Daily Breeze article      Jan 7, 2011

Daily Breeze photo

Hermosa producer's biographical 

videos give life to the memories.

By Muhammed El-Hasan  Staff Writer

     Hermosa Beach resident Lance Keller used to take care of his great-aunt and great-uncle. Several years after their deaths, Keller was searching for a new career. He found inspiration from their memory.

     "I could tell you a couple things about them, but not about  their younger years." Lance said. "After they died I realized how little I knew."

     About three years ago, Keller started Digital Legacy, a business that produces biographical videos of individuals and couples. Keller, 45, works out of a studio in his Hermosa Beach house. He previously worked as creative director for a company that produced voice technology. And before that, he toured the country playing the trombone with a swing band.

What does your job entail?
I create biographical DVDs for old folks. In addition to the hour long video, they get a disk of all the photos that I digitize.

What's the video's draw?
The idea is, what do you really know about your grandparents? And for most people, they know their names, maybe what they did for a living and a few other things. But how cool would it be to sit down with them for an hour and learn about their lives? This is a way for future generations to do that.

Who is the target audience of the videos?
The audience I have in mind is the people who haven't been born yet. So what would be interesting to someone 30 years from now? The people who end up ordering the videos are generally people who have young kids or are thinking about kids and have elderly parents and want to connect that span of generations.

What's the process to making the DVDs?
I take all of someone's family photos, and that can be anywhere from a couple hundred to a thousand and I digitize them. Then I video tape an interview with them telling the stories they've told a 100 times. So when they talk about what happened growing up in the 1930s, I show photos of them from the 1930s. The pictures are brought to life by the stories and the stories that someone tells are given context. 

How long does it take you to produce the videos?
In theory it takes three to four weeks to make an hourlong movie. It's a lot of editing. It involves  taking a bunch of stories that jump around and meander and tighten them up to create a cohesive narrative. I also have to organize all those pictures and find the right ones that fit with the video.

How much do you charge?
$3,000, which people think is a lot initially. But I have had several clients give me a little extra at the end because they see how much goes in to it.

What's the best part of your job?
The best part is when I show them the video for the first time, because nobody really gets it until they see the finish product. More than one person has shed a tear at the end of it. My favorite compliment came from a woman who told me that her 8 year old grandson was rapt at attention for an hour and a half and afterward told her that he learned a whole lot.

What's the worst part?
The tedious part about it is when someone gives you a box with 700 pictures and you have to scan them, and most of them are not labeled and you have to figure out, "Well, this is George."

Are you good with faces?
I think so. You see these people through a span of 80 years or more. Some people have a distinctive look that you can identify through the years, and other really change. I let people see the first draft of their movie and there are times when, well, that's not George. And we go back and fix it.

What have you learned about human nature from your business?
You have an appreciation for the passage of time, and the link between the generations can fade. And this is a way to kind of keep that bond with the past a little more in focus. Another thing I've seen is that when you are closer to the end, there is less of a fear of dying than for younger folks.

I think older folks are better able to see the inevitability of it.

How do you end a video?
One question I always ask is "How would you like to be remembered?" That's a good way to wrap up the video and for people who have been brave enough to answer the question, I've gotten some poignant answers.

How would you like to be remembered?
As the guy who started this immensely successful company.