Family Legacy Films
Enduring mementos of a life well-lived
Your legacy is so much more than your estate, your valuables, or your family business. It’s the sum of your experiences and relationships with your loved ones. You care deeply for one another while making meaning and memories together. Yet we all know the stark truth of temporary physical existence.
What if you could build a bridge between the past and the future?
What if there was a way to convey values in addition to valuables?
What if you could connect future generations with the family you love so much right now?
“I am so grateful for the legacy film of my mother. Though I will always hold my memories of her in my heart, there’s nothing like being able to actually see her talking on the screen. I can see her face, hear her voice, and laugh with her. It’s such a special experience. It moved me to tears at first, though now it’s more comforting than painful. It’s helped me to come to terms with her sudden passing and is a poignant reminder of her beautiful spirit.”
Sharing Your Story Was My Destiny
If you wanted to be heard, you’d better tell a darn good story and tell it well. If you wanted to eat, you’d better push your way to the front of the line. If you wanted quiet, you were out of luck. My Chinese-Jamaican family is comprised of lots of colorful people. Thankfully, my family knew how to paint a vivid picture with words, so things were never boring. I knew at a young age that story was a powerful, meaningful part of my life and culture. And now I know I was born to collect and share the storied tapestries of lives well-lived.
What is a Family Legacy Film?
A Family Legacy Film is a way to reflect on life and share unique experiences, observations, beliefs, and feelings as gems of wisdom for those closest to the heart. Sometimes called memoirs, Ethical Wills, or personal histories, these special films are a love letter to family and friends.
Family Legacy Films can be comprised of a series of short stories that share life experiences one piece at a time. Or they can be more complete records. Individuals often request these films for themselves. Other times, family members will commission a film of a loved one.
Why are Family Legacy Films Important?
No matter how clear your memories of someone, if they are on the screen in front of you—talking and smiling—there’s an incomparable difference.
The gift of life is precious…and fleeting. A Family Legacy Film can help shape the memories that become remembrance. It is a digital legacy that will live on forever. In this way, the story remains a love letter to family for generations to come.
Why make a Family Legacy Film?
The most meaningful gifts we leave our loved ones come from our heart. Your family and friends will benefit from your insights and wisdom. With your story, they are able to forge a connection to their past and a better understanding of who they are. Your real life experiences will help guide them along their life journeys.
This process is not only about your loved ones. It’s also about you. Sharing your unique experiences, life lessons, and wisdom can help you find purpose in your own life, while also providing a touchstone for future generations.
Personal Family Legacy Film films are not shared publicly online without permission. These are legacy-style films I was commissioned to create with the intention of public release.
Milissa Dewey talks about her life as a Fiber Artist and living her destiny through the craft. Commissioned as part of an Appalachian people oral history project by the Foxfire Museum & Heritage Center.
James and Cannan Hyde share their story of coping with Cognitive Impairment and how the progression of the disease is changing their relationship. Commissioned by Memory Loss Collaborative.
“The artistic vision and understanding of my story was amazing. I ended up with a video that I truly feel captures [my] essence and expresses it in a way that you can emotionally connect with. If a picture says a thousand words, a video by Danielle McClennan says a million. I couldn’t be happier with the process and the film that I received.”
Making a family legacy film is rewarding—and usually cathartic—for all involved. A custom film can take anywhere from 4 weeks to several months depending on the complexity. Please see more about the process below in the Frequently Asked Questions section.
Each Family Legacy Film is as different as you are. These films may include one or more family members, multiple locations, photographs, home movies, and family events. Because of all the different shapes they can take, each film is custom crafted to match your vision.
Because it’s important for these precious films to be accessible by many different individuals and families, payment plans are available. Please see more below in the Frequently Asked Questions section.
Please contact me to discuss your vision and desires and to learn about your options during a free consultation.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with Danielle McClennan. She is smart, professional, creative, and compassionate. Most importantly, she works with purpose and conscience.”
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the right time to create a Family Legacy Film?
Any time is a good time, but don’t wait! Here are some common motivators or life events that may prompt you to share experiences, life lessons, and wisdom with your loved ones:
- To mark life milestones
- To celebrate the lives of our parents and grandparents
- As we embark upon significant life transitions
- To celebrate our children’s life events and special milestones
- To share our family heritage, customs, and traditions
- To gain insights into life lived so far
- Following the diagnosis of a terminal illness
One of the unique benefits of Family Legacy Films is that you can choose to make one film around a particular topic or create a whole series.
Why should I invest in a Family Legacy Film?
Time for bonding
Creating a custom crafted legacy film is a special process. This is not a pre-packaged service. It requires the time to develop a relationship with your personal historian so you’re comfortable sharing your story.
I’ll spend time talking with your family, learning about you, asking questions about your desires, and looking at old photos with you before we begin filming. This is a wonderful opportunity to create memories and bond with family around a shared purpose.
Peace and calm
Upon creating a Family Legacy Film, my clients tell me they feel relief and tranquility knowing family stories and loved one’s personalities are being preserved for generations to come. They tell me it’s comforting to know they’ve placed their stories in the hands of a compassionate professional who takes on the difficult task of putting the pieces together.
“I’ll have time later…”
Many families have old film, photos, and plenty of stories. But it’s extremely rare for a family member to follow through with weaving all of the pieces together to produce an artful heirloom that can be shared with friends and family. When you work with me to create your film, you’ll rest easy knowing the film will be completed in a timely manner.
Reflection is a gift
A Family Legacy Film is a chance to reflect on life and share those unique experiences, observations, beliefs, and feelings as gems of wisdom for those closest to the heart. The most meaningful gifts we leave our loved ones come from our heart.
With your story, your loved ones are able to forge a connection to their past and a better understanding of who they are. Your real life experiences will help guide them along their own life journeys. A Legacy Film is a family heirloom to be treasured for generations to come.
For the teller, and the family
This process is not only about your loved ones. It’s also about you. Sharing your unique experiences, life lessons, and wisdom can help you reclaim your power during a difficult transition to find clarity in your own life purpose.
Reflection leads to a sense of accomplishment, and sometimes a renewed vigor. Reflection can also reveal times when we made choices we regret and give us an opportunity to either move on or make amends. Overall, storytelling addresses the need to feel that life has a purpose.
Why hire a professional when I can just take videos on my phone?
You most certainly can (and probably do!) take videos on your phone, but what happens next? Do you painstakingly edit all of your clips together to make a beautiful, cohesive film worthy of sharing?
Wouldn’t you rather let someone else do all the work to plan and organize everything into a beautiful movie?
When you take videos on your phone, they tend to be buried among lots of other pictures, only to become orphaned memories. Imagine if you had a collection of video memories with your Mother or Grandfather talking about those special events and many more.
Though we live in the stark truth of a temporary physical existence, our stories are infinite.
Our stories are our legacies.
Your stories deserve a Family Legacy Film.
What is the process of making a Family Legacy Film?
The process of making a film starts with a conversation. It’s important to get to know one another before we embark on this journey together. Next, we’ll agree to the specifics of the project, your investment, and I’ll request a retainer payment. Then, we’ll meet in person to discuss the interview process and consider the filming location(s).
The next time we meet, I’ll bring the camera and other equipment to record your story and the other footage we’ve discussed, such as cooking a family recipe or playing with grandchildren. Don’t worry if you’re nervous about the camera, I’ve guided lots of folks just like you and know how to help you feel at ease. I’ll also gather photographs or home movies you’ve chosen to include. Payment in full is requested prior to filming.
The flow of the story is uncovered during the editing process. The interview, additional footage, photographs, and other elements will be combined in a way that honors the organic narrative as it emerges.
You’ll have the chance to review the film before it’s finalized. The digital version of the final film will be copied to a small portable drive and delivered to you as soon as it is completed. You’re welcome to share it with whomever you like. I’m happy to answer questions or help with uploading it to the internet so you can share it with friends and family anywhere in the world!
How are the recordings used? Is my Family Legacy Film private?
Yes. This is why you won’t currently find a sample of a personal Family Legacy Film online, only those that were publicly commissioned by organizations.
All footage is kept in total confidence. Once the final work is complete, I’ll keep everything on file for 6 months (or longer if we continue working together to capture more parts of your story.) After 6 months, you may provide me with a hard drive onto which all of the raw footage can be transferred.
I may request permission from you to share parts of your story with new clients so they can get an idea of what the final films look like. I will never share anything without your express permission.
Can I include my own photographs or home movies in my film?
Of course! Choose photographs or home movies that are representative of various events and time periods you want to include. For example, if you’ll be talking about your life as a child, think about whether you have any pictures or home movies from that time. As long as you can find them, we can use printed photographs, negatives, slides, and a wide range of digital formats.
*While I don’t specialize in transferring home movie films to digital format, I can recommend a company to help with the conversion process.
Do you put the films on DVD?
Your Family Legacy Film will be delivered on a small drive in a digital format, ready to play on any computer. DVD’s are created by request.
*There is an additional fee for the creation of DVD’s. Please be aware that DVD’s created on a computer for a DVD player are incredibly finicky. Sometimes they won’t play.
Could you help me with an Ethical Will?
Yes, I’m happy to help you make an Ethical Will. We can also involve your estate planning attorney to include your Ethical Will as part of your Last Will and Testament.
Ethical Wills were first used thousands of years ago to pass ethical values from one generation to the next. They are regaining popularity today because of the ease and security afforded by video technology.
An Ethical Will shares your values, faith, beliefs, life lessons, wisdom, love, gratitude, forgiveness, explanations, thoughts, wishes, and hopes. The goal of creating an Ethical Will is to link a person to both their family and cultural history, clarify their ethical and spiritual values, and communicate a legacy to future generations.
Creating an Ethical Will clarifies identity and focuses life purpose. It addresses the need to belong, to be known, to be remembered, to have one’s life make a difference, to bless and be blessed. Just as your Last Will and Testament addresses your tangible, financial assets, an Ethical Will addresses your non-tangible, from-the-heart assets. It bequeaths values rather than valuables.
Do you serve people outside of the Carolinas?
Absolutely! My office is located deep in the heart of Western North Carolina in the city of Asheville. Many of my clients are in Buncombe and the surrounding counties of North Carolina and South Carolina. I am also currently working with families as far reaching as Buffalo, NY, Pembroke Pines, FL, Boston, MA, and Mt. Hood, OR.
*Travel fees apply beyond 40 miles of Asheville, NC.
What kinds of people do you work with?
There is a common misconception that legacy films are only created when someone is knowingly near the end of life. Yes, some of my clients are interested in making a film to leave a legacy of values, experiences, and positive thoughts after they die. However, lots of my clients work with me to document important occasions in real time, to keep a constant record of special family events like the birth of a child. These films are a celebration a life whether the end is near or far. Few of us know where we are on our own timeline.
There is no perfect time to celebrate your relationships with others or with yourself. Except for now! How many times have you said, “I’ll worry about it later.” Or, “There’s time to see her again.” Or, “I don’t have time to visit family now.”
I learned a painful lesson when my Grandmother passed suddenly. That’s exactly why I provide this service for others. Create something now, and for years to come you’ll be able to see that smile, hear that voice, and listen to those stories we “didn’t have time for.”
What kinds of organizations do you work with?
In addition to creating legacy films for individuals and families, I work with a variety of organzations:
- Wellness Groups
- Community Centers
- Retirement Communities
- Centers for Aging
- Lifelong Learning Institutes
- Estate and Financial Planning
- Grief Counselors
- Integrative Medicine Practices
- Cancer Centers
- Funeral Homes and Burial Sanctuaries
Story Gathering Sessions
Your organization is in the business of helping people through one of the most challenging times in their lives. You can also help them build connections with loved ones by providing them the opportunity to have and to share important conversations that are often put off until it’s too late. Everyone deserves the chance to be heard.
If you are planning an event for one of the above groups or organizations, consider hosting on-site story gathering sessions. These give participants the chance to share and preserve their life stories through an interview or conversations with their family and friends. They will talk, laugh, tell secrets, and share stories—and it’s recorded to cherish forever.
DIY Storytelling Workshops
While I’d be delighted to make films for anyone in our community, hiring a personal historian isn’t for everyone. Alternatively, I facilitate group workshops for individuals and their family to learn how to preserve their own stories through writing or video. Once you provide info about your community or organization, I’ll design a program that’s both enjoyable and useful.
Please contact me for more information on group sessions and workshops.
About the Filmmaker
Danielle McClennan has almost two decades of experience sharing stories that matter, using various types of media. She works with conscience and purpose and is known for her ability to intuitively connect with her clients. For most of her career, Danielle has also been teaching workshops and speaking on the topic of finding purpose through story.
Danielle’s own story is one of love, light, and loss. Her compassionate understanding of the feelings we all experience surrounding the loss of loved ones is what motivates her to make Legacy Films. Read more about Danielle here.
You may watch her story here: