By Ann Kerr
My husband and I had talked for years about making a video history of our parents. Finally we set dates and did it. My parents live in Idaho so we taped them during our annual visit. We are so glad we did! A year later our fathers died within three months of each other.
Our mothers have watched the videos countless times. Our children laugh as they watch my dad eat bread and milk and take out his false teeth. The tapes will be there for our grandchildren and their children to learn more about their great grandfather and mother.
There are a few simple steps that will make your video informative and entertaining. First, make sure you are familiar with the video camera. If you are borrowing or renting, try it out first so there won’t be any surprises. To keep the picture steady, you should use a tripod. Set the camera on manual focus, then focus on the subjects. We did our parents together, but you could do individuals alone. Don’t do a lot of zooming in and out.
Think of an interesting location. Maybe it’s the kitchen where grandma will demonstrate how she makes bread. My dad is a farmer so before his interview with Mom, we filmed him in the barnyard where he talked about his cows and tractors.
If you are interviewing someone who has saved memorabilia over the years, use those objects during the interviews. When Mom is telling about her high school days, you can zoom in on her class ring, display her prom dress for the camera, or capture photographs.
Before you start the interview (but after the camera is rolling) state who is being interviewed, who is doing it, and the date.
What questions do you ask? There are hundreds. For a short interview of about on hour, we’ve put together some questions that will get people thinking and talking. It’s a good idea to give them the list ahead of time, so they can recall memories without being pressured.
1. What is your name?
2. What state were you born in? What city? What hospital?
3. How old are you? When is your birthday?
4. What is, or was your occupation? Tell about it.
5. What was your mother’s name? Your father’s name? Your grandparents names? What did you call them?
6. What do you remember most about your mom and dad?
7. What is a special memory with your grandparents or parents?
8. What was your house like growing up?
9. What was your relationship like with your siblings?
10. Describe one family tradition you had growing up that was especially meaningful to you.
11. What did you ever do that got you in trouble at home?
12. How did your parents discipline you?
13. Was/is yours a religious family? What church?
14. Who was your first love and who broke whose heart?
15. Did you go to college? Where did you go? What did you study?
16. Tell about your first date with your spouse.
17. What was your first impression of your spouse?
18. What do you like best about your spouse?
19. Tell about your first kiss.
20. Tell about your wedding day.
21. Describe your first apartment or house.
22. What were your early days of marriage like?
23. What do you remember about each birth of your children?
24. Tell a short story about each of your children.
25. What family vacations have you enjoyed?
26. What is your favorite family tradition now.
27. What are some of your hobbies?
28. What makes you the most happy?
29. What advice would you leave for your posterity?
To be sure that you get the whole story, use follow up questions or phrases that encourage the interviewee to continue.