Monday, October 06, 2008

Videotaping Funerals

Funerals are not for everybody. “Ewwww, videotaping dead people and infringing on the privacy of mourning loved ones.” While that may be the general reaction, it certainly isn’t so.

This may not be for everybody in the Independent Professional Video Services provider arena - wedding and event video producers working part- or full-time. It is, however, one of the most under-served potential event video production markets on the planet.

I recently had a friend on the East Coast tell me that she had “never heard of such,” adding that it must be a “West Coast thing.” Maybe.

I don’t know about the other side of the Mississippi, but I do know I have videotaped and edited funerals, created and projected memorial montages in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Utah, as well as California.

I have created basic memorial photo/music montages for clients all over the U.S.A., including the above states, and Florida, South Carolina, Maryland and Ohio - by mail using USPS Priority.

Granted insurance doesn’t do a thing to replace lost or damaged original photos, if that happens. I have to say that before there were digital formats and jpeg photo CDs the risk was greater, but with the hundreds I’ve produced over the past decade or longer, the Post Office has lost or mis-delivered nary a one.

Interesting enough, deviating from this article, I have had bills, payments, checks lost or dropped off at the wrong addresses, and an equipment order I once made was delivered to Colorado Mining Company before making its way to me...
...eventually. This is over a 40+ years span, mind you, so the percentages are quite low.

They’ve done well by me and my clients.

Churches, funeral homes, mortuaries, cemetery associations and even an ad published on the obits page of your local newspaper, are excellent resources for offering this service. While many large churches, and many of the larger funeral homes usually have audio/video, the vast majority do not. Often those that do provide inadequate equipment, and impersonal service. At funeral homes, especially, they rarely have someone who is well-trained in operating or maintaining their audio/visual equipment.

Quite frequently, even the montages these folks produce are not of a professional quality. It is usually generated by a point-and-click program, limited in scope and selection, length, time to create, and often put together by a minimum wage assistant who has plenty of other responsibilities to overpower her creative focus. Few facilities or their employees are dedicated enough to compete with what you are capable of producing, able to offer.

Putting together a montage, as we all know, can range from simple to complex, but simple is the direction I’ve taken to both get this business and get the projects done within the 24-hour turnaround I promise...
...and have managed to maintain for a long, long time. I have hundreds of satisfied clients. Not one has complained about the quality, or lack thereof, of a single, solitary memorial montage.

Creating montages, frequently within a day of receiving the materials; providing projection service as well, and offering videotaping and editing of funeral and memorial events does require a major commitment. I occasionally have to put in an all-night session in order to deliver as promised.

Over time, however, the over night express has slowed down and many of our family client counselors now give us advance notice, knowing they can depend on us to deliver. Over the years they have become convinced that we are serious about not letting them down. We’ve earned their trust.

Money isn’t huge, but over time it can be. Other than churches, most of the other resources want pricing at a level where they can tag on a percentage and provide this as a value added service. The upside to this is that eventually you’ll get to increase your prices, bring in extra orders for copies, even book other events from people who are impressed with both your work and your presence. Many other potential business sources have come my way through this area of video production.

It all started with a one-page cover letter, backed by a full-length 8-to-15-minute (100-to-150 image) demo with 3 songs, opening/closing title and packaged in a full-color case/insert, with matching graphics on the DVD. And a promise/commitment to “Be there, on call, 24/7, or have somebody who can be.”

Mail these to every church, and all the other resources I mentioned earlier, within your service area. If you do not hear from them, mail the ones who did not respond again within 90 days, then, if you are serious about pursuing this, follow those non-respondents up with a phone call within two weeks after the second mailing.

Even in rural areas throughout the U.S.A. there are literally hundreds of churches, cemeteries as well, where funeral and memorial services are held. Pretty much every state has a Bible belt somewhere, and believe me when I say cemeteries are just about as numerous.

Follow up, follow through and make it happen, and you will soon have all the funeral and memorial business you can handle. Unless, of course, you want to pay and train others so you can provide multiple services at multiple locations and different times of the day. It’s up to you, but if you want this kind of business it is certainly a wide-open area for growth, income and company name recognition.

There are a practical set of things that can and/or should be done when videotaping/editing a funeral, or creating/projecting a memorial montage. That is a subject worthy of follow-up if anyone responds further to this article.

Click on the title at the top of this article to see a one-page web site promotion of this business.


HOGWILD said...

Great article Earl, I just suscribed to your blog and am just now starting to read some of your older ones.

I've noticed at least one of the larger, local funeral homes providing the montage service (at least it was mentioned in one of their tv adverts) and can understand this service, what is new to me is video taping the funeral/memorial service itself.

Do people actually request coverage of this event? It seems strange on one hand, but can understand it on the other. What are the primary objectives for camera coverage? Do you try to do this with one or two cameras? Maybe you could go further into detail about the coverage...I'm a little interested.

Again, great blog. Thx!

CorElAnn said...

Hey Hogwild, thanks for joining in, and for commenting, AND for your questions and interest.

I will start immediately with a blog article focusing on the actual production of a funeral video, and what I do to make it happen. Also, more on why people are going for this in a big way - this area of video production need is SO under-served by our professional community.

Very soon! Promise!