot more on their mind that making a life history video.

So finding the market seems like the key. You also might find that this kind of project would need definite time limits. I could see the potential for time dribbling on and on as you wait for people to get you photographs, schedule the interview(s) etc...

Last edited by Tim Polster; May 23rd, 2009 at 01:31 PM.
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Old May 23rd, 2009, 12:51 AM   #7
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The "idea" is excellent, but marketing it sucessfuly and making enough to make it worthwhile is probably an entirely different matter.

There was a web site (sagas) that was trying to sell the concept and line up videographers for the anticipated demand... AFAIK that project pretty much died for lack of interest...

Not trying to discourage you, but you've got to figure out what the compelling interest of the client is to part with enough $$ to compensate you and make a profit.

I know that with shooting weddings, it's not uncommon to get elderly guests on my "best wishes" segment and if those relatives pass on shortly thereafter, the wedding video accrues a whole other value for the couple and the family, a really truly touching and significant one.

But how would you package this in a marketable fashion without potentially being morbid and still get usable results? It's admirable to want to document and celibrate a life, but how many families/individuals are going to see the value to produce a quality production vs. grabbing a handycam? How many people are really that interesting?

Events like a wedding are a hard enough "sell", this isn't really an event, more of a "personal documentary". So there's not a compelling focal point for the sale, though perhaps as a "ego" luxury sale it might hit a market?
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Old May 25th, 2009, 06:34 PM   #8
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I would suggest finding people with a story to tell that is based upon something of historical significance. Something that would appeal to a more general audience for later viewing.

May I suggest starting with WWII and Vietnam Veterans?
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Old May 27th, 2009, 08:58 PM   #9
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You might want to check out Video Biography - Family Legacy Video - video biography products & services this guy has been doing it, sells instructional courses etc. I've thought about it myself, lots of retirees around here, but haven't gone any further than thinking about it. ;-)
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Old May 28th, 2009, 09:52 AM   #10
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The market for these types of videos seems to be the very wealthy who commission one of these projects for a birthday or anniversary present. It can be an answer to what do you get for the person who has everything. The videos I've seen included travel to different cities to interview people. I'd target the people who have the kind of money to make this worthwhile. Perhaps advertise in society magazines.
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Old May 28th, 2009, 03:32 PM   #11
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Garrett,

I to thought this was a great idea, so much so that I started this: Welcome to LifeFrames.

I started off volunteering for an assisted living facility for a non-profit that they were affiliated with to make living histories of some of the residents at this facility. Most were in their 70-80, but the projects I worked on had an 80 year old and 90 year old. The best part of doing these was the appreciation from the friends and family of the person who we were doing a video story on.

You will need tons of photographs, B-roll, anything that will cover a jump cut. There will be alot of jump cuts and you will develop an editing style like a surgeon trying to get rid of gaps, coughs, pauses, you name it. I hate jump cuts, and those need to be covered.

You will need a comprehensive list of questions that are NOT yes and no questions. The more the subject speaks, the more compelling the story.

I also try NOT to have the actual question by the interviewer (me) in the video. I find this distracting, and I'm not crazy about my own voice. Somewtimes title (supers) work for this.

As far as marketing, I disagree with some of the above. I think your target market is going to be the sons and daughter baby boomers whose parent(s) are aging and they want something for their family and future generations to be able to see and learn from. The hard part is making connections, something that I'm fighting with as we speak.

I do agree that it is a good idea to find a WW vet or someone who has lead a colorful life, is good in front of a camera, and make crafting a video pretty straight forward.

Always end a history video on an up-beat or even humorous or thoughtful note.

As far as pricing, I started my LifeFrames biz about a year ago, and with the economy in crap condition, the phone has not exactly been ringing off the hook. This is why I still have my day job as an advertising photographer/videographer, Welcome to Jonathan Levin Photography and Video

People pay thousands of dollars for a decent wedding photographer/video person, so I don't see this as being anything less as far as recording a persons life events. Not everyone is going to have the dough to afford this, and if you add up the days/weeks of editing, music licensing, (either BUY the music, or write your own), scanning old photos, and in my case shooting new photos of the subject present day, packaging, DVD dupes, you start to see that the profit margin is not huge.

If you have any further ??? Either email me, or ask right here.

Good luck.

Jonathan
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Old May 28th, 2009, 04:24 PM   #12
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Thanks everyone for all the great input.

Jonathan, thanks for sharing our experiences and wisdom. This idea came about when talking to a friend of mine who is an attorney who takes depositions from people who are unfortunately terminal due to negligence from a company or another person. Part of her interview process is to talk about the peoples lives and their experiences. She would be the interviewer and the person writing the questions and topics to discuss so at least I'll have an interesting interview and come up with a compelling story.

I was thinking that our target market would actually be a mixture of people. Most of the subjects would most likely be in their later years but I could see trying to entice some people who may be celebrating a major milestone such as a 25th anniversary or such to have one made about their relationship. It might be of interest so their kids and family members could share their courtship.

I'm just wrapping a documentary project which also taught me that almost everyone has a lead a pretty colorful life. Getting the people to talk about it in a way that is interesting is the truly hard part.

As far as editing I've been working on some movies and documentaries where they have 10 minute time limits so I know what it's like to try to eliminate pauses, gaps, and unexpected occurances.

Thanks again for sharing.

Garrett
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Old May 28th, 2009, 05:21 PM   #13
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Jonathan,

I truly commend you for your effort.

But with all seriousness, how many of these productions have you actually done for pay? And was the price collected at the prices you list on your site?

Jeff
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Old May 28th, 2009, 08:26 PM   #14
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Jeff,

I have done four of these. Two for the senior center, and two for very little money. I've decided in advance that if things go well and I get the higher payers, my pledge is to do at least one out of every four video histories for little or no charge to some family that could not normally afford these services, but none the less have a fantastic story to tell and would appreciate this.

A couple of things to note: I could not have started something like this at a worse economic time as we are living now. I was certain that I was not going to have people lined up around the block wanting to spend upwards of $2600.00, which, by the way if you figure all your time with pre-production, shooting, editing, scanning, original photography, licensing or creating music, titles, presentation cases, well you get the picture. I won't retire a millionaire doing this anytime soon.

After spending 30 years as an advertising photographer, and making a very good living doing that, the emotional pay off was just not that great. These videos I hope will fill that void sometime.

I've always wanted to get into video and studied photography and film at an expensive east coast art school, just never got around to doing it, until a little over a year ago.

As mentioned in my other post, I started doing the video history thing as a volunteer. I was learning NLE in Final Cut which is a miracle compared to my days of using blades, glue and Movieolas to edit 8 and 16mm.

I've spent countless hours studying all things video everywhere. DVInfo has been most helpful, even with my most basic questions.

Upon completion of an individuals film, the facility would have a "premier" and invited anyone that could be wheeled or walk to a giant room where the finished film would be shown.

At the conclusion of the film, reaction from the "audience" was stunning and highly emotional, and made me realize that this could be a highly rewarding opportunity, but maybe not with the income I was used to. At this stage in my life, I am leaning towards what is important, what difference can I make, and so on.

Sorry for the really long answer. Jeff, I'm hoping someday that the phone rings off the hook for this, because not only are they neat to do, but I think that they can have a special place for a family trying to keep their heritage alive.

Jonathan
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Old May 29th, 2009, 09:10 AM   #15
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Jonathan, I think it's great that you are immortalizing the lives of people that will be around long after they are. However, in my post I was expressing my experience with this type of video and the actually viability of making a living from it. People love the idea at first but it begins to falter time and time again as the clients see a price and realize they are going to have to go through tons of old unorganized pictures under a deadline to make it happen. Pretty soon, they realize that for the same price of watching a 10 minute video they can take their loved one on a vacation and create new memories and have photos of that as well. I've only worked on a few of these projects but the ones I did were because a milestone birthday was coming up, a "remembrance" of someone who passed away, or it was someone's retirement and the company wanted to document the person's life. The price was met with a "money is not an issue" importance of doing this because it was for very affluent people to be seen at a well attended event. That's been my history for actually making money with something like that. Even if it's isn't a bread and butter thing, it could make for a worthwhile and positive hobby.
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