Continuing Education: Alan Naumann's The Complete Course on Funeral Videography
Posted Aug 17, 2007

In November 2005 I reviewed Alan Naumann’s Business Everlasting, the definitive DVD-based training course for the memorial tribute videography business. At the time, it seemed unlikely that Naumann (or anyone) could improve on Business Everlasting, and in one sense he hasn’t tried. While Naumann hasn’t updated the DVD itself since then (or the accompanying CD of sample business documents), he’s introduced The Complete Course on Funeral Videography, which rounds out the package in a handsome three-ring binder with additional material on marketing, working with Photoshop, working within different religious and cultural traditions, and designing an effective website among other business growing tips. The new Music and Graphics disc provides sample buyout music and footage from partner vendors, plus a 2004 TV special on Canadian videographer and WEVA Hall of Famer Dennis Marentette—a nice tip-of-the-hat to a fellow funeral video pioneer. It also includes a complete copy of Digital Juice's JB04 collection of JumpBacks animated backgrounds (while supplies last).

What The Complete Course adds to Business Everlasting (which already seemed pretty thorough to me) is a wealth of material that underscores the message of the DVD and complements it with more in-depth information on structuring and producing your memorial tributes and insight and background on the funeral industry itself that very few videographers (even those already doing funeral work) probably know. Naumann actually recommends studying the written material in the three-ring binder before diving into the DVD, which is good.

One concept Naumann reinforces in this material is his notion of “contained creativity.” In his statement on the purpose of The Complete Course, Naumann writes, “It is also important to understand the limitations we need to impose upon ourselves in order to produce quality videos in a short amount of time that are appropriate to the situation.” Exploring the creative possibilities of a video is simply not a luxury that funeral videographers have, Naumann explains. A primary goal of The Complete Course—and one it achieves—is to show videographers how to deliver a high-quality product with appropriate doses of creativity in the tiny time window afforded to funeral videography projects.

“Change and the Funeral Industry” provides great background on the business; just as any wedding videographer ought to have a firm grasp of the dynamics and current trends of the wedding business, so should funeral videographers understand that they are becoming participating vendors in a complex industry and make a similar commitment to learning how it operates. How has the role of the funeral director changed as cremation has become more common? How has cremation affected other services and vendors? How have funeral-home consolidation and corporate ownership affected the industry? What policies do funeral home-owning corporations have concerning the use of outside funeral-service services, such as memorial videos? All these factors have an impact on a videographer’s local funeral market, and Naumann offers clear and succinct information on these issues and how they affect videographers.

In the printed material of The Compete Course, Naumann goes on to discuss other key topics such as how to forge relationships with funeral directors and work with funeral homes, how to price your work, how to suggest that funeral homes price/bundle your services, and how to contend with the sensitivities of families mourning the deceased. He discusses precisely what a memorial tribute video is and what it contains (not just the photos and music but specific information); practical tips on selecting and incorporating music and scanning images; and how to introduce and conclude the video. Naumann also provides valuable information on videotaping funerals—how to price these services; how to shoot it, both in terms of style and procedure/protocol; how to edit it; and how fast you need to turn it around. This is a valuable extension of Naumann's memorial tribute approach and I'm glad to see it covered here.

Other useful sections address working with different cultural and religious traditions, how to promote your work professionally (demos, brochures, websites, etc.), the value of video for grieving families, information gleaned from statistical studies on cremation and other facets of the funeral industry, hardware and software recommendations, and an insightful article from Tribute Direct founder Michael Rybarski on the impact of the baby-boom generation on the funeral business, “Boomers After All is Said and Done.” The printed material concludes with a number of recent articles on the funeral business that should prove helpful to videographers as well.

Perhaps the key point of the entire Complete Course is found in response to videographers who claim the funeral market is impossible to break into. Reminding readers that this an aspect of event videography to pursue seriously at all, and one that certainly does not reward dabbling, Naumann writes, “Remember, funeral videography is cross-country, not a hundred-yard dash.”

For more information, or to order The Complete Course on Funeral Videography ($179.95 + $10 s/h, or $109.95 as an upgrade for Business Everlasting owners), go to www.memoryvision.tv or click here. Business Everlasting is also available for $69.95.

Stephen F. Nathans is editor-in-chief of EventDV.