Personal Video Biographies

Family Memories Get the Look of a Professional Documentary

Dorothy Barrett, center, and her husband James and daughter Debbie.

Dorothy Barrett, center, and her husband James and daughter Debbie. At the Barretts' request, Greg Farnese and Laurie Appel made a documentary about Dorothy, who had Alzheimer's. Farnese Personal Television Biographers hide caption

itoggle caption Farnese Personal Television Biographers

When Greg Farnese and Laurie Appel aren't doing their day jobs — he's a cameraman at Philadelphia sport events, she's a clinical psychologist — they are working in a new niche of the video market. The Swedesboro, N.J. couple produce 20-minute documentary biographies of ordinary Americans.

The customer provides still photos and home videos, if they exist, and a list of people to interview. Laurie does the interviewing and writing, and Greg edits the video on his home computer and narrates. The price, which averages around $8,000, varies according to the number of interviews and locations.

The result: a present for the living, a memorial for the dying — and a personal possession that wouldn't look out of place on many cable channels. NPR's Robert Siegel, host of All Things Considered, takes a look at the "professional" home video trend.

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