Small Video Company Puts Family Histories into Motion
01 Mar 2001 | By: Scott Thompson, Associate Editor | For: Lifestyle Northwest
When it comes to telling a family’s story, Dave Brown and Lorelei Young believe that great things come in small packages. The owners of Keepsake Family Tree Video specialize in the production of family history videos. Working out of their home studio in outer East Portland, Brown and Young, who are married, glean images from old movie reels, and photo albums to create an edited documentary of families and individuals. And though the floors in their home are often covered with boxes full of memorabilia, the final video they produces fits neatly in the palm of a client’s hand. “We try to take 100 years of a family’s history and keep that under an hour. That’s pretty much the goal,” Brown explained.
Part of a national company, the couple founded it’s company in 1997, after seeing an advertisement by the San Diego-based company Family Tree Video, which sells video equipment and standardized promotional materials to entrepreneurs interested in breaking into this type of video production. There are actually around 200 Family Tree Video companies scattered nation-wide. Brown and Young added “Keepsakes” to the title of their company to distinguish themselves. Brown works full time at the business, while Young builds her own clientele part-time when not at her day job as a Crime Prevention Specialist with Clackamas County.
At the time they investigated the business, Brown was looking to end a twenty-five year career in the mattress industry. While Young had some experience with corporate video production from her social work, Brown had no hands-on experience working in video. Nonetheless, Brown quickly learned the equipment. Now, he feels privileged having the opportunity to work with families he otherwise never would meet. “As they go through their photos and start telling stories about ‘Uncle Bob’ or ‘Aunt Mary’ you just start to get a feel for the family. By the time you’re done doing a video for a family, you know the family,” Dave said. “There are a lot of fascinating people out there.”
Eventful cruise Brown and Young themselves could make interesting subjects for a family history video. While both hail from the Northwest, Brown from Portland, and Young from Victoria, British Columbia, the two met while on a Caribbean cruise in 1992. Brown took the cruise alone, in part to recover from a relationship. The last thing he was looking for was a girlfriend. Young, on the other hand, was on board with a girlfriend after having won the trip in a photography contest. She too had no pretense of finding romance on the cruise. Nevertheless, the two hit it off on the ship and carried on a long distance romance between British Columbia and Oregon for two years, until getting married in 1995. Young relocated to Portland, and was able to continue the social service profession she had begun in Canada. For her, Keepsake Family Tree Video has been a natural complement to her fifteen-year counseling career, not to mention her love of photography. “I’ve always worked with families,” and I’ve always worked with pictures, Young remarked. “Pictures take you back. It’s like music, you don’t just remember that one shot. You remember the whole time around them.”
Videos unite families Brown has noticed that the entire process of creating a family history video has a way of coalescing family members. Brown and Young will often invite elderly members of a family to narrate portions of a particular tape. when the final tape is completed, it becomes something that family members can gather around and experience together. “It puts unity back into the family. People tend to forget how good it was,” Brown explained. “Looking at scenes of Christmas, you forgot that mom and dad weren’t quite so bad as we thought.”
Better sooner than later Brown and Young say, however, that the downside of the family video business is being asked to produce videos only after key members of a family have passed away, having taken their unique stories with them. As such, Brown and Young recommend that people avoid waiting until a memorial service, for example, before thinking about the value of having a family history video produced. “When we do this for people’s memorial services, I just want to say “If only this person could have seen this, ‘ or ‘If only this person could have participated in this,” remarked Young. “Now when people say, ‘Gee, I saw [a video] at a memorial,’ I say, ‘Don’t wait until the service.”