Why everyone should record their story on video

There are many personal video biographers out there, whether they call themselves by this name or not. I believe it’s the most appropriate description of what I do, however, I only discovered this job description in the last 6 months.

Regardless, all people who value oral history and conduct it via the medium of video have various reasons why they see it as a superior way to capture oral history to other methods – ie. audio only.

These are the reasons I believe people should record their life story – and record it on video/DVD!

1.  Every person has a story!

Whatever you may think, every person’s story is valuable and worth recording – even yours!

2. Recording your story celebrates you life

By recording your story on video, it is a celebration of your life – your successes, your failures, your lessons, your story. With video you have a living colour, animated record of yourself telling your life story. It captures the ‘real’ you in even greater detail than mere audio or written personal histories.

With video, you get the whole box and dice – you, your family & future generations get to see your smile, your laugh, the way you wave your hands around when you talk, and all the little tiny visual things that make  you unique.

3. You’ll hear stories you may never hear otherwise

In my experience, many things come out in personal video biographies that may never be known otherwise. This is not to say that I probe for family secrets or get people to speak about things they don’t want to speak about. Rather, it is merely the fact that I ask questions that other people in the person’s family have never thought to ask – and so they have never heard the answer. It’s as simple as that.

I’ve given the example before, but when I interviewed my Grandad I asked him where he was born, and he told me the exact address and told me where it was – and that a church was now built on it. After he had passed away, I pointed this church out to my young daughter as the location of where my Grandad was born.

Fred & I - 1989

Grandad & I – 1989

My Mum, who was driving the car at the time, asked me in a surprised voice, how I knew that. And I said, “Grandad told me when I interviewed him”. Mum was extremely close to my Grandad, but she would never have known that information if I hadn’t interviewed him.

4. A death is the death of a thousand stories

When people die, many stories die with them. Whether it is a story that only they could tell because they were the only one at a certain place at a certain time, or whether it is just their personal version of something that many others witnessed, it is their story. Everyone has a unique perspective on everything. Capturing this is a way of capturing the personality, values, beliefs and essence of the person being interviewed. Video just enhances this.

5. Your story is your legacy

When it comes down to us, we are basically a collection of stories bound up to make a person. Things happen to us in life, but we are the ones who interpret them and make meaning out of them. We are the ones who tell “our” story of what happened. A person standing next to us may well tell a completely different story. But for us, our story is real. It may not be fact, but to us, it appears to be. Nobody else can ever truly tell your story.

6.  “If those walls could talk”.

How many times have you – particularly genealogists – gazed longingly at an ancestor’s photograph, wishing they could speak? Well, by interviewing your relatives on video it’s just like having a talking photograph – and if genealogy is your passion, you can ask specific questions about people you’re researching and so on.

7.  “If not you, then who?”

If you’re the one who has the video camera, the question is, “If not you, then who?”. If you’re the genealogist in the family, or even if you’re just interested in your Mum or Dad’s story, if you have the video camera you may be the only one who ever asks them to tell their story and record it.

It’s very easy to say that someone else in the family would do it better or has more time etc etc, but when it comes down to it, you are the one. Just get your loved one’s permission, set the camera up and start asking questions – you may be very surprised with what happens after that (and there’s always the option of deleting it if you really hate it – though for an historian that sends shivers through me :-))

Of course, if you don’t have a camera or the time, you could always employ someone like me to do it for you. Contact me & I’m sure I can put you onto someone great in your area.


Now I know I’ve crossed over here into the basic question of “why record your story”, whether on video, audio or written, but I think you get the idea of why I see recording your story on video as the most valuable, desirable method of capturing a person’s story.

Let me know what you think!

(Update: As of Nov 14th 2013 please contact me via email at louise@15minutepowerplayswithyourkids.com, visit the 15 Minute Power Plays With Your Kids ebook Facebook or Twitter Page or visit the website www.15minutepowerplayswithyourkids.com If you happen to stumble across this post and it’s NOT because I’ve linked to it from my book, pop over and say hi anyway :-). Please  DO NOT go to my previous website at www.itsmylifeproject.com.au as it has been hacked)

Keep Smiling





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