For Immediate Release: March, 2015
New Toronto-based production company to produce living biographies for family generations to come
TORONTO, ON — Getting elderly people to talk about their lives, and recording their stories for the benefit of future generations, is the sole objective of Primary Counsel Productions, a new video company headed by veteran Toronto broadcaster Jim Deeks. Packaging their on-camera narratives with photos, family and archive film, music and other effects, will result in compelling programs that family members, and perhaps historians, will watch with pleasure and interest hundreds of years from now, Deeks says.
“The technology to record people talking about themselves is hardly new,” he says, “but thanks to the internet, the interest in genealogy and family history has exploded. And more and more people are realizing the value of passing on the details of their lives… not just the family tree.”
For so many families, knowledge of the lives of more than one or two previous generations had been almost non-existent, until the internet made family research infinitely more accessible. So people now can, at a minimum, find out where and from whom they came, going back hundreds of years. But that hardly scratches the surface of detail, and understanding, that such knowledge further begs.
“You may have discovered, in the last dozen years or so, that your great great grandfather came to North America in, say, 1872, and later settled in Toronto, or Toledo, or Tacoma. But do you know anything about the experiences he had getting there? Not unless someone wrote it down,” says Jim Deeks.
“Now think about your great great great grandchildren… 150 years from now. They may know your name, and when you were born and died. But unless you tell them, they won’t know what house you grew up in… that your house was damaged in an earthquake in 1986… that you became head of a company that grew to over 300 employees… that you were a breeder of champion cocker spaniels… that your mother was a concert pianist… These things are important to preserve!”
Sharing details of a life well spent will also help generations ahead have a greater understanding of why they are what they are, and perhaps, how they got there. A love of music, for example, could be traced back to that distant relative who was a concert pianist. An above-average ability at tennis could have descended down through several generations. Green eyes may have been common in the family for centuries.
These are the special, perhaps unique details that Primary Counsel Productions wants to record on videotape. Unlike other companies that produce video for corporations, or weddings and bar mitzvahs, Deeks’s company will focus only on “personal video biographies” as he calls them. As such, his company is rare if not unique in itself.
“I’ve long been interested in personal histories, but this concept of doing them exclusively, on video, came to me as we were doing Toronto Boomers,” he says, referring to an interview program he originated and co-hosted on RogersTV in Toronto in 2014. “Our show covered topics of interest to the over-50 set, and we had a number of guests with great stories to tell. It occurred to me that, once these people were gone, so were their stories, and what a shame that was… and how unnecessary it is.”
Deeks and colleague Helen Burstyn currently co-host Toronto Files on RogersTV. But his television experience dates back to the 1970s when he was a reporter on CITY-TV and later, a reporter and anchor on CTV Toronto.
As overall producer, and interviewer for the personal video biographies, Deeks is backed up by a team of broadcast production specialists. These include a former CTV video cameraman, a network producer, and two broadcast editors, including one who won a Yorkton Festival award for documentary editing. The biography programs, says Deeks, will be comparable in style and quality to programs one would see on the Biography Channel.
While based in Toronto, Primary Counsel Productions can travel anywhere to interview a willing subject. But the word “willing” is probably the most critical component of all.
“Sometimes the hardest part is getting the subjects to overcome their natural reticence to talk about themselves,” says Jim Deeks. “An experienced interviewer, like me, can help draw out the details, but the subjects need to understand this isn’t just for for them or their children… it’s part of the passing on of their DNA.”
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