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Capturing Family Stories, One Video Biography at a Time

Heather Nickerson, Artifcts
March 16, 2022

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Lori Roux, founder of Whole Story Productions (WSP), for many years. In fact, Lori was one of our earliest sounding boards as we contemplated building a community around all things “stuff” and “stories.”

Aside from being a die-hard skier and former New Englander, Lori was an Emmy-award winning team member of ESPN’s X Games and the creative genius behind WSP. Lori and the WSP team help families bring to light the stories, memories, and histories that make them who they are today through beautifully directed family videographies. 

Ellen and I saw an immediate fit between Artifcts and WSP—we couldn’t help but think about all that family “stuff” as we listened to Lori talk about the families she has worked with and the stories she has helped them tell over the years.

Sure enough, families, “stuff,” and stories go hand in hand. Whether it is a collection of old photos from the turn of the century or Grandma’s china or an assortment of antique silver. Those objects all represent lives lived, adventures had, and the very essence of what it is to be us, to be alive.

I sat down with Lori for a virtual conversation last month and wanted to share with you some of our key takeaways.

Heather Nickerson: Tell us a bit about your typical client. 

Lori Roux: Usually I’m working with a family, but once in a while there may be more of a corporate lean, where the story is more business oriented. Many clients have had successful family businesses and are telling the story of how it started, where, and when. Then we progress through family evolution, historical aspects, philanthropy, and legacy.

I also had a project for a museum exhibition – that creates challenges around length, how long can you keep people’s attention while standing at a kiosk of some sort.

Nickerson: How do clients typically find you?

Roux: Clients usually find me by word of mouth, so somebody knows somebody who knows somebody who I’ve worked with. I’ve also met clients through their other service providers – attorneys, accountants, financial advisors. I am listed as a service provider with large and small financial institutions.

Nickerson: You’ve said that people often tell you that they are not interesting enough to do a video. How do you convince people that they are?

Roux: Almost to a tee people will say, “Oh, there’s not much to tell.” Or, “We’re not really that interesting.” But I try to explain that to their audience, their family and friends, it’s incredibly interesting. It’s a story for the rising generations. A story of who they are, their successes and failures, and what their message is for those that they may never meet.

As one client said to their hesitant father/patriarch, “It’s not about you Dad. It’s about us. It’s FOR us.”

It’s not about you Dad. It’s about us. It’s FOR us

Nickerson: Can you share a story or two that stands out from the families you’ve worked with?

Roux: There are a number of stories, so I’ll pick one of my favorites.

I had a family that I worked with in Australia with eight adult children. The family tells a story debating whether they were “free settlers or convicts” when their ancestors came from the Isle of Skye. There were multiple versions of the story depending on who in the family you asked. I don’t usually do the research, but I was searching for an image of a ship from the 1800s to include to help the visuals of the story. I happened to come upon the original manifest of the ship’s passengers. It listed a number of the family names with a $ fee next to it, which means they paid for passage! Not sure it put to rest the argument, however, as they genuinely like the mystery and family lore!

Nickerson: Getting people to talk about their most intimate family details has to be challenging. How do you get people to trust you? 

Roux: You know, that’s something that I work really hard at. It all starts at that first meeting – trying to talk about the project while also expressing your own humanity and sharing a story of your own that might apply. Even offering a comparison – like, my own family immigrated from Eastern Europe and though they thought they really didn’t know much about their history, it turned out, the more questions they asked each other, the more they discovered they knew collectively!

I also talk about their privacy, and how they will end up including other family members, and how we keep their final product secure. 

It’s all about them… and I try and express that it’s not a “gotcha moment” when we do an interview. It’s all preplanned and preapproved so the final film is what they envisioned.

Nickerson: Explain how you incorporate other keepsakes in a video (e.g., photos, letters, music). 

Roux: Some of the most important parts of a project are the photos, videos, letters, and other family records. You know the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, that’s so true! We can tell so much of someone’s story with a few photographs and some music, without even a word being said. We try and include whatever is meaningful and significant to each family – whether it’s a business contract or a love letter.

Nickerson: You know the story of Artifcts. How do you think Artifcts could help you in your work with your clients?

Roux: With all the photos and keepsakes that people share, that we include, Artifcts is a great place for them to find a home. When the project is complete, all the photos can be archived on Artifcts so family members can then go and peruse them at their leisure. When it’s in the film, you might only see something for five seconds. All the people in the photo might be recognizable, but in the film, the images fly by so quickly. Having organized, archived access for everyone who the family wants to share with will be invaluable. It’s like a secure online photo album shared with the entire family, accessible any time, only the family can then add documents, stories, and all the details that you typically don’t get with a photo album.

< End of interview >

We know that when it comes to our personal lives and histories “someday” often turns into never or maybe simply too late. We hope you will think about those pieces of you that should be Artifcted and archived to pass to friends and family and future generations before it’s too late. Take it one object at a time. If you get stuck, see if some of our partners and membership organizations can help you!

Interested in creating a family video biography? You can reach out to Lori at Whole Story Productions  to start the conversation. 

© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

What's New at Artifcts
Gift Your Loved Ones a “Why”

Do not dismiss the power of answering the “Why?” Here are four of its superpowers: 

1. CONNECTION

If you are going to make your niece cart around a sitting Buddha sculpture for her remaining days as part of your last will and testament, you could at least tell her why!

Wills and estate plans by nature focus on the what and often neglect the why. And that’s if the will even references an itemized list of tangible assets! The reality then is loved ones may act out of obligation to respect your wishes and hang onto the items you give them but with a tinge of disgruntled acceptance. 

2. REDUCED CONFLICT

Imagine two people who feel equally attached to an object that once belonged to a deceased loved one. In the will, the object goes to one of those people. To squash any potential disappointment or misdirected anger at the recipient, the owner could share the why and explain the bond between the person and/or object and recipient. Closure, in this case, is another great gift of the why. 

3. LASTING MEMORIES & LEGACY

Your loved ones want to remember you. But memory is fickle. And sometimes, that's your own doing. Did you make up three different versions of events as to how that painting came into your collection? Did you ever tell the story? Set the record straight with any combination of photos, video, audio, and a brief (or long!) story as you Artifct the truth of that object. 

Your loved ones want to remember you. But memory is fickle.

4. BETTER PREPARATION

How many of you reading this have an up-to-date will or estate plan? Odds are you do not, at least according to a report from Caring.com, which said that two out of three US adults and half of UK adults do not have a will.  

Introducing items you cherish into your plan and/or at least into the discussion if you're working with a real live estate planning attorney helps to ensure that your assets will be directed to the correct people, your wishes carried out. It also helps the professionals you rely on to guide you to better understand you and support the full scope of your financial, insurance, tax, and estate plans. 

Join us tomorrow as we discuss these themes and more during Evenings with Artifcts, with guest speaker Dutch Miller. RSVP now > 

Happy Artifcting! 

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Did we miss a superpower of “why?” Let us know at Editor@Artifcts.com and we may feature your addition! 

© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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The Evenings with Artifcts Series, Fall 2022

Throughout fall 2022, we're hosting Evenings with Artifcts on Thursday evenings. Our guests in this nine-part series dive into the world of 'stuff' and stories. Below we've provided a week by week feature for each speaker in the series and direct links to the speaker's Artifcts, other related ARTIcles by Artifcts, and the Evenings with Artifcts event recordings. 

Want to suggest a speaker for future live events? We'd love to hear from you! Please contact us at Editor@Artifcts.com.

EVENINGS WITH ARTIFCTS

Matt Paxton joins Evenings with Artifcts

Week 1: Matt Paxton (@IAMMATTPAXTON)

Host of the TV show Legacy List with Matt Paxton

DOWNSIZING, CLEANING, ORGANIZING, STORY TELLING

 

Related content: 

- 15 Decluttering Targets for Artifcters

- Event replay on YouTube

Jeff Greenwald joins Evenings with Artifcts

Week 2: Jeff Greenwald (@Jeffji)

Acclaimed author, artist, photographer, and speaker

WRITING, TRAVEL BLOGGING, STORIES BEHIND THE OBJECTS

 

Related content:

Is That a Toy Camera?

- Not Sure What to Write? Tips from Jeff Greenwald

- Event replay on YouTube

Dutch Miller joins Evenings with Artifcts

Week 3: Dutch Miller (@Gardenboy)

Estate planner, hobby family historian, Smithsonian volunteer

ESTATE PLANNING, FAMILY HISTORY & LEGACY

 

Related content:

- Gift Your Loved Ones a "Why" (Coming soon!)

- Visit Event replay on YouTube > (Coming soon!)

Read more
Not Sure What to Write? Tips from Guest Jeff Greenwald

He's authored 1000s of articles, several books, and what's maybe the first known travel blog. And on Thursday night during Evenings with Artifcts Jeff Greenwald shared with us simple but powerful tips, and a healthy dose of perspective, to help us craft our own stories behind the objects of our lives.  

Watch the full Evenings with Artifcts event here.

  • It is hard to write about an object with no personal meaning but even harder when it has tremendous personal meaning. Bear that in mind and go easy on yourself. 

  • Start with something true. This is the trick to writing anything nonfiction. For example, start with a little line about where you got the object: “I bought this in a street market in Istanbul.” And from there go on to describe the scene a little bit and what happened there that connects you with the object.  

Start with something true.

  • Other starters for your Artifcts:  

        • Where were you when you acquired the object? 
        • Was it a gift? Who gave it to you? Tell a bit about them. What was your relationship with them that they felt they should give you a gift like that? “The moon Rocket was a gift for my friend Dave Mccutcheon, and he and I have been friends for many years and share a love of robots and spaceships and dinosaurs... all those things we loved when we were kids.” 
        • Why is it important to you?
        • What feelings does it evoke in you?
  • If a story comes to mind, you can just start jotting it down anywhere. Let your thoughts go where they will. It can be a collection of random thoughts that you can look at later and put together into some sort of a story structure. 

  • We all have stories. Writers block comes from our internal critic. It challenges you with, “Why would anybody want to read it? What could you have to say? What makes you think you're so great that anyone should listen to anything you're telling them?” You have to tell yourself, “I have a right to do this because I’m a human being with a story, and the story deserves to be told whether or not you, my internal critic, thinks that it does.” Push the internal critic aside. 
I’m a human being with a story, and the story deserves to be told.
  • If you value the stories and need motivation to begin capturing and preserving those stories with Artifcts, make a deal with yourself like Jeff did. Jeff made a pact to give away the objects once their stories were told. Maybe you’ll choose to Artifct twice per week. Or perhaps you’ll start with those items that are most meaningful to you.  

  • A bit of advice Jeff shared from esteemed author Kurt Vonnegut: Write your stories as though you are writing them for one person, as if you are telling this person each of the stories. It gives all the stories a similar tone, a singular voice. 

  • Always include when and where the object was acquired. These are important details.

  • Struggling with a title? Write out 10 of them. It will help you to start to shape your story, too.

Our stuff, the objects that we collect, that inspire us, they are really not what's important. We do not need to keep them. The only thing that is important are the stories, and the only way to keep the stories is to tell them.

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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