Cradle to Grave: Funeral Video--Alive and Well
Posted May 1, 2008

Recently, I was talking to a fellow videographer who has been taping weddings for more than 20 years. He was complaining about the current state of wedding videography. He said, "Wedding videography is dead." I responded by saying, "Funeral videography is very much alive!" This is much more than a play on words; funeral videography is alive, and has taken on a life of its own. (For a general introduction to funeral videography, see my February 2007 Cradle to Grave column, Opportunities of Funeral Videography.)

Yesterday, I received a phone call from a young man I have been mentoring. He was excited because he had just left an appointment with a funeral director who owns five funeral homes and has decided to start offering videos to his families. I rejoiced with Scott and congratulated him on his new account.

I also smiled inwardly because it was less than a year ago that this same funeral director declared that he would "never offer funeral videos." But, in many ways, he didn’t have a choice. He knew that if he didn’t start offering them, many of his clients would find a funeral home that did. The use of video is rapidly becoming a standard feature at funerals and memorial services.

Using videos at funerals is uncharted territory for many funeral directors. Some are trying to do it themselves, with varying levels of success. Others are providing resources for families that wish to produce their own videos. I believe that if we are to take part in this new opportunity, we need to "think outside of the box" (and not just the "pine box," as one funeral director suggested to me). Instead of seeing ourselves simply as videographers who create tribute videos and videotape services, we need to begin offering our services to the funeral industry as "media consultants."

As media consultants, we can help funeral homes evaluate their audio/video needs, give them choices, and offer training and support. We can also produce promotional videos for their websites and even commercials for TV.

Recently, I was approached by a funeral director who wanted to upgrade the media presentation equipment in his three funeral homes. He had all sorts of questions about the kinds of equipment he should invest in. Price was obviously a factor.

I gave him some general guidelines and helped him through the decision process. As a result, two of his funeral homes now have 40" high-definition television sets with DVD players that will up-convert DVDs to a higher resolution using HDMI cables.

In the third home he has installed a video projector that can be used in the service. He has also added smaller monitors that are used by directors when they meet with families.

To help these homes promote their video services, I created a demo DVD that plays continuously at all three locations so that when families come in they can actually see what a tribute video looks like. It’s amazing how the bookings I get from these homes have skyrocketed since they started using this approach.

I’m also getting more calls from families that want services videotaped. For any seasoned videographer, this is a simple task. But it can also become a very important part of your business.

At almost every funeral we videotape, we find that families order extra DVDs, which makes it very profitable. At one of the last services I videotaped, the family ordered 55 DVDs at $15 each. I would say that was a pretty good morning’s work!

I talked to a videographer recently who was surprised to find out that I also did other types of video production besides funeral work. I explained that although funeral video isn’t the only service we offer, in many ways, funeral videography has become the foundation of all that we do.

Because of funeral videography we have all sorts of work, from commercial work to event shooting. Funeral videography has been one of the best marketing strategies we have tried.

A phone call I received recently is typical of the response we get when people see our work. The lady on the phone thanked me for the special tribute we created for her father and then asked if we did other types of video work. I assured her that we did, and she said, "Oh good—our family has a landscape company and we need a new promotional video as well as video on our website." I look forward to this spring when we will start working with her and her company.

Every time we produce a memorial tribute video, we gain acceptance with families whose lives have been impacted by our videos. As a result, we have never lacked for work. Whether it is doing a video biography, transferring home movies to DVD, or taping a wedding, it all stems from our work in funeral videography, and the way we have positioned our company as a media consultancy in the funeral market. Funeral videography is alive and well—and because of it, so is our business.

Alan Naumann (alan at memoryvision.tv) is the author of The Complete Course on Funeral Videography, an updated an expanded version of his popular Business Everlasting training DVD. A featured speaker at WEVA Expo 2004–7 and a two-time EventDV 25 honoree (2006-7), he is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.