Friday, July 29, 2016

Never Too Late To Live Forever

A friend and potential client called me in May. For years she had been saying she wanted to capture her mother's life story before her mother got much older. Her mother repeatedly said she "had nothing important to say". My friend had been pleading with her mother to reconsider, saying her 3 siblings and her viewed the mother's life as one of excitement, turmoil, drama and reconciliation. "You know, Mom, we love you and want to know what happened. How did you and Dad do it with four kids?!?"

With this phone call, I had hoped she was calling to say, "We're ready".

Sadly, she was calling to say Mom had passed away quietly. There had been a flurry of activity to make sure she was comfortable during her last days, and then a week where everyone sat with her and just waited, spoke with her and watched. All the family was there and everyone took turns reminiscing about the good ol' days, the bad ol' days and the odd and unforgettable days that happened in-between. There was much laughter and often sudden sadness when her health took a turn for the worse.

My friend recounted to me a few wonderful tales she had heard about her late father and some of his failed attempts at moving the family out of their old, dilapidated neighborhood. Before they moved to the place where the family lived for the last 30 years, their childhoods were challenging at best. Now, having grown up in a more harmonious environment, they could look back with admiration for his persistence in improving his and his family's lot. I listened patiently when she said she wished she had recorded her Mom's story earlier, or how she wished I could've been there alongside the bed to record it all. It is such a shame to hear this all-too-frequent lament.

I mentioned that while the stories were still fresh and everyone was still around, how about the siblings recording a "DocuMemory"? - a memory biography of sorts. Two days later we were spending a few hours getting all the new info and old clarifications on tape and saved forever. Soon after, we presented the family a living memory movie of the four children's recollections of their beloved mother & father. Accompanied by photos and home movies, this whole-life story motion picture became a custom tribute to a beautiful woman who gave her time, love and determination for her husband and family. Instead of only hearing names and dates and places, the kids created a biography seen from the eyes of the recipients of this this woman's good nature. Each of them mentioned they never consciously felt the emotions that they were feeling now. One quoted Joni Mitchell's "You don't know what you've got til it's gone..." line. They all agreed they felt a unifying sense of closure and completeness, and were flushed with joy instead of mournfulness.

Though never recorded during her lifetime, the family made sure her story would never disappear. Two of the family members who had rarely spoken to each other for decades were now planning trips with their estranged families to "make up for lost years". The joint tribute brought them closer together once more. We have since received a request for 6 more DVDs because their kids want their own copies to remember "Granna".

It's never too late to honor a life lived. There is an old proverb:

"We each die twice. Once when our body dies and once when the last person who remembers us dies". 

Keeping a life story alive by sharing memories touches everyone's life who knew them or will ever be a descendant of them. They, in essence, live forever.

Don't delay. TimesStories. Always moving.

6 Reasons why a Filmed Life Story is superior to Books.

A printed narrative book is often the first thought when considering saving a life story. It's the way biographies have traditionally been presented, and are valuable in their own right (see the next section below). But filmed stories offer several more dimensions than books:

    1 -    Personality - A filmed biography displays mannerisms and vocal inflections. A book is a transcription of a story and is missing the voice of the narrator. Not to mention their laugh, their emphasis or accent, or the breadth of their smile. As everyone who has used email or texts knows, tone does not convey well through the printed word! (LOL)   
    2 -    Emotions - A filmed biography captures the emotions within a persons' story. It almost impossible to tell a life story without conveying emotion. Books miss that crucial tear being shed when sharing a difficult time, or the joyfulness brought on by a fond memory. Videos allow a view into the soul of a person.   
    3 -    Multi-media. Filmed biographies combine interviews with photographs, researched imagery, home movies, period music, sound effects, and custom graphics creating an educational, entertaining and emotional "you are there" aspect unparalleled by books or audio alone. Think Ken Burns. Images, music and narration drive the epic.
    4 -    Immediacy - A filmed biography can be experienced and shared, now, by many in any location. The entire story can be viewed within an hour or so. A book can take several days to digest. DVDs are easily reproduced and transported. Video formats can also be displayed on virtually all devices these days - iPads & smart phones to name just two. Putting the story on the internet allows the stories to be shared worldwide if so desired. And downloading makes for easy distribution.
     5 -   Range of Ages - Filmed biographies are the medium of multiple generations. A video can be shared across any age group. Most children won't take the time to read a lengthy book until they are much older, usually posthumously, and may miss the bounty of information available to them at an early age while their elder is still around. A movie-length video will hold their attention and provide them the benefits of seeing and hearing similarities they may recognize in themselves. It can be shared by the whole family at once, and moments can be discussed and shared with the subject of the biography while they are still in their lives.
    6 -    Efficiency - Filmed biographies make getting to the story quicker and easier. I've had several clients tell me that they wanted to get their life story book made for years, but knew it was a lengthy process. They wanted to get their facts straight and leave out nothing since it was "going to be in print forever". It was a book, after all. As soon as they had a free week or two. When told of the ease of the video process, how it only took a few hours, and that all they had to do was act naturally, they were inclined to actually get started. The pressure to be perfect was replaced with the ease of a conversation. The thoroughness remained. Every client has been more than satisfied. And the family got the story before it was lost.

Does a book have any value over a video? 6 answers...

It’s fair to say that most clients think of a life story in book form rather than video. I have a bias because my background is in documentary film-making. But I’ve also produced several books.
So which is better? Each format has its strengths and weaknesses. You be the judge.
Here are six areas where books hold their own over filmed biographies:

    ▪    Durability - Books will last. Printed on archival paper and properly stored, books will possibly be around longer than any current digital media. The best “guesstimate” for  DVDs is a lifespan that ranges from 15 years to over 100 years depending on the manufacturing process of the DVD and its storage. But the bottom line is that no one knows for certain.
    ▪    Technological Obsolescence - Print books don’t require hardware to read them. Digital hardware and formats continue to change. There’s a thriving business in transferring old media to current formats. Who out there doesn’t have a box of old videotapes waiting to be digitized? But you can still pick up a book printed a century ago and read it.
    ▪    Specificity - Simply turn a page and specific details can be accessed quickly and re-read repeatedly. Like a reference book. It is consumed. Video requires a temporal experience that requires time. It is served. Different delivery of content.
    ▪    Presence - You can hold a book in your hand. It has weight, texture, and odor. It almost demands that you pay attention. A DVD case, no matter how attractive the labeling, feels  insubstantial.
    ▪    Convenience - Books don't need power or batteries, and you don't have to worry about dropping them.  You can pick up a book and in an instant start reading.
    ▪    Accessibility - An attractive Life Story book set out on a coffee table invites friends and family to pick it up. Unlike viewing a video there’s no need to set up equipment. But it's usually a solitary experience.

Don't limit yourself to one format...

Books are great if you, alone, want to delve into someone's story. Videos provide the same narrative intimacy, but can be shared collectively. Books are consumed individually. Films are served and experienced, by one or many. Often, our clients request both a video and a book. The book's narrative is derived from the transcription of the recorded video tapes, so the content is the same. Just the delivery method varies. Nothing is sacrificed with either format, just the way it is processed.

Consider having a video AND a book made, or at least a printed photo album that presents all the images used in the video as a coffee table accompaniment. Then folks can quickly browse the family images before, during and after the video!

Ultimately, the choice of investment is yours. The only cost is not doing it. These are testaments to a life lived, a generations worth of experiences, decisions, resolutions and discoveries that will vanish if not preserved. Heritage is what you inherit. Legacy is what you provide to the next generation.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

"Dad, What's a Hobby Shop?"

Driving home the other day, I passed a hobby shop that had closed after 45 years in the community. It had gotten run down and less and less kids were frequenting it due to newer time distractions. (See Nintendo DS, Wii and a myriad of other electronic devices). Mentioning it to my 13-yr. old son, he asked me what a hobby shop was. For a moment, I was surprised. How could he not know? Didn't every kid? Another icon of society was fading into the past and another generation of kids would never know first-hand about it.

I reminisced about my Saturday mornings as a teenager when I would hurriedly count my change in order to see if I had enough to buy the newest Aurora plastic model monster kit. I would check the levels of my Testor's enamel paint and check if I had enough glue on hand, and then would promptly head out on my bike as soon as the store opened. The front windows were filled with Tinker Toys, telescopes, erector sets and train tracks, kites and Radio Flyer wagons. Part toy store, part DIY shop, I spent countless hours planning future purchases with the store's owner. After choosing the Phantom of the Opera kit and buying extra day-glo green paint for the face and hands and black for the cape, I bundled my new project and rushed back to the privacy of my parents' basement work/play area. Spreading newspaper over the table, I would gingerly open the package and begin carefully separating the plastic parts as directed by the instructions. Step by step, the model would come to life. The smell of the glue was enough to give me vertigo, but I pressed on. Usually it took a day to build and another to paint, which fit perfectly with my idea of why there were 2 days in "weekends". By Sunday night, I had completed the fantastic pose and detailed it to my liking. Pride and artistic expression were my companions as I showed my parents what had consumed my time for the past two days.

After sharing that recollection with my son, the fondness of that memory stayed with me for the rest of the day and many more memories showed up from that time period, too.

I remembered my neighbors' house where I built a few other models; how the phantom model had a terrified person in a dungeon at the base; how much pride I had in keeping my brushes neat and cleaned. I felt 13 again and enjoyed a sense of camaraderie with every other "child", now full grown, who recalls those same sentiments. Collectively, all of us "model builders" share a memory of times spent fully engrossed in a place private enough to work where time held no meaning, supplied by a store that was now going the way of the 5 & dime. The models themselves may be long gone, but the remembrance of that time period was indelible.

All of us have common "time period" memories. Feelings give stories meaning and relevance. What we keep to ourselves, dies with us. What we share with others remains. Someday my grandson may ask his father (my son) if he's ever heard of a "hobby shop". My son can proudly recall hearing about them from his father, and in doing so, recount my memories, stories, connections and feelings - keeping them from being forgotten.

Take the time to ask and really listen. There's a history and her-story waiting to be saved.

Let TimeStories save them for you, forever.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Father's Day is June 21st...What is the best gift to give?
A recent study pointed out that older people have much more information in their brains than younger ones, so retrieving it naturally takes longer. And the quality of the information in the older brain is more nuanced. But all of that lifelong data will go away one day if not saved.
While younger people were faster in tests of cognitive performance, older people showed “greater sensitivity to fine-grained differences,” the study found. Self-examination can be a therapeutic tool in realizing "wisdom" acquired in one's lifetime.
Based on an analysis of their research, they determined that wisdom consists of three key components: cognition, reflection and compassion.
True personal wisdom involves five elements - they are self-insight; the ability to demonstrate personal growth; self-awareness in terms of your historical era and your family history; understanding that priorities and values, including your own, are not absolute; and an awareness of life’s ambiguities.
There’s a point in life when a fundamental shift occurs, and people start thinking about how much time they have left rather than how long they have lived. Often, the subtleties and revelations of one's life, as well as the stories of hardships and successes go with them to their final resting places. Family members forget to ask about past experiences, or forget the answers over time.
Researchers recommend services like guided autobiography, or life review, as a way of strengthening wisdom. In creating a biography, people share their life stories with the help of a trained professional, and this wisdom creates a lasting legacy to share with family members alive today and yet to come.
Reflecting on the meaning and structure of their lives can help people thrive after the balance shifts and there is much less time left than has gone before. It should be a rite-of-passage that everyone chronicles their experiences, preferences, beliefs and realizations as a gift to themselves and beloved family members, but it often requires someone to request it first, and where does one begin?
At TimeStories, we chronicle life stories. We know the topics to discuss and how to get behind an answer to the hidden story - especially as we are not close family and can uncover deeper truths that many may not feel comfortable sharing directly with loved ones.
The cathartic benefits to the storyteller are manifold; a library of information is saved and families grow closer to their roots as they grow more familiar with their origins.
Call us or email to find out how easy it is to save your history and the story of a lifetime - your heritage.
TimeStories. The gift of a lifetime.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Personal History Awareness Month - May 2015

Society and culture have changed dramatically over the past few generations, mostly due to limited inter-generational contact. Many people only hear snippets of their heritage during family reunions or at holiday time. Children rarely hold interest in knowing the depths of ancestor's lives until they themselves are much older, and therein lies the difficulty. How to capture these stories before the holders of the stories are gone?

Photos are great, but tell no tale on their own. The stories behind the photos need to be saved, or else one ends up with a box of faces / places and no facts. That's why the genealogical business exists today. To help those without a continuous stream of family history to uncover what can be gleaned from scattered archival records. So, what can be done?

The future of our own history starts now - it's up to each one of us to save it. In making our motion-biographies at TimeStories, we typically sit with the eldest member of a family and guide them through recalling their family lineage, their own upbringing, their marriage, kids, work, favorites, fears, loves, beliefs and values. All they need is a good night's rest and a willingness to remember. No other preparation aside from exhuming those photos from the backs of closets and myriad photo albums. In a few hours, our one-on-one filmed sessions capture all the facets of a life and its reminiscences. Back in our studio we scan those family photos, (and can add home movies and relevant archival imagery from the internet) and edit it all together creating a motion biography to be enjoyed now and for descendants to come. 

Some clients come to us with tales of parents long gone or tales shared amongst the family, looking for a way to put them in one place for all time - what we call a DocuMemory. For others, we take valued images and weave them into elegant printed photo story albums with narrative captions that can be given to relatives and children to know the stories behind these photos. The stories saved now are the heirlooms of the future.

3 Generations

We are proud of our ability to provide "time-capsules" of lives lived. But this business turned out to be more than just a way to preserve heritage. After delivering over 45 feature-length filmed biography movies and dozens of photo storybooks we discovered numerous additional benefits experienced by our clients. The process of being asked to summarize one's experiences, feelings and beliefs, of reviewing photos and revealing the tales within, and then to see them presented back in a concise manner is a tremendous validation of one's life. 

Even the simplest of life stories, told with earnestness and edited for conciseness, conveys a sense of accomplishment and personal value. Just surviving the rigors of daily life, having witnessed and participated in the changing times of fashion, music, art, politics, trends and technology over the years provides a retrospection that may be overlooked otherwise. This knowledge can also be an immense aid for younger family members struggling to determine their way forward in conjunction with their familial and cultural lineage and their place in the world.

So, take the time to reach into the future by make a present of the past. Allow us to help you help your descendants know from whence they came! We love what we do...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

New (re-)Launch -

We are proud to announce the launch of

HeirloomBiography has evolved to serve a larger audience. The old name will fade away while the new name carries on the same tradition - "Saving lives one story at a time". (Borrowed from the APH)

All of our previous work will still be viewable, but along with our motion Biographies we have now expanded into chronicling the fledgling lives of children, with our Kidographies. We've added personal movie Tributes to honor and document the lives of loved ones. We still produce Corporate Histories designed to carry the brand into the future while giving a nod to the past, and have added Story Albums - narrative photo albums printed on hand-stitched, bound, archival pages. These exquisite coffee-table books are for keeping stories aligned with their images.

The idea behind these books was the impetus that started our business.

When my parents died, I inherited hundreds of photographs of Europe and China where my parents were born and raised. None were titled or named. Aside from finding these photos mildly curious and not just a little "neat", I put them in the closet for "when I was older". When my son turned four, he asked me "who's the lady with the big smile" in all the photos around the house? It was my mother - his grandmother - who died the year he was born. I pulled a few pictures out of a box to show him and was struck by how little I could tell him. 

As a first-born American, those far away countries in those photos told nothing to me. Where were they taken? Who was in them? Were they relatives? Friends? Why did they take that particular shot? A wave of guilt came over me as I recalled countless stories offered at numerous dinners while growing up. At each mention of "the old days", I drifted off - more concerned about my interests or my social activities. What did I care about those far off and ancient lives??? I was an American growing up with music, tv and toys galore! My future lay ahead - not behind me.....

Back to the box in the closet. With each photo pulled out I "umm-ed" and "ahh-ed" to my son - not knowing what to say. What few I could find of my mother (she was the photographer of most) I put aside to create a montage of her. I narrated the eulogy I wrote for her funeral and animated the pictures to create Remembering Renee, a tribute to her life for my son to watch.

That was the start of our heritage business back in 2006. Since then, we have expanded to a group of like-minded individuals who all share the same beliefs - "that our stories today affect those yet to be, that true value comes from family and friends, and so much detail is forsaken in the rush of modern living."

I wish I could bring my parents back for a long weekend and ask them all about those stories they told that I ignored. I would have them explain why they did what they did, when they did it, and how they felt about the tough decisions in their lives. Because everything they did or didn't do led to my existence - and ultimately to my sons'. It would've been nice to know the stories and not just have the images that went with them.

The following quote is from Philip T. Sudo and sums up our our philosophy perfectly:

Remember who made you
and those before you
and those before them.
All those ancestors are within you,
stretching back to Creation.
Years hence,
Whom will you be within?

So, take the time to capture the stories of times past and present. Preserve the visions of your children as they embark on their journey of life. Honor loved ones with a tribute of times shared. Do it today, for today's TimeStories are handed down as tomorrow's treasures.

Time Stories - always moving.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gone but not forgotten

This has been another momentous year in heritage and legacy preservation for Heirloom Biography. We have completed 6 new biographies, 3 tributes, 2 kidographies and 1 corporate heritage. Working with families who "get" the value of story chronicling - who are generous and kind in archiving their loved ones' life story, makes our work so rewarding.

We have just about completed our rebranding under our new name "TimeStories". Look for the launch in early 2011 as We wanted to make it clear that "every age has a story to tell", not just seniors!

Several families we have worked with over the years have since lost the elder person whose story we saved. We have attended a few wakes and funerals, yet none were consumed with loss. There was a joy for the person and their life, perhaps because they knew time couldn't be stopped, but also, perhaps, because they knew they could always remember them by watching the biography we made. A few families played sections of the bios at the receptions afterwards making it seem less harsh and just a little strange. Strange that the mortal body had moved on but the spirit and idiosyncrasies remained all around. Laughing at the comments of their dearly departed reminded me of the New Orleans custom of Jazz Funerals and "second lining". Some even played the deceased's favorite music, and dancing was not uncommon.

I pass on another link to a touching video that speaks to this phenomena of remembering the awkward and (too?) personal as well as the presentable parts of a person. We are composite wholes of many traits, characteristics and habits that define us as who we really are. One cannot separate the weird or unpleasant from the charming. This video touches on just those "imperfections".

As Shakespeare said, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts..."

Make the effort to save what took years to develop - a unique, irreplaceable personality - with all the good and bad rolled into one. They ultimately define where you came from and, more importantly, why you came here.