I have been working since 2006 on a biography project for my last surviving grandparent, and when she was turning 100 this year, I absolutely had to finish the project in time for her birthday! This has been a lot of work even before 2014, but this project has been about 140 hours of work in just the past 8 months. I hadn’t started counting when I reviewed & imported all the video interviews and scanned most of the old photos before then. I have taken about 800 media “assets” of interviews, old films, scanned vintage photos, digital photos, narrations, including my own singing & playing for the soundtrack, and compressed a chock-full interesting 100-year life into 2 hours 9 minutes running time.
Even with my day job, my eye surgery in the spring, hosting 4 summer movie nights, a 2-week Hawaiian vacation with Grandma, and giant Halloween preparations this year, I finished a single digital copy complete with all music and transitions in time for the party! I made a short slideshow with a couple video clips to show as large as possible on the wall during the big party, then I set up my projector in the living room back at her house to premiere the full video at the after-party, far enough away from competing with the football game on the TV in the family room. We had a decent dinnertime audience who really enjoyed hearing stories even close friends and family hadn’t heard before.
After the premiere, my cousin Stephen told me he had some of the missing photos my grandma couldn’t find, so he scanned those for me, I added in what I could to the video and mastered a DVD-ROM to include all the photos as files for other generations to use, plus I transcribed and formatted everything into a book to accompany the video. I couldn’t fit as many photos into the book, and I took a couple screenshots from the old family films, but that’s not the same as seeing them in motion. The hardback book is available on the Lulu Marketplace here, but the DVD is only available from me.
You can now watch the full video “A Hundred Years of Helen” online, broken into the five chapters. There are easy links at the end to click to view the next chapter. The full story is just over two hours long, and Chapter 3 is the longest section at 40 minutes. All the soundtrack songs are classics my grandfather used to play, performed by yours truly on vocals, steel-string guitar and baritone ukulele.
A Hundred Years of Helen
The Story of Helen Marie Bergstrom Clouston
Chapter 1: Childhood in Minnesota
Chapter 2: From the City to the Farm
Chapter 3: Starting in Seattle
Chapter 4: Travels Around the World
Chapter 5: A New Chapter
My mom beat me to blogging the pre-party with pizza and out-of-towners at the house, the big party with 101 guests to help the birthday girl celebrate, the after-party at the house with dinner, and the day-after Peterson cousin fun, so you can read what she said here:Gary & Diane’s Adventures: A Hundred Years of Helen
I’ve added my own photo gallery here below, plus some videos my cousin’s husband took of my singing with the hired accordion player per the request of the birthday girl. Grandma said it isn’t a party without music, and she loves that I can carry on my grandfather’s musical tradition, so I obliged in belting out some classics my grandfather used to play.
You Are My Sunshine
Red River Valley
End of Don’t Fence Me In
Here’s one more bonus song because it’s too cute. My cousin’s kids sang Christmas carols last year with me, so little Abby was looking forward to singing with me again. Lo and behold she is a Frozen fan, so we sang our best “Let It Go” while I fumbled around try to play it on the old electric organ, and she was adorable! 😉
Abby & Britta Singing Let It Go