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Something Else: Living Family Memories

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April and Jonathan Fluevog at Centennial Beach in Tsawwassen. The couple make films that act as a legacy for their survivors after passing away. Photo: Adrian MacNair

When Jonathan Fluevog’s beloved grandmother passed away in late April at the age of 96, he was consoled by the fact he had captured her life on video.

Jonathan and his wife April are the owners of Living Family Memories, a business that revolves around creating mini-documentaries of people to leave behind for their family.

Jonathan says they called the business Living Family Memories because the story doesn’t end when somebody passes away.

“It keeps going. They’re not around anymore but the grandkids gets to see and hear what they were like,” he says. “They get to understand how they fit into everything. And so it’s a living story.”

Both he and his wife were raised mainly by their grandparents and when they met they were excited to share stories about them. But trying to explain somebody’s humour or mannerisms second hand can be challenging.

“When we were describing our grandparents and we were showing each other pictures you don’t get the essence of somebody through a photograph,” says April. “You don’t really get what the person was. And that’s how the biographies evolved.”

Jonathan has a background in filming documentaries and television which made it an ideal skillset to start doing
biographies of Delta residents. He says the result are these stories which delight and surprise the viewer.

Jonathan says one client who passed away had her film shown at her funeral and many close friends who had known her for 30 years didn’t know some of the stories told on the video.

“It really becomes more of a celebration of life than a negative experience,” says April, adding family members are spared the agony of going up and trying to say some words without breaking down in grief.

It’s also an opportunity to save a video for your grandchildren to see what your own grandparents were like, as it’s unlikely they would live long enough to meet one another.

Films are about 30 minutes long but there’s a lot of time that goes into development, from questionnaires that work out a story to using a teleprompter to have the participant read to the camera. The Fluevogs also collect a lot of old photographs and even film footage to supplement the movies. That process can be a fun family experience because collecting photographs can rekindle old memories of love and bonding.

The couple say they’ve done about 30 films so far and the reasons from each client are different. Sometimes people just want to leave messages and tell stories, while others want to do a full biography to document their lives.

And it’s not just for people who expect to pass away soon and are planning their estate. The Fluevogs have filmed people in their fifties who want to share their stories.

In recent years their business has gained traction in making executor support videos because of the strong demand from clients. While a will can determine who is supposed to get what, it doesn’t always explain why. An executor support video allows the person to explain why each person is receiving their inherited item.

“So instead of filming somebody doing a will, what if we filmed them saying what their intent behind everything is, why they’re doing it?” says Jonathan.

The added bonus about filming it, he adds, is you can capture the emotion and the intent of the person. He says that’s particularly important because wills can be contested in court by inheritors who feel left out, and a video can go a long way toward convincing a judge as to what the will intended.

Living Family Memories films start at $6,500. Check out livingfamilymemories.com for more info.

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