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VOL. 38 | NO. 45 | Friday, November 7, 2014

Secours' video histories: The gift that really keeps giving

By Jeannie Naujeck

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Five days before her mother died, Molly Secours did what seemed natural. She took out her video camera and began asking questions.

Those moments were the last ones caught on film, and for Secours, capturing her mother’s story not only gave her a lasting document of her life, but the mini-film she created from the footage helped her process her grief.

“There is a healing element that happens when people tell their stories,” Secours says. “It’s healing and emotional – for me as well as the person telling them.”

Two years ago, Secours, a documentary filmmaker, began offering personal documentaries through a business called Lasting Legacies Video. She makes custom movies for clients ranging from individuals and families to businesses and non-profits - anyone with a story to tell.

They include the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, which commissioned a film on the history of the Center. The 22-minute film Secours created tells not only the history of the museum, housed in the former post office, but that of benefactor Dr. Tommy Frist. As the film reveals, Frist worked at the post office during high school for extra money.

“They wanted future generations and the Nashville community to know that there was a lot that went into what happened with the Frist,” Secours says.

“He built his wealth, and the reason he wanted the museum in this part of town and in that building was that everybody went to the post office – no matter if you were rich, poor, black or white. He wanted the Frist to belong to everybody.”

Custom documentaries are priced according to length, depth and complexity of interviews, effects, music, etc., and can range from $3,500 to $75,000 on up. Secours does extensive interviewing and combs through family footage and photographs, often combining the stories and footage with favorite music.

Some are memorial videos for families who want to remember a loved one who has passed. Others are tributes to the living, such as an elderly family member whose memories are precious. Secours has also made videos to showcase a student’s athletic prowess or strengthen a college application.

“I do everything from someone wanting to memorialize a family member to telling the story of an organization or a nonprofit,” she says. “Or something like a generational law firm with several members of the same family – there’s a great story behind that. There’s all kinds of applications. The main thread is it allows people to feel known.”

The personal videos are a natural extension of Secours’ work on documentary films. Her sense of story leads her to ask questions that a family member wouldn’t think to ask. And ironically, clients are often more open and willing to reveal insights they might not ordinarily share with those closest to them.

“I love culling out people’s stories – ‘What keeps you up in the middle of the night?’” Secours says. “I’m not really a small talker. People always say, ‘My God, I can’t believe you thought to ask them that.’ But I have a fresh eye.”

The comfort clients feel in front of the camera is apparent in the personal clips Secours shows, such as one of the late Dr. Elmore Hill, a dentist with a large family. The mini-film includes personal interviews and footage of Hill’s life set to some of Dr. Hill’s favorite music, including “Fly Me to the Moon.”

“All of his kids got to hear him tell the stories that they loved, and then he told some that they never knew,” Secours says. “I had a completely different relationship with him, so he was more open with me.

“Then I got their mom to talk about her life, because she had never talked much about her own circumstances. So they had this beautiful film with both of them.”

Secours is keenly aware of the value of those memories. She launched Lasting Legacies shortly before a year in which 13 close friends and family members passed away. She had to reschedule the first day of shooting the Frist film, her first big client, because her mother died.

“I ended up making several memorial videos for people I loved and was close to,” she said. “It was very ironic that I started this business a year before 13 people died. It was almost like a premonition – you’re going to do this, and then you’re going to go through this.”

One of those assignments was a video for Ben Bullington, a Montana physician and songwriter who died earlier this year of pancreatic cancer. A month before he passed, Secours went to Montana and shot footage of Bullington performing his song “Here’s to Hopin’” in his backyard. She interspersed the footage with stark photos taken by Jack Spencer, Bullington’s favorite photographer.

“Jack Spencer’s photography screamed out at me when I heard the song, and Jack allowed him to use his photos,” Secours says. “It was the last time Ben was ever filmed. It was the last thing that happened with his music before he died, and it made him really happy.”

Secours says immersing herself in other people’s stories is healing for her.

“It doesn’t matter who it is or who I’m making it for,” she says. “Whether it’s a legacy of goodbye, or whether it’s the telling of a story, every one of them is healing and emotional.”

“It’s about being intimate with people. There are a lot of people telling me intimate things that I’m really touched by, whether or not it actually goes in the film. Sometimes they reveal things and then they decide not to put it in the film. And that’s fine. I feel really privileged to be the keeper of the story.”

More information and samples of Secours’ work are at www.lastinglegaciesvideo.com

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