As I recall, the truly first application for home video was highly personal, yet generalized. Home movies, as the name implies, began prior to the advent of the camcorder. Kodak had such great success with still photography, they branched out to silent movies. Some of your parents and their friends may have had 8mm movie cameras. The film was pretty expensive, so people were not inclined to waste the film. Very few home movie buffs bothered to edit the film. As a result, the term "home movies" had a hidden meaning of incredibly boring footage that did not tell a story.
Home movies have given way to home videos, but all too often, they still don’t tell a story. Sure, it is much easier to edit video than film, but too few people take home movies seriously enough to devote the time required to tell a great personal story with video. As a result, a new business opportunity has erupted, the personal biography video.
Greg Farnese and Laurie Appel have received plenty of coverage in the mass media for their personal biography video business; www.farnesebios.com. They define their work as life stories, told through anecdotes and memories reminisced by those who were there. A poignant and touching tribute, that is enlightening and sometimes even funny. They charge between $2,000-$6,000. Searching the web for other videographers, I found some offering one-hour video biography packages for under $400.
The final product makes extensive use of narration over the subject’s photos and other memorabilia. Personal interviews of significant people in the life of the subject are also used to preserve their life story.
For a good video producer, there’s really not much to this genre, because it is a basic documentary. What is new and interesting is that this has become a "product" that you can make yourself about yourself. Perhaps more importantly, you can provide this video service to others for fun or profit.
The biggest challenge may be marketing this service since most people don’t even realize that this product exists.
I recommend that you produce a personal biography about yourself or a close family friend. This will help you to determine the labor requirements, which may help you estimate a profit margin. That’s the easy part. Getting prospective customers to view the video may be more difficult. If you are already in business as a video producer, you can start by sending a DVD or VHS tape to your happiest and most successful customers.
If you are not necessarily an entrepreneur, then you might want to pursue personal biography video as an extension of your hobby. Be sure to check out a few personal biogaphy videos on the Web to learn more about them.
Matthew York is Videomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.