One of the really great things about my job is that I get lots of emails and letters from people who are just getting started in the video world, asking my advice.
I am always happy to offer it, and always fascinated by the wide range of creative thing that people come up with.
Earlier this week, I got an email from Sarah McCue. She wrote (in part):
Hi Michael, I've been inspired by your posts and have been wanting to start a channel to record the life stories of elders from around the world -- basically interviews up to an hour asking questions from childhood through elder years. I'd be grateful for advice on how I can capture high quality video of individuals while seated in front of a camera from anyone in the world.
Then, she sent me a link to one of her videos. (I am reproducing it here with her permission):
Looking at the video, I had a few comments on how she had shot it - mostly to put the subject in the center of the frame, have her make eye contact with the viewer- stuff like that.
What I found far more interesting was the potential she had tapped into to record and share the ideas and memories of our elders.
Ours is a society that pays little attention to the elderly. I experienced this myself not a few weeks ago when I was attending my father-in-law's 90th birthday. Seated across from him and his wife at dinner, I began to engage them in a conversation about their youth. It was fascinating.
It was so fascinating that I wrote a column about it for The Huffington Post.
So the timing was perfect.
I told Sarah that I thought there was something there. I thought that she should expand the video to include old family photos, old films if there are any. That she could, in effect, begin to make almost personalized documentaries.
Alone, there is probably a pretty good business in that - making personalized family documentaries for individuals - a kind of video version of Ancestry.com
But perhaps, in a larger sense, as an aggregate, a kind of living history - there is a niche channel in there. What a great idea, to create a tableau of history through the eyes of people who have actually lived it and experienced it.
This is what made Ken Burns' Civil War so riviting - it wasn't just the black and white photos (though they help) but rather the diaries and letters - the first hand accounts.
And here, you have a chance to both record and create a new kind of history - also first hand.
What was it like for those who grew up in the Jim Crow South? For those who were in the Second World War on the ground (hurry up); for those who went to Vietnam.
A few years ago, you couldn't do this. The cost would have been prohibitive - camera crews, producers, editors, etc.. Now, all you need is an iPhone.