Don’t Take “No” For An Answer

As I was completing my first year of being in business nearly six years ago, I realized that it would be extremely hypocritical of me (not to mention, just a shame) if I didn’t document all of my own family members stories. And if you’ve read my newsletters long enough, you’ve seen clips from the films I’ve created about my parents, my grandparents & uncle’s, and my husband’s late grandma Bertha. But my in-laws have been a bit of a different story.

They live in Syracuse, New York, and though we both do our best to try to visit one another often, the reality is that we typically only see them about four times a year. Two of those times are complete chaos, with the entire extended family converging in one location, and the other times are often quite short. And though my father-in-law was always eager and ready to share his story, my mother-in-law was, to say it nicely, camera shy. Finally, one weekend in Syracuse, when I had brought my camera up for another project, I sat my father-in-law down in their dark basement, propped up his old utility light in front of him, and we filmed a great hour-long interview. My mother-in-law declined to be filmed at that time.

Two years later, we still didn’t have an interview with my mother-in-law. There just never seemed to be a good time. Sometimes it was the sheer lack of quiet time and space to do the interview, but other times, it was the lack of enthusiasm from my participant. Finally, one day while they were visiting, I just said, “Let’s do your interview today.” She agreed reluctantly, but did an excellent job and spoke candidly for nearly two hours. Soon after we finished, though, she said she didn’t like the way she said certain things and wanted to do it over again.

A few months ago, I realized in just a few short weeks, we would all be coming to the beach for a week to celebrate my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary and my father-in-law’s 75th birthday. How could I not create a video for this incredibly special occasion?

I decided to present the documentary mid-week, so there would be time for the kids and grandkids to ask any additional questions they might have. As soon as my mother-in-law saw the video, she was not pleased. In her mind, this was not the interview she had wanted to share. But we turned on the TV anyway, and the rest of the family began to watch the film. By the end, my mother-in-law was watching too. She thanked me when it was over, said how much she liked it, and realized there was really only one thing she had wanted to change. It was a story her kids had all heard many times before, told the exact same way she had told it on film.

I guess the results could have turned out differently, but I know for me, I’m so glad that I did what I did and didn’t take “no” for an answer. For now my husband’s family has a wonderful record of their family’s story.


  1. Grandma and Grandpa Brodsky
    August 19, 2012 at 19:00

    Debbie: we will always be grateful for this wonderful labor of love. We hope the video will be passed down from generation to generation and that our family members will celebrate 50 years and more of marriage filled with love and happiness.