The 'Joy' of Making a Family History Film

I’ve made hundreds of videos for clients all over the world, having run a successful video company since 2010, written books about online video and pioneered numerous online video formats.

Yet while it’s satisfying to have had over 100 million views of the content we’ve created for corporate customers, very little has brought the joy of a Family History Film, where both filmmaker and client experience joy in a unique way:

The process itself is part of the joy. We don’t simply gather facts about each family, run away and present a film to them a few weeks later - it’s far more involved than that. There’s the in-depth research our team of genealogists undertakes, and although this varies according to how much information the client already has, we’ll uncover either whole new stories or important added details.

So one of the most enjoyable parts of this process is the discovery and reveal phase: finding new information or even whole stories in each family’s background, then sharing it with them. Gradually the small pieces of the family jigsaw spring to life to provide a complete picture.  The 'making of' a Family History Film can be as immersive as clients want it to be – and most clients love being really involved.

Another reason our service brings joy is the involvement of older members of the family.  Not only is this important to record first hand experiences and anecdotes, but we usually see the years rolling back in the process - a kind of rejuvenation takes place. I’ve conducted interviews where I’ve seen years apparently drop off older interviewees. And we’ve had reports from their children that this has been the case.  One recent client, when we delivered the film, reported that his parent had immediately watched it five times in a row. Satisfying for them, and extremely satisfying for us.

So while I continue to make all sorts of films, very few things can bring the joy we have discovered working around the world and working on a unique story with every Family History Film: watching clients discovering new stories, procuring old memories, sharing the experience and strengthening family bonds – it is very rewarding and brings me joy too.

Paul Hurley is the Creative Director of Family History Films