VIDEO INTERVIEW

An audio visual recording has the distinct advantage of showcasing the storyteller — their voice, inflection, facial expressions, manner of dress and gestures.

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THE PROCESS

Introductory Consultation

If you are contemplating a life history review for yourself or a loved one, we begin with a free exploratory phone call or meeting. This is when we will get acquainted, discuss your goals for the project, and see if we are a fit. Clients tell me that they are put at ease by my genuine interest, sense of purpose and easy engagement.  

Research and Preparation

Upon receipt of the forms, I will begin research and prep for our first meeting. Preparation is key to the process and makes the difference between a pleasant conversation and a bonafide interview. It is important for me to get the context of what was going on around you in your world when your story was unfolding. My goal is to assimilate as much information as possible in advance, so that we can use your interview to unearth how you came to be who you really are!

Final Product

 

The original source recordings are merged into a single video with an introductory slide featuring your name, the date and location (i.e., Conversations with Jane Doe, Rochester, NY, June 15, 2021). If you select editing options (see Product Descriptions and Pricing) they are done at this time. The final product is a thumb drive of your interviews, plus a share-able link for you to circulate as you wish (Youtube, unlisted). “Unlisted” means that only people with whom you share the link can view the video; it will not show up in search results or other tabs.

Interview Agreement and Biographical Information

If you decide to move forward, I will ask you to complete two forms before our first session: 

Interview Agreement Form: acknowledges that the interview will be recorded, establishes any boundaries (i.e, topics that are off limits) and outlines our understanding of how the interview is to be shared. 

Biographical Information Form: provides me with fundamental biographical data such as family names, dates, places, education, occupation, military service, etc.  You are encouraged to include any other information  — articles, awards, speeches, toasts, artwork, research — that will help me get to know you and best prepare for our interview sessions.

Interview Sessions

 

The basic interview format consists of three hours of audio/visual interview time, conducted via Zoom or in person. Two 1.5 hour sessions are the standard, but I am open to discussing configurations that will bring out your best story.

During the interview itself, we begin with the basics, and morph into more textured territory as I help you to recall and reflect upon your memories from various life chapters.  The questions are not “canned.” Throughout the process, I will continuously make judgement calls about where to probe and when to pivot, in order to tease out the most meaningful information.  Areas covered may include your family history/ancestry, upbringing (childhood and formative years), education, work/career, romance and relationships, religious life, leisure/hobbies, and your reflections on life so far.  I am sometimes asked to  focus on a specific life chapter or event, such as an adoption story, a passion project, or training towards an important goal.  Our conversations remain confidential, except as you wish to share them.

 
FAQ

Will the recordings be audio or video?


Both audio and video. A filmed interview.




Where will the interviews be conducted?


Long distance interviews are conducted and recorded via Zoom. Local interviews can also be by Zoom, or I can travel to your home where we will set up a quiet zone, free from noisy distractions.




Will I know the questions in advance?


I am happy to share an outline in advance of some of the topics we’ll discuss, but there are not specific questions, word for word, or in a specific sequence. This is so that our conversations will be “real-time” and genuine, not practiced or canned. We'll start with brief biographical questions in the beginning and move on to more nuanced topics. None of the questions will stump you, as you are the expert on your life, and we can pause at any time so that you can collect your thoughts.




Can my child/spouse/friend sit in on the sessions?


Our best results are achieved when we have a one-on-one dialogue. Another listener may cause you to self-censor because you have already told the story numerous times before or you may hold back if you feel self-conscious, especially if you are uncertain about specific details. Sometimes, another listener may straight out interrupt or commandeer the telling. Since you are the interview subject, your story is as you recall, and it truly comes to life when you paint the picture for someone who is hearing it for the first time. That being said, my goal is to obtain the best interview possible. If you are put at ease by having a companion with you, I support that.




My story is not very interesting or special.


Much has been written about the blessings of an ordinary life. The website “On the Road to Happiness” shares “The irony of trying to live an extraordinary life is that it’s actually the ordinary things that make us happiest. If we find meaningful work, cultivate close relationships and develop our skills, this can create a deeply fulfilling life, even if it isn’t ‘special.’ We don’t have to do something different to everyone else in order to have a good life.” The poem, Make the Ordinary Come Alive (William Martin), offers excellent food for thought!




My life has been blessed with so many noteworthy events and achievements.  I’ll be embarrassed to talk about it, like tooting my own horn.


The truth is, people are inspired by your success. And your friends, your family, those for whom you are telling your narrative, will learn how your success came by way of hard work and dedication (okay, perhaps also a pinch of luck). There are many resources that can help you find an honest and authentic way to discuss your achievements without alienating. For example: Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It by Peggy Klaus. So don’t hold back. Don’t downsize your accomplishments!




I don’t have children.  Who will value my story?


You don’t have to have children to enjoy this process. A life history review can be cathartic and lot’s of fun, by providing you with a time to remember, reflect and reminisce. Gerontologists have even found that the process helps to improve one's confidence - by recalling, for example, how you overcame past struggles, or by revisiting joyous memories that remind you of a life well-lived. Your story, in your own words and voice, with your unique understanding of events that happened and how and why you made certain choices, is truly incomparable.




I’ve often thought about having my parent/loved one interviewed, but never seem to get around to it.  Where do I begin?


We begin with an introductory consultation and the process will unfold from there.




Why do I need your service? Can't I just do it myself?


Of course you can. But let’s face it - even with the best of intentions, this is a project that often gets pushed aside due to lack of time, expertise, and planning. Wait too long, and you lose the window of opportunity to memory loss, lack of stamina, or worse. There is a prescient African proverb that states, "When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.” I advise my prospective clients, whether or not you hire me, please don’t waste valuable time. But here’s the other thing. A trusted “facilitator,” trained in the art and practice of interviewing, is uniquely capable of capturing your narrative in a way that you simply cannot get by going it alone with a family member. Too often, family is simply too intimate to extract your best telling. Think, for example, of how you relate a story to someone who is hearing it for the first time, versus recounting it to someone who has heard it “a million times.” A trained interviewer poses informed questions that unearth stories, prompt more vivid storytelling and create follow-up questions that encourage detailed responses. See also FAQ "Can my child/spouse/friend sit in on the sessions"?




Why is my child/spouse/friend so eager to have me do this?


This is your gift for future generations — a means to keep you, your parents and their parents alive, through story. Important dates and places, such as those found on genealogical sites, provide necessary facts, but stories provide a glimpse of how you lived your life. The facts are the blueprint for your house, but the stories furnish the home your family will inhabit from generation to generation. Further, research has shown that the more children know about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believe their families function. These children have what is called a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.