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Top 5 Common Mistakes When Filming A Family Video Biography

We’ve filmed a family video biography or two in our time and seen than a few of the common mistakes; so we wanted to share our Top 5 tips on what you should avoid when filming your own life story.

1. Going For Facts Over Feelings

Did you know storytelling is one of the best ways of helping someone recall information. Neurologists have been telling us this for decades about the connection between stories, emotions and memory. Yet for some reason when it comes time to talk about ancestry during an Long Yarn interview, people often start rattling off names and dates as though they were reading straight from a script. Whilst this definitely creates a document of the family history, our brains as the audience will tend to drift.

family video biography storytelling long yarn filmsA more novel approach is to tell a story about each family member that really captures their personality and is likely to create an emotional reaction in your audience. As listeners we’ll always prefer a hearty laugh over statistics lecture! This doesn’t mean abandoning details such as birth dates, but make sure you balance it with a tale that allows your audience to really connect with the person you’re describing. Check out these tips on how to hone your storytelling skills.

2. Not Preparing For Your Family Video Biography

No matter what type of interview you’re facing in life, preparation is always key. But for some reason a lot of people think they don’t need to prepare for a family video biography because it’s their life story after all! The trouble is your brain doesn’t necessary hold all the information of your past in a way that lends itself quick recall. In fact a life story interview is hard work as requires you to use two types of memory; working and episodic.

Working memory is about how much information you can hold in your head at one time e.g. remembering a phone number. As you’ve no doubt noticed there’s simply a limit to this skill. This means that it’s really important not to expect yourself to be able to hold a list of every life story you want to tell in your head. You’re going to forget a few! Instead write a list of topics that you want to cover.

Episodic memory is our recollection of stories, places, events. Unfortunately this one does tend to slip as we get older. Typically older stories are better remembered than things that occurred more recently. So again, preparation is key. To help our clients out we provide a Memory Book so that they can write out their life stories before the camera starts rolling. But you can do this yourself just by sitting down and writing out a few key life stories about all your important ancestors and family members.

long yarn films storytelling family video biography

Storytelling is an art that takes practice!

3. Focusing Too Much On Career

This is a tough one as we spend about half of our lives and most of our waking day at work. It’s a big part of our life story. But when filming a family video biography it’s not always the most interesting as our jobs often involve a lot of routine. The risk here is that we start just listing facts again rather than giving the audience something to sink their teeth into. Instead we recommend trying to have either:

  • one story about each role, or
  • be willing to talk about how you felt about that job.

Communicating your connection to the role will capture the attention of the audience much more!

4. Not Considering the Skeletons In Your Family Closet

preparing for your long yarn films family video biography

Are all your skeletons in order?

Family is wonderful but not always harmonious, and sustaining these relationships over decades can be hard work. This means that sometimes relationships aren’t always what we might hope. Marriages end in divorce, we have disputes with our children, we fall out with old friends, and unfortunately tragedies happen. We’ve already mentioned the importance of preparing the life stories you want to tell, but had you ever considered preparing the stories you don’t want to tell? Thinking about these things beforehand can make the interviewing process much more pleasant. Here’s a few tips to keep you on track:

  • Try to spend an equal amount of time talking about all of you children. In a lot of ways your family video biography is for them, so probably best not to upset anyone.
  • Consider how you want to approach any tragedies in your life. If you’ve never talked about them before, a filmed interview might not be the best place to start.
  • If there’s been a divorce, think about whether you want to talk about that person. If not, how will you talk about any children from that relationship?
  • Try not to express too much negative sentiment towards anyone. It may well be how you feel right now, but may not be how you want it recorded forever.

5. Trying To Look Or Sound Like Someone Other Than You

This probably sounds obvious, but you’re going to come across best on film when you act like yourself. Although some of our clients like to get their hair and makeup done, the important thing is that this still represents you. Similarly, it’s best not to turn up to your interview wearing a ball gown, unless that’s how you normally go about town. The more you feel like yourself, the more comfortable you’ll be on camera, which will result in a more comfortable and confident final film.


So there’s our Top 5 tips on making sure you’re family video biography goes smoothly. Let us know if the comments section below if you have any other great ideas!

If you want some help to steer clear of making mistakes in your own family video biography come have a look at the packages on offer at Long Yarn Films.

Clinton Moore

Clinton is the Director of Long Yarn Films and loves to spend his time jumping between his two lives as a life story videographer and clincial psychologist. Some might call it a split personality, he calls it the perfect recipe for creating life story videos!

Clinton MooreTop 5 Common Mistakes When Filming A Family Video Biography

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