What is your WHY?

Getting beyond the WHATs and HOWs and uncovering the WHYs is the most important part of conducting a successful interview.

Why outtakes could be the most important part of your life story video

Ever wonder why we love watching outtakes from movies? It's because they show us what actors are like when they're not, well … acting. It's the same when I interview clients. No matter how perfect the final edit, I always like to include a few outtakes. Like in the clip below, when I tried using a Hebrew phrase in my question to someone who is fluent in Hebrew. My mistake turns into a priceless moment on camera.

The greatest story ever told is ...

The greatest story ever told is ... your own. 

In May of 1990, when I was 18 years old, my parents sat down with their insanely oversized VHS camcorder to record a conversation with my grandfather. He was 85 at the time.  They asked him questions about his childhood in Russia, his epic journey to the U.S., losing family in the Holocaust, and building a life in Baltimore. Despite my grandfather's discomfort being on camera, he obliged my mother, answering her questions for almost 90 minutes.

Just a few months later I went off to college, and my grandfather lived twelve more vibrant years, passing away in 2002 at the age of 98. By that time, I lived out of state, so whenever I was back home in Baltimore, I was running around to see friends and family. Sitting to watch the interview was honestly something I didn't think about back then. By 2004 VHS was a dead medium, and thus the interview sat in my parents' cabinet, collecting dust, for too many years. Until last month. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This past summer, I informed my parents of my plans to launch a video production company that would create living legacies for families, built around interviews with loved ones. "We're spending money on estate plans and wills," I said, "but we're forgetting where we come from. We should be preserving our parents' and grandparents' stories in their own voices." My parents smiled knowingly throughout my impassioned presentation. Obviously I was preaching to the choir. They reminded me of Grandpa's video -- since converted to DVD -- and how thankful they are to have interviewed him when they had the chance.

My decision to pursue this work wasn't a surprise. It's a natural extension of my communications consultancy and my three-year endeavor Talking GOOD, in which I interviewed more than 100 inspiring individuals. I enjoy discovering / recognizing / acknowledging what makes people special, and then sharing it with others.

My new company is called Acknowledge Media. We produce high-quality life story videos that celebrate and preserve the essences of people we love. 

Here are some ways we can connect:

  1. Subscribe to our Newsletter, to see powerful video snippets and to get tips about interviewing your own family members: eepurl.com/bP9MfP 
  2. On LinkedIn, you can follow our company page here and you can follow my profile for ongoing blog posts like these.
  3. Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/VoicesOnVideo
  4. Visit the website: http://www.acknowledgemedia.com/
  5. Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/acknowledgemedia/

Of course, you should feel free to email me or reach out on LinkedIn if you have any questions or would like to explore doing this with one of your own family members. 

So back to my grandfather. Several weeks ago, I watched his complete interview for the first time. It evoked a great deal of emotion, but mostly it filled me with joy. The audio-video quality may have been poor, and all the right questions may not have been asked, but I was infinitely grateful to again be sitting with him on the couch, rapt as he told me the stories of his life in his own accented voice. I can't wait to share this treasure with my boys when they're a bit older (and perhaps my own grandchildren one day). 

In closing, I want to extend some special thank yous ...

  • To Mike O'Krent, founder of Life Stories Alive, whose expertise and willingness to selflessly share information has proven invaluable these last six months. 

  • To Nina Merkel, designer extraordinaire, who has literally been a part of my professional journey since Day 1.

  • To my mom, Audrey Polt. A born storyteller and a professional photo album maker. She is my greatest advocate.

  • And, of course, to my wife and boys who have been with me every step of the way throughout this journey.

The Profile that Changed a Life

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I still can't fully believe what went down this past week (the photo kind of says it all). Here's the quick story ...

Last Friday, I received a call from a producer at The Meredith Vieira Show who had seen my Talking GOOD profile on Marine Corps veteran Tina Thomas. He was moved by the piece and felt that Tina could be a fit for the show's "$10K a Day!" giveaway campaign, recognizing people who are making a difference (sound familiar). Long story short, Tina and her daughter were ultimately invited to attend the show in NY, but they weren't told they'd be on the show, or that they'd be receiving $10,000. With tears in my eyes, I sat among the live studio audience, watching the entire thing unfold. People often ask me why I do what I do with Talking GOOD. Here's your answer ...