How many family videos do you have taking up space on your phone? Do something with them like this dad did.



Jason Sirotin and Family ECG Productions AtlantaIt all started when my wife, Courtney, and I were having a conversation about home movies, stemming from an event earlier in the day. We had taken our sons out sledding over the Christmas holiday and I was working hard to frame the perfect shot. I could see how it was mildly annoying to both the kids and my wife, but they should be used to this by now. Over the past four years I have shot over 12,000 videos of my two children: Dylan (4 and a half) and Levi (10 months). I finally got the angle I wanted and began to pull the kids. The shot was great, in fact it’s shot number fifteen or sixteen in the video. Later that evening my wife told me that she is thankful for her less than stellar long term memory because it protects her from the intense feelings she has when thinking about how fast our kids are growing up. I told her that she’ll always have the videos and that someday she would want to watch them. She was being slightly over dramatic and insisted it would be too painful. I told her that someday she’ll be very thankful we have all this footage, at which point we both agreed that I would likely cry hard (if not harder than her) while watching these videos in the future. I cry watching The Biggest Loser and occasionally during particularly emotional commercials that pull at my heart strings. I’m a pretty tough dude. 😉

Two days later I was taking a bus from New Hampshire (where my in-laws live) to Logan Airport in Boston. I had my headphones on and had my playlist on shuffle when the Skrillex remix of “Cinema” by Benny Benassi came on. There’s a line in the song that says…”You are a cinema…I could watch you forever.” That line made me think of my boys. I thought about how I love watching them, especially through a lens; it’s my favorite. Then suddenly the Skrillex portion of the mix started and the track transitioned to full-on dubstep. For those of you who don’t know what dubstep is, it’s a genre of electronic dance music that features syncopated drum and percussion patterns with bass lines that contain prominent sub bass frequencies. In other words it gets HARD! The song ended and I played it again, and again, and again. I started thinking about how home videos don’t always have to be sappy or boring. Home videos should be pieces of art that tell a story. Now that we have smartphones, almost all of us shoot a ton of videos, but what are we doing with them? That’s when I came up with the idea of making a video for my wife that wouldn’t make her cry…at least not the whole time.

I arrived back in Atlanta and went directly to the ECG Productions studio to start transferring all my videos onto a 4TB hard drive. I looked at the video file count and it read 12,473! At that point I was completely overwhelmed, but liked any daunting post project, you have to start somewhere. I just started cutting and the story began coming together. I sifted through shot and after shot to find exactly what I wanted and needed. If you watch it a few times you’ll notice a ton of subtle timing gags on the beat. It became an obsession to find the perfect clip. The first three hours I cried fairly regularly but by hour twenty-seven I could watch it with no tears.

Child temper tantrum in grocery storeAfter spending all this time intensely looking at the last four and a half years of my life, I realized how much I have to be thankful for. Typically I find this type of statement totally lame (especially on social media, fwiw) but it’s really what I felt. Most of the moments in the video were normal everyday things – Dylan running around, Levi eating, a smile, a laugh, a cry. We were not on fancy boats or in exotic locations. We were in our house, in the car or just playing outside. I’m sure my therapist will be happy to know that this exercise has changed my life. It made me love my family more and it made me appreciate those little moments. That little smirk, the big laugh, the smiles, the stare downs, the tears, the messes; they’re all the little moments that make up a life (and not in some bullshit, stop and smell the flowers way). For me it means taking a step back during a public tantrum and realizing that it’s not gonna last forever and there’s most likely some humor in it too.

Do have tons of videos you’ve shot and then never looked at again? I can’t encourage you enough to do something with them. Even if its just for yourself. Watch them! Make art with them! Video is far too powerful, too visceral, to sit unused and unloved, never to be seen again.

Have you already made something awesome (or terrible) with your personal videos?  Share it in the comments below!

Check out this episode of Jason Sirotin’s Naked Unicorn Podcast A Dad’s Tale – How I Almost Got Arrested in the Middle of the Kids Section at Belk!

Jason Sirotin

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