Frequently Asked Questions

About Stories to Keep

Who will manage our project?

Stories to Keep is the passion of Rick Brenner. Mr. Brenner founded his first video production and post production company - Corporate Video Services - more than 30 years ago in Michigan. He is an avid photographer and videographer. Mr. Brenner's photography site is Your project will be managed personally by Mr. Brenner in addition to one of our senior producers.

What is the Stories to Keep vision?

Nothing is more dear to most of us than our treasure trove of experiences with and stories about our family - spouse, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, children - accumulated during a lifetime. For many with loved ones who are gone, their stories live only in our memories and old photographs. The Stories to Keep vision is to enable families to change that paradigm - to enable them to capture the essence of these relatives and their stories as only can be done in a family video documentary. What distinguishes us is the quality of what we do and the way we do it. We provide families with a professionally produced, broadcast quality documentary, shot and edited by professional cinematographers and production crews, just as you might see on network television - with multiple camera angles, professional level 4K camera, professional audio and studio lighting. Our mission is to give our clients a treasure they can pass on through generations of their family, so the rich heritage and legacies of their loved ones will be retained, told in first person.

What distinguishes Stories to Keep?

Experience, sensitivity, compassion, patience and professional competence. As professional storytellers, our cinematograhers, bring commercial documentary production and post production skills to your production. Your story will be shot and edited with the same care and quality as if it were to be broadcast on network television. For example, we prefer to shoot intertviews with multiple cameras, to cover wide, close up and reaction shots, which add context and help present a more compelling story than a single camera view. We also prefer to integrate as much "B roll" material as budget will allow, to support whatever the interviewee is discussing. This material may either be culled from the client's photos and videos or shot by our crews. Unlike a commercial shoot with professional on-camera talent, we understand that our interviewees may not be used to speaking on camera. Our crews are patient, compassionate and work to put your loved ones at ease, to make the experience of working with us enjoyable and memorable.

What types of documentary projects do you work on?

We make documentaries about people - to capture the essence and uniqueness of the person whose story we are telling - their life, their accomplishments and their stories. Some documentaries involve one interview - the person who is the subject of documentary. But often the story may be enhanced by also interviewing people whose lives were touched by that person, such as children, grandchildren and siblings. Our projects include grandparent stories, family business histories, family documentaries or stories honoring the accmplishments of a family member, as a presentation for a bar or bat mitzvah. We also create legacy documentaries to honor the memory of a loved one who has passed away.

About Personal Documentaries

What is a personal documentary?

It is an in-depth video program to capture life long stories about a person or a family. The stories of a life live in the memory of that person and in the memories of the friends and relatives they shared their experiences with. They are most vivid during that generation. After the generation passes, the stories are either lost or passed on second hand by those who learned of them from someone else. If you've ever played the game "telephone", you know that stories whispered from person to person change drastically from the original. Similarly, if you think of what you know about great grandparents you never had the chance to meet, its the same thing. If you know anything at all, it's likely to be information passed from person to person that may not be the actual story. Personal documentaries enable you to record and pass on to future generations the actual stories of a life, told in first person, to keep the wonderful legacy of your loved ones intact.

About the Process

What is the process of producing a personal documentary?

There are several phases as we go from pre-planning to production to post production and then to a finished program. Select THE PROCESS on the menu of this website for a detailed description of each phase.

How long will it take to produce my finished program?

The answer depends on the scope of the production - the number of interviews to be shot, the number of camera angles, the number of shooting days and different physical shooting locations - as well as the work to be done to convert existing photos, video and film to digital. While it is certainly possible that a program could be plannied, shot and edited on an expedited basis, under normal circumstances a project will take about 90 days from start to finish.

About Production

How many people will be interviewed?

This is entirely up to the client and determined during the "scope" discussion in pre-planning. There is no rule and there is no limit. It is generally determined by the subject matter of the program. For examp;le, if the subject of documentary is your mother's life, she may be the only interviewee, with you off-camera asking her questions. Or, you may wish to be on camera with her in a back and forth discussion. Or, you might want your mother's living sisters and brothers on camera for all or part of the interview to retell stories of their childhood together. Or you might want to do several interviews of each sibling individually, to tell stories from a different perspective. You may also wish to have your own children interviewed to talk about their interactions with their grandmother. There is no right or wrong answer. We create the production around your desires to capture the story you want us to capture.

Where are the interviews conducted?

Interviews can be filmed on location at youir home, at the home of the interviewee, at the person's place of business, at our studio in Mamaroneck or in another studio in proximity to the interview subjects. For interviews out of town, we work with crews nationwide, and in some situations, for short insert interviews, we can capture them by video conference.

Do you use narration, effects, music, graphics and titles?

Elements like these are used when appropriate to the production. If there are sections of the program that are best explained through narration or "voice over" the narration will be recorded during post production. We have the same policy for graphics, effects, titles and music. These elements are used in a production when they add context to the story we are telling and are allowed by budget.

About Family Photos and Videos

Can you scan or digitize our old family photos, 8mm film or old VCR videotapes?

We do not perform this service ourselves but we have compiled a list of several companies who provide this service. We will provide you with a list early in the process so you can arrange to have the photos, videos and other archive material you want included in our program ready for us when we get to post production. This is a good example of something that could delay production if not taken care of early in the project.

How will you know where to insert old pictures or home video into the documentary?

After we shoot each interview, we will "log" the footage - which is where we mark the beginning and end of each new subject discussed. Examples might be, "When mom first met dad", "moving in our first apartment in Brooklyn", or "learning to make Challah with my mother." We will give you a form to note what each picture is about, who is in the picture and to map out which discussion subject each item goes with. The short answer is, It's a collaborative process we work on together.