Category Archives: celebration of life

5 Steps in Making a Funeral Video for a Loved One

Last week we received a phone call for a family preparing for a funeral. It’s already stressful ironing out all the logistics but it’s an additional strain trying to put a video together when you never have done one before.

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I shared that we create Celebration of Life Movies (see example at the bottom,) that includes music and narration. We do not provide ‘funeral’ videos since most Funeral Homes now provide this service. This client wanted her ‘funeral’ video to be more customized than the Funeral Home was willing to provide so I walked her through some ideas to consider:

  1. Will you be showing the video before/after the funeral?  If showing before/after, you don’t need to worry about music choice since most people will not hear the video during this time, unless on a professional sound system.
  2. Will you be showing during the funeral?  If yes, consider the size of your audience. If large, keep video under 5 minutes. If more private and family oriented, 5-10 minutes might be appropriate.
  3. What photos to choose?  Choose your favorite photos if showing before/after. If showing during the funeral, you may need to include other photos that help tell the story of the person.
  4. Should the photos be in order?  If video shown before/after, order of pictures is not important because most likely folks will not see the video in its entirety. If shown during the funeral, try to have some order. You’re telling a story and people like to follow the order of events. 
  5. How many photos makes up a 5 minute video? Appx 60-75 pictures

We have found there is an increasing need for Celebration of Life Movies. This do not replace the funeral video but is something typically put together months later and shared with a larger group of family & friends. To view an example, see http://youtu.be/9tyCo0M6jEY.

Convert and Create your Memories

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Last week we posted our first MovieMe commercial. Let us know what you think by leaving us a comment or a thumbs up!

http://youtu.be/D8F136maYBk

It was an amazing experience to work with http://www.actorboy.biz – Tom Clark. Not only does Tom have a production company but he has acted in several movies:

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We’ve also been blessed using his service to narrate our movies. It’s really special to add narration on Celebration of Life movies when sharing the story about a loved one.

In June 2009, my husband and I made a decision for me to retire from my 20 year career. It was a decision I embraced and looked forward to contributing more to our family. Part of the contribution was securing our life events both with video and pictures. Initially, videotaping and photographing sporting events was just fun and my only New Year’s Resolution  was to capture as many memories as I could in a year.  I soon refined what I captured down to highlights, and eventually added music.

As my hobby grew, I asked friends for opportunities to make movies for them. It grew into doing more and more Movie projects until my friends of friends circle became strangers requesting a Movie. I was beyond thrilled because deep down under all the Hazardous Waste knowledge was a passion for putting someone’s story together in a beautiful unique way.

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It’s more than a montage…I spend time finding the right song, lining up the words to help tell the story and ordering the pictures and video clips to maximize the emotional impact. In the Hazardous Waste industry, a typical phone call was demanding. Today a typical phone call is appreciation and tears. That part took some getting used to but now I see how putting pictures and video clips to the right kind of music at the right time can make a huge emotional impact.

This service is not for everyone but if you don’t have the time or not the type to create a movie on your own, we’d love to hear your story and make it come alive for you. The beauty of this new found career is I’m still at home and allows me to be committed to our initial family goal. A book that helped me navigate this next stage of life was called Quitter by Jon Acuff…good read.

In addition to making movies, I have formed a partnership with http://www.BigStufVideo.com. This partnership allows us to convert your VHS tapes, videotapes, 8mm film all to DVDs. Now all under one roof is the ability to Convert and Create your memories.

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We appreciate the support and love we have seen over these past two years. Let us roll out the red carpet for you and make your memories come alive!

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Legacy Project starring You!

Many thanks for the feedback on our last blog posting Reflections and Recommendation of MovieMe! —> http://wp.me/p1lhCI-eM

Something that has been on my mind lately is we are only a couple of generations removed from not being known by our grandchildren’s children. There might be the misplaced photos they find or a home movie someone runs across but nothing that really tells a story and/or ties it all together. When I think about my stepchildren’s children’s children, what will they know about us, what will they think about our time here on earth, will they learn about us from random photos, video clips we shot and/or blogs we’ve written?

Since we are using a medium, DVDs, that are here to stay for a while vs. tapes, that deteriorate over time, why not build your own legacy project? If you read last week’s blog, you can see the daunting overwhelming experience it can be putting a movie together of someone else’s life, especially after they are gone. So you’re thinking you are too young to put one together? Or you feel it is awkward to start on something like that right now? Think of it in a different way….on your next birthday put a Year in Review together. You can choose to share or not share. But how special would it be when someone wants to showcase your life either for a decade birthday, anniversary, retirement party, etc… to edit from years of ‘movies’ you have put together. It certainly will keep you focused on the story you want to tell, the story you want your life to reflect.

Andy Stanley, a sought-after leadership communicator, author, pastor, and the founder of North Point Ministries, Inc. (NPM) says, What story do I want to tell?  – After a week, a month, a year, or longer, what story do you want to tell  about a decision or a choice you have made.  Andy says, “Do not make a choice that will make you a liar for life.  Make decisions that allow you to tell a story that you are proud to tell….  Your story is with you forever.”  Andy’s books include The Next Generation LeaderVisioneering and The Principle of the Path.

Put a movie together of your Year in Review or your children’s Year that reflects all your hopes and dreams and share that gift with friends and family! Your loved ones might learn something new about you.

Client’s Reflections and Recommendation of MovieMe

We (MovieMe) received a lead from our friends at http://www.NostalgicMedia.com about a husband, Bob Harrison, who wanted to put together a Celebration of Life party to honor the recent passing of his wife, Diane. Below you will read what this journey was like for Bob and his sons, Scot and Randy. And how we came together to create a legacy  product of an incredible woman, who touched so many people with her love and commitment, especially with her husband, sons and granddaughters.

Many thanks to Bob, Scot and Randy for trusting MovieMe with this delicate process.

by Bob Harrison (husband to Diane Harrison, father to Scot and Randy)

It has now been over five months since my wife of 46 years tragically and quickly passed away.  We were hiking in the Austrian Alps when she first noticed a slight abdominal pain which appeared to initially fade as we returned from Europe.  Then, over the course of a couple of weeks, the pain intensified.  Her doctor thought it was a deep muscle strain associated with my wife pulling against the airplane seat belt during our long transatlantic flight home.

Finally during a quick trip to Washington DC in mid-October, the pain became much worse as she awakened in the hotel room before returning home to Atlanta.  I called her doctor and we arranged an appointment immediately after our plane landed.  The doctor quickly told her to go to the Hospital Emergency Room and obtain a lower abdomen CT Scan.  After multiple additional tests the following week, Diane was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer on October 26th.  On December 10th, she died in her sleep at home while holding my hand.  I provided all of her palliative care at home while being assisted by our two sons and the occasional critical visits by Hospice Nurses.

I am sure there is no good or best way to die.  This must be especially the case when ones goes from appearing to be in perfect health one day to leaving life two months later.  However, when compared to sudden, immediate death or a prolonging slow loss of coherency and physical strength over many months and years; in retrospect, I realize that we were spared more intense suffering and grief.  I do not think Diane was ever in physical pain.  We all suffered emotionally as we realized and ultimately talked intimately about her pending death and what a wonderful life we had lived together in love.

During the six weeks between Diane’s diagnosis and her death, my life was solely reactively focused on providing for her comfort and well-being.   Since she physically deteriorated so quickly, she quickly decided she only wanted to physically see my two sons and me beyond her professional healthcare providers.  My sons, both living remotely, rotated through several times with my youngest son sleeping upstairs in our home when Diane died at 438am on Saturday morning.  In order to attempt to react to all of Diane’s friends and family members who were shocked in hearing about her diagnosis, I was fortunate to find and fully utilize the CaringBridge website.  I posted periodic updates of her condition and she received thousands of postings in response.

We were overwhelmed with these postings, emails, cards, letters, flowers, food, gifts and ultimately, charitable donations.  Hundreds of people voiced their frustration in not being able to provide more support and actual help in Diane’s fight for life.

As Diane’s death became eminent, I found myself praying for her peace and comfort.  She was such an extraordinary woman that I was fully comforted in her life continuing in a life hereafter.  I often thought how my later years were always characterized in being convinced that I would pre-decease Diane.  I was older and one always hears about the longer life expectancy of healthy women compared to men.

Many years ago, Diane had begun voicing her desires to not have a conventional funeral or burial service.  I accepted this request without really questioning her motives.  However, I believe her request was grounded in the many very sorrowful family funerals she had attended over the years.  She had merely requested that her remains be cremated and ultimately mixed with my ashes with our sons disposing of them in a “special location”.

As Diane approached the end of her life, we had several extraordinary intimate and special talks.  Right until she started to sleep continuously, about four days before she died, she continued to attempt to “plan and organize”.  She was very worried about not being able to adequately respond to all the support we had received from so many friends and family members.  I shared her worries since I viewed it being my job to express our sincere appreciation.  I was also worried about many other things that I am sure burden any surviving spouses.  Diane was a fantastic mother and both of her grown sons worshiped her.  Their lives had been so influenced by her dedication, mentoring and hard work as she left a professional career to be a full-time, stay-at-home mother for both of them.

In addition, I must admit that I did not feel right about not having some form of memorial or ceremony to attempt to recognize Diane…a truly wonderful woman, wife, mother and friend to so many.

Ultimately, in one of our last short conversations together, Diane said…..”OK, if you feel that we should do something, why don’t you have a party”?   In the emotion of the minute, I just casually said “OK, I think we should do that”.   This was further reinforced with my final posting on CaringBridge when I emotionally confirmed to all her followers that I was going to have a Celebration of Life Party for Diane……sometime in the coming months.

It is now five months since Diane passed away.  The grief and sorrow are slowly fading with time, but the memories of Diane and the great life we spent together will always remain.  In addition, it is now one month since we had the Celebration of Diane’s Life Party.  Herein lies the purpose of this narrative.  I want to share with you what an extraordinary event this party was and how intensely it affected me, my two sons and everyone who attended it.

In the days immediately following Diane’s death, my two sons and I were together in our house focused on individually and collectively trying to rationalize her death and try to deal with our personal and collective grief and sorrow.  It was then that we began to discover the various forms of documentation that Diane, the family historian, had developed over the years.  There were twenty-one photo albums.  There was an album that her mother had given her that contained all the postcards and letters Diane had sent her for the first four years of our marriage.  Diane had a twenty-seven page document, called “Reflections” that contained her intimate thoughts and narrations about her life.  It was written over a twenty year period.  Diane also kept travel journals wherein she chronicled our various domestic and international travels over the last ten years of our marriage. We shared the postcards at the event.

As we discovered all of this, my two sons became enlightened in how we could put this party together.  It would be a simple case of digitizing a cross-section of the photographs depicting Diane’s life and then providing some narrative based on our memories and all the written words Diane had left behind.  It sounded so simple.

We then selected 290 photographs that we thought properly depicted Diane from infancy to our last trip together.  I then personally began the job of developing a written narrative of her life and all of the appropriate personal quotations she had made.  All three of us envisioned just scrolling the photographs while narrating appropriately.

When delivering the 290 photographs to Nostalgic Media for their digitizing, I was asked what I was ultimately going to do with the resulting DVD.  I described our objective and was quickly told that what we had in mind would be very difficult…..not only technically, but emotionally.   By some miracle Danielle West and her company MovieMe was suggested to me.

I called Danielle to see if she might be available to provide assistance.  The rest is history and ultimately ended up in the Celebration of Diane’s Life being a transforming event for, not only me and my sons, but for all the 150 other attendees.  Danielle singular provided the core competence to bring everything we had together into a program and four different “movies” to be used during the party.

My narrative of Diane’s life ended up consuming 61 typewritten papers.  It took me several weeks to transcribe and the final product was a very lengthy, intimate tale.   My sons both read it were concerned about the intimacy of the detail and how long the narrative was.  The other striking conclusion from our reviewing this narrative was that none of us would be capable of reading it.  It just was too emotional for us.

The digitized photographs came out well and were put into chronological order easily.  I then met for the first time with Danielle.  Her sensitivity, principles and character came blasting through when she became quite emotional about Diane and how much she wished she had known her.

In a very sensitive manner, Danielle led me to the process by which we would develop the process for the program.  The program would be composed of a continuously scrolling rotation of approximately 25 photographs of Diane from infancy to our final hiking trip to the Alps 3 months before she died.  This continuously playing movie would be played in the gathering/cocktail bar area where party guests would first arrive and meet.

The second and most consequential “movie” would be approximately 30 minutes of life-story photographs of Diane that would be narrated.  Danielle quickly understood the challenges of my participating in the narration and ultimately decided that she would personally voice Diane’s direct quotations and a local actor, Tom Clark, would provide the 3rd party narration.  I was tremendously relieved.

Diane had written a letter in her deathbed to her 7 year old granddaughter.  This letter was given to her parents who were told to give it to Elisabeth in the future “when they feel she is old enough”.  Elisabeth’s father, our oldest son Scot, would read the letter at the party and there would be a scrolling picture movie depicting Diane at various times with her granddaughters, Elisabeth and her 3-year old sister, Isabella.

I then provided Danielle with a list of approximately 10 songs that were Diane’s favorites.  Danielle then did the amazing job of coordinating the scrolling photographs with the music and with the narrative.  The final product was an extraordinary representation of the life of a woman who was uniquely capable of loving and being loved.

On April 14, 2012, one hundred and fifty close friends and family members attended The Celebration of Diane’s Life.  Many of the people attending did not know each other since they came from various periods of her life.  They came from four different companies and fourteen different states.  No one really knew what to expect.  No one had ever been to a “Party” of this type.

The party unfolded perfectly.  The pictures, narrative and music surged from being very sad and emotional to being invigorating and, at times, humorous.  When the final movie clipped closed and I closed the party with my hands pointing up and said “Diane, I am Coming, Thank you”, all the attendees immediately stood up and came forth with a standing ovation.  I cried to myself.

As Diane’s close friends and family left, they all sought out me and my sons.  I have never heard so many emotional comments about the experience at the party.  Several women hugged me and were crying.

Over the next weeks, I received huge written thank you notes expressing emotions that are rarely put in writing.  Three of my male friends took me out to lunch and jokingly indicated they were very mad with me.  Apparently, their wives had taken them aside after the party and declared that they did not want a funeral.   Rather, they wanted to have a party just like Diane’s.

I am now reflecting up the unique accomplishments of this party.  It accomplished everything that I could have dreamed of…….and more.

The preparation of the party and culminating with the party provided a turning point for our recovery from the tragedy of Diane’s death.  We no longer feel sorry for ourselves and are wallowing around in grief and sorrow.  Diane’s party provided a pivot for our focusing on the blessings of her life and the huge positive impact she would always have on our lives.

The party provided a perfect mechanism for me to thank everyone for all the many gifts and messages of support that were sent to Diane as she was dying.  Everyone was frustrated with their inability to help Diane as she approached the end of her life.  However, this party reconfirmed their ongoing love for Diane and her love for them.

The party also honored a remarkable woman.  It was a “love story and a war story”.  It depicted in pictures and words how a beautiful woman affected so many people in what she did, how she did it and who she was.

If you are faced with the personal tragedy of the death of a loved one….if you and need help in managing your grief, voicing your appreciation and/or honoring your loved one; Danielle West/MovieMe has a magic wand of creativity with deeply seeded emotion.


Keeping Memories Alive

Memories are precious thoughts that we keep in our minds about a particular person or object. A memory is a recollection- or being able to comprehend  and recall a specific event or moment in time. Memories are our history, we are what we have experienced.

These thoughts make up who we love now and whom we once loved.  Recalling or reflecting on a past memory helps keep that particular moment relevant or important. In maintaining your reflections on particular occurrences, you can determine which memories you want to preserve to last a lifetime. Giving yourself constant reminders of certain events from the past will keep that moment alive for the present and future. The best forum to do this is through photographs and video technology.

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Wedding Day Memory idea!

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Memory of a pregnancy..

With the new and upcoming technology, such as turning photographs into video footage, we can simply make any photo or “memory” last forever. So in developing and maintaining healthy relationships, it is imperative to hold onto these precious moments to strengthen and continue our relationships with loved ones.

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Keeping photos around the house and in your phone acts as a constant reminder of happy moments in time you have shared with that particular loved one.  Another great way to keep happy memories in your mind is to hold onto special material things, such as a ticket stub to a baseball game to remember a certain date with your husband.

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Another great idea is to keep your baby’s first picture and his hospital hat and frame both, this will be a constant reminder of when your child was born and the feelings you felt during that beautiful day.

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Adding photos of loved ones to your flowers while you walk down the isle helps you feel the memory of that person more so they can be “present” during your wedding day.

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Going back to a specific place that you once took a picture to reminisce on that memory is always a wonderful idea!

“..in the End, all that really matters isn’t the things you did, but what its effects are today, not the knowledge you have learned, but how you applied it, not the words that were said, but how they made you feel, and most of all, not the moment of occurrence, but how its now just a part of our memory.. Everyday, we make memories.. Let’s paint lives with happy ones..”

Author- Unknown

So now that we have a better understanding of how to keep memories alive we should go out and make great new ones! Keeping the memory of a person alive can be easy as long as you remember. Memories are who we are, dreams are who we want to be. Make sure to capture every SPECIAL moment on film while you still can; so that later you can look back and smile!!

Thank you,

Brittaney Thayer

Celebration of Life Event

If you follow us on Facebook (www.fb.com/MovieMe) you would have seen a few photos posted from the Celebration of Life event we attended and participated in last weekend. We received a phone call three months ago from a man who had just lost his wife to pancreatic cancer a few months earlier. The lead came in from our friends at http://www.NostalgicMedia.com. The client expressed how he wanted to honor his wife’s requests of having more of a Celebration of her Life event than just a funeral. When this gentleman, Bob Harrison, called, he had already written a 60 page memoir, which included her journal notes over the years. He wanted to know if we could merge the memoir with photos, a couple video clips, and music to share at this Celebration of Life event. In order to compare visions, I prepared a sample of what we had discussed. I chose some of the quotes in the memoir, blended it with the right kind of music and had the voice overs done in both male and female. Up until this point, none of my previous clients had included narration. It added a special touch both reliving and retelling all the special stories they had shared together.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I was new to the narration and was grateful to have hired a wonderful actor, Tom Clark – http://www.actorboy.biz to be the male voice, as well as, offer guidance on audio equipment.  After narrowing down the script to follow the photos, we changed the script to read in third person. In a few sections, I read the exact journal quotes of his late wife, Diane Harrison. The ‘movie’ ended up being 30 minutes, which initially seemed too long but the narration told a story. We sprinkled it with video clips, graphic motion clips and frequent song changes all helping to keep it interesting. Bob’s hope was to tell the story about an incredible life lived between two people, who loved each other for 46 years. He did just that…as well as, his sons who contributed to the night’s events with reading a letter written by his mother to his daughter, her granddaughter. And the other son, who performs in NYC with showing the ending to one of his musical plays, Tommy.

Pulling this event all together was no easy feat but if there was someone who paid attention to every single detail, it was Bob. He was very thorough and covered all the bases. He also chose vendors who made the night a success. The venue was held at Country Club of the South. They supported the event with their expertise and experience and recommended  Spectrum Entertainment for the AV equipment needs. The venue was beautiful, both inside and out. It helped that North Georgia was experiencing some perfect Spring weather that evening. Spectrum Entertainment made sure all their equipment was there ahead of time and showed up early to walk through final staging. The “D.J.” for the evening was very kind at making sure sound and lighting was perfect. It was a pleasure to work alongside both these vendors.

The evening started with a reception held in the bar area. We put a short looped ‘movie’ in the bar area of pictures that highlighted their years together with their two boys, now young men. Folks then moved into the dining room to sit down. While some tables waited to go into the buffet line, Bob had placed postcards at the tables. These postcards were found after Diane’s mom had passed away. Her mom had saved all the postcards, since 1964. Bob had them reproduced at Kinko’s so everyone could share and read Diane’s thoughts and see her handwriting. Very nice original touch in sharing memories.

Shortly after dinner, the Narrated ‘Movie’ started. It told the story of when Diane was born and took you through their marriage, their sons, their travels, and time together. This media age has taken us to such a visual level, we almost come to expect a “60 minutes” version type of story telling. I was very nervous before the ‘movie’ began for simple reasons – what if the sound isn’t right or what if the DVD doesn’t work (I had 5 back up copies with me! haha) or just what if… It is one thing to build a ‘movie’ for a client and send them the DVD. It is a whole other feeling when you are sitting in a room with +150 people watching your work. I was very honored to have been a part of this Celebration of Diane’s Life and I can only imagine how proud she would have been of her “Bo.” At the end of the evening, everyone stood up and gave Bob and his sons a standing ovation…you could feel the love bursting at the seams.

Have you attended a Celebration of Life event? If so, what was your experience?