I come from a long line of family historians and storytellers. As a child, I grew up hearing my grandfather telling stories about his father, but I never really paid attention because I was busy playing with my cousins. My mom and her brother took over the storytelling role when he passed away, but nobody ever got good quality video of them either.
When we were in our 20’s, my husband and I moved far away from our hometowns in North Carolina, where our parents still lived. We built a business and started our own family, and went back for summer and Christmas vacations, but the visits were always rushed; more about family feasts and playing with the grandkids. We never thought to get videos of anything but the kids opening presents under the tree.
On one summer trip in 2004, my Dad and I drove to see his sister an hour away. In the car, we finally got to talk about his past, his time in Korea, and how he had just gotten into genealogy and was excited to be finding out about his family stories. I remember thinking while we were in the car how I wished I had a video camera to record our conversation. He had even located his grandparent’s old farm in the Appalachian hills, and I asked him to take me out to see it, but the day got away from us and we didn’t go. “Oh well, when I come down next summer let’s do it” I said.
But the next summer, he passed away before we could go; before I had a chance to get him on my new video camera telling me about his long-lost relatives.
When my Mom was diagnosed with cancer 5 years later, I was determined to get her on video telling her favorite stories and identifying photos from her childhood. I was able to get a few, and will always be thankful that we had that time together, but it wasn’t enough. We didn’t plan it out properly, so the videos were blurry and the audio hard to hear, but at least I have something.
Vera, Darlin’, and Sonshine with Petfinder article
Later on, Mom moved to a senior living community closer to me and I always intended to get some more video, but it never seemed like we could coordinate when she was feeling up to it. I got lots of videos of her enjoying group sing-alongs, but not enough of the quiet moments in her room, just the two of us. “I’ll be sure to do it next time I come,” I thought to myself each time.
But then, memory loss stole our chance. Before I knew it, she had lost the big stories of her life – when she got her first dog at age 5; how she learned to play piano by getting her best friend across the street to teach her what she’d learned after her weekly lessons; how she met my Dad; memories of her father telling stories about his father; how she founded Pet Finder on index cards in her home office in NC; and her favorite – how she got her last dog “Darlin’. I found myself having to retell her own stories to her.
Preserving Treasured Memories
After her death in early 2020, as I was going through boxes of inherited family papers and photos I hadn’t seen before, I realized that not only had I never recorded her favorite family stories, but now I couldn’t ask her who was in the photos, or the stories behind them. I will always regret not making more of an effort to get more of her on video in those earlier years, when she was still lucid and happy.
I always thought I still had time, until suddenly I didn’t.
But amid the grief, I reached out to some storytelling groups and discovered an amazing community of people – and I discovered that at heart I’m a “personal historian,” especially now that I’m the official “keeper of all the things” for the family. In late 2020, realizing that both Dad and Mom had tried to begin digitizing their photo collections in their retirement years, but never really got more than a few dozen photos done, I took on the monumental task of scanning ALL the old family photo albums I’d inherited from Dad, Mom, my grandparents, and my uncle. It was way better use of my time than trying to make sourdough bread during the pandemic!
20,000+ photos and scanned documents later, along with lots of learning curve on best practices, I’m able to share these digitized photos – many of which hadn’t been seen since the 1920’s – with the rest of my family, and they are backed up in case of a natural disaster.
It was then that I decided to help others not make the same mistakes I had, and to help tell their stories while they still can.
A new chapter begins
I have so many friends and colleagues who have felt that similar sense of regret and loss of not having captured the knowledge and experiences of older relatives when they had the chance. I’m determined to help others preserve those treasured memories. Having worked in the senior community for over 5 years, I’ve learned how eager people are to talk about their lives, as well as how to help them open up, get them laughing, and ready to tell their stories.
And so begins the next chapter of Trillium – creating affordable personal history videos for families, senior communities & organizations, service & veteran’s groups, historical societies, hospice, and Alzheimer’s Associations – as well as offering photo organizing, scanning, and restoration services.
Inspired by StoryCorps and the documentary “Lives Well Lived“, it’s time for me to bring together my television & video production background, my passion for family history and helping people share their stories, and my love of the senior community to enable them to save their life stories for posterity. I believe that everyone has a story to tell and that accomplishing that mission can be one of the most important things they ever do.
Oh, and the worst words in the world? “I never got around to it.”
“A growing number of families are turning to professionals to record their family stories, employing “personal historians” to sit and ask the open-ended questions they don’t have time to ask during the rush of holiday gatherings or the sporadic bursts of long-distance communication.”
We’ve been hard at work all during the pandemic, honing some new skills. Last week we announced the addition of real estate and product photography to our suite of services, and now we’re adding another!
The pandemic we’ve all been through has taken such a toll on everyone.
In honor of Grandparent’s Day on Sept 12, I’m thrilled to announce the newest (and closest to my heart) service – to help share your stories – of your life or anything else you’d like to share on video or audio, in the comfort of your own home, or at the location of your choice.
We’ve been hard at work all during the pandemic, honing some new skills. On Monday we announced the addition of product photography to our suite of services, and now we’re adding another!
We’re thrilled to announce that we are offering real estate photography services to real estate agents, Airbnb owners, property managers, and anyone who needs good photography with a quick turnaround. Let us help you sell!
It seems fitting that for Labor Day we have a big announcement to make!
We’re thrilled to announce the first of several new services that Trillium is offering, new for 2021. We’ve worked with several estate sales, auction houses, and an Etsy shop over the past few years and have honed our product photography skills and want to share with you. Making the product as beautiful as possible is the key to a quick sale and we’re here to help.
We’re pleased to announce that we now have a 12 Kilowatt DC Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Tracker System from Solaflect Energy in Norwich Vermont. Solar Trackers follow the sun, allowing our solar panels to generate 40% more power than fixed installations. This system should provide all of Trillium’s power needs for the next 30+ years, offset 39 tons of carbon emissions, and save us over $275 per month. Besides the economic advantages of adopting renewable energy, there is the environmental aspect.
Vermont’s climate looks more and more like that of our neighbors to the south. Over the last 50 years, our summers are 2.3, and our winters 5.2 degrees warmer. It may not feel like that during a frigid cold snap, but our winter mean temp has risen from 18 to 23 degrees in the last 5 decades. Lilacs bloom 17 days earlier and there are 40 fewer days of ice in local ponds each winter.
By directly tracking the sun all day, the Tracker captures approximately 40% more solar energy than solar panels mounted on a fixed surface – like a rooftop or fixed panels on the ground – which miss a good deal of morning and afternoon sun, particularly on long summer days. A Tracker uses fewer solar panels to generate the same amount of electricity as panels on a roof – e.g., 16 solar panels on a Tracker is the equivalent of at least 23 and as many as 30 panels on a roof.
The ability to shed snow quickly is also an important feature here in New England, as rooftop solar loses 12%-15% of its production per year from snow cover. A Tracker is pitched steeply all winter as it is pointed right at the sun – which is low in the sky through its winter trajectory – so snow slides off quickly. The Tracker also “sleeps” vertical at night, meaning gravity takes care of any remaining snow.
In my previous life working in NYC in video production from the late ’80s to mid ’90s, I had the honor of working with legendary political consultant Joe Slade White. He used our audio engineers and editors almost exclusively during the campaign season.
There was one particular campaign where his candidate was a newcomer running against a popular incumbent, and Joe had to come up with something really groundbreaking, and of course, he did. I had the honor of running Chryon for this spot, called “Bodyguard”. The animated text was my contribution.
The spot worked, and our candidate won, and Joe would win a “Pollie” (Best Political Ad) for it.
Later on, the BBC came to New York to interview Joe about this ad that had ousted the incumbent, and although you can only see the editor Steve in the edit room portion, I was there when it was shot!
Here’s another story by CNN talking about how important the right voice is in political ads. Joe always worked with the also-legendary voice actor Alan Bleviss, whose incredible voice could be heard on everything from movie trailers to national commercials and of course, Joe Slade White political ads. He was known as “The Voice of God” and if you ever heard him you would know why. It was a great day when Alan came down after finishing an audio session to our edit suite to visit with Joe. I was truly in the company of giants.
And here’s one last of Joe’s favorites – we used the footage to make several different spots, but this long-form version made in 1992 is one of only 2 spots from that era still on his highlight reel today, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.
A veteran of over 400 political campaigns, Joe Slade White is recognized by consultants and candidates of both parties as one of the most creative television consultants in the country. He has served as Vice President Joe Biden’s media consultant for over 20 years. He has won more “Pollies” for excellence in television (called the “Oscars of politics” by Esquire Magazine) than any other consultant, and in 2014 his peers named Joe Slade White “Democratic Strategist of the Year”.
Working with Joe in NYC in the early 90’s was one of the highlights of my career. I am honored that both the “Bodyguard” and the Ben Nighthorse Campbell “Bio” spots are in Joe’s highlight reel on YouTube, and am thrilled to see this BBC story on him. It’s amazing to me that even these (very old and not nearly as slick as ads by today’s standards) are still considered among his favorites after all these years.
I am so very saddened to learn that Joe passed away in May. He was still working right up to the end.
We have a major announcement – after nine years of peacefully co-existing, Trillium Digital and Barleywine Graphics are officially merged into one single company – Trillium Digital Marketing. We’ve actually been operating this way for years but have had separate websites and business cards all this time, and since we’ve been rebuilding the website(s) from scratch all autumn this seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine our services and years of experience into one entity! The major difference is the lack of the original Trillium team members who have gone off to bigger and better things (congratulations to Steve and Reid and thanks for everything!). It’s going to be emotionally difficult to give up the Barleywine Graphics name after 23 years but it’s finally time for it to retire. If you’re up for a little light reading check out my TL/DR Not-so-short History of Barleywine post. I got a new scanner last summer and was able to scan a ton of photos from our earliest days as an herb farm and serious nostalgia set in…
You also might notice the refresh of our Trillium logo to match our fresh new website, and as part of the website merger, I’ve combined much of the content from both of the old sites and now have a long history of blog posts going way back to the beginning of blogging!
We are thrilled to announce that Barleywine Graphics has officially merged with Trillium Digital. We have been working together for many years now, and it made sense to combine our services and years of experience into one entity.
And equally big news – I’m excited to announce my new Photography business, Melissa Snyder Photography! After taking photos of the beauty that surrounds me for over 20 years, I finally decided to officially share them with the world. Head on over to my new site to check it out.
Our partner Reid Greenberg posted this way back in 2010 but I think in these dark times it is still very good advice.
1. Be smart and thrifty, but don’t panic. This, too, shall pass.
Economies go through cycles of expansion and contraction. It’s what we all learned in college economics courses (back then, of course, we weren’t really paying attention). The trouble is, while academics can pontificate on the cyclical economy, real business people have to live through difficult economic events. We love the expansionary times, but the contractions can be painful. If you’re smart, you’ve managed your balance sheet well and can ride out a period of slow or no growth. If not, you may have to make some cuts. Just be careful to trim fat and avoid cutting muscle as much as possible.
2. Marketing is muscle, not fat. Be careful about cutting it.
Just as the savviest investors view down markets as a time to buy when everybody else is selling, the savviest marketers know recessions are a great time to pick up market share. They understand that by maintaining their budgets (or even increasing them) they may not come out ahead during the down times, but they can pick up market share that will pay off in the long run. Marketing dollars in a recession are like oxygen on Mt. Everest—the less there is in the surrounding environment, the more valuable the amount you possess becomes. Cutting your marketing spending is a sure way to give ground to competitors who may be more aggressive during the downturn.
3. Don’t lose focus by chasing business you wouldn’t normally want.
When clients and customers get nervous about the economy, they cut back their spending. For you that could mean fewer transactions, smaller purchases, or possibly both. But if you try to broaden your core product or service appeal to please a wider audience, chances are you’ll make your best customers even less satisfied, giving them one more reason to stay home or spend less. There’s a reason you don’t pursue certain types of customers when times are good, and that reason probably hasn’t changed. Do your best to stick to your knitting and enhance the value you provide to your best customers. They may decide to make their cutbacks in areas other than yours.
4. Don’t discount.
It’s easy to rationalize discounting during a downturn, for your company’s sake (“it helps to drive business”) as well as for the sake of your customers (“they’re struggling and need the help”). But whether times are good or bad, discounting your price discounts your product (BusinessWeek.com, 4/14/08) in the eyes of your customers. There was a time in the 1990s when McDonald’s (MCD) and Burger King (BKC) put their Big Macs and Whoppers on sale so often that they trained their customers never to pay full price. That created a margin problem from which it took them years to recover. If you need to make your products more affordable (to generate volume, goodwill, or both), do so carefully and deliberately. But lower the price instead of offering a discount.
5. Don’t neglect the elephant in the room.
We live in a 24-hour information cycle. When news breaks, people know it, and economic news breaks every day. You don’t have to be an economist to know the business environment isn’t in the best shape right now, and the point is brought home to your people in a personal way every time they go to the grocery store or fill up their gas tanks. Even if your company’s revenues have held up, your employees know there’s trouble afoot and they’re nervous. Make sure they know you’re on top of things and have a plan.
There’s no telling what lies ahead over the next several months. We may pull out of our economic rut more quickly than anticipated, or we may be in for a prolonged rough ride. But clients and customers will still need to eat. They still need transportation. They still seek entertainment, clothing, vacations, chain saws, pet food, perfume, office supplies, computer servers, tractors, and machinery. As the market tightens up, the best positioned players will survive and thrive. Avoid the mistakes above and you’re more likely to be one of them.