In 1990 I was a working as a writer of children's television programs but I really wanted to break into feature films. A colleague of mine told me that a certain film company was looking for new directors but I had to have a "calling card reel" - a short film to prove my skills as a filmmaker. I had never made a 35mm film before and while I knew I was up to the task, the one thing that concerned me was the budget. How much it was going to cost me?
I spoke to a producer friend and he came up with a figure - $10,000. But that was only to film the movie and process the footage. He told me not to worry about how we were going to finish. What was more important was to "get it in the can."
This turned out to be great advice. Had I known at the beginning how much it would actually cost to complete a half-hour film ($50,000) I never would have started. But once I began there was no way I was going to stop. It took a year but I got the film finished. Nine months later I was on the set of my first feature film as a director.
Recently I spoke to a potential client about creating a family biography. I explained the process, the time involved and the costs. At that point she realized that she didn't have the means to take on such a task at this time. I told her that the important thing was to get started as soon as possible. "Even if you have to do some of it yourself. Start small. The important thing is getting in the can. You can always finish at a later date, but without the interviews on video or audio, your opportunity for your parents to tell their stories will be gone." Two weeks later, she shot some of her own interviews at a family reunion.
With the holidays coming up, a lot of families will be coming together. I urge everyone to consider taking a little time with your loved ones and capture some of their stories on video or audio. You can use an inexpensive camcorder, digital recorder, or even your smartphone. The new smartphones have excellent cameras and microphones built in. Yes, there is a lot of expensive equipment you could buy or rent to create a high quality personal history. That's what you hire a company like mine to do. But the first step is to get started. To first get it in the can.