How To Make A Family Legacy Documentary

Family History Videos, Legacy Films,
Video Biographies, Geneology Videos

Video Biography Example

A family legacy documentary or family history video is a wonderful way to honor your family members and create a lasting legacy for future generations.

Here are the 8 primary steps to making a family legacy documentary.

8 Steps To Making A Family Legacy Documentary

Step 1: Choose Your Gear

If you’re starting from scratch and don’t have a lot of money to spend, you can pretty much use any device available to shoot video (an iPhone shoots beautiful footage). More important than the video is your AUDIO. You are capturing the stories and voices of your family, so make sure the quality of the sound is the best possible. One low cost audio recording option is the Zoom H1 ($99).  Keep in mind that since you’ll be recording your audio separate from the video, you’ll need to sync them up later during editing.  Click here for a list of low-budget documentary gear.

Step 2: Interview Selected Family Members

It’s up to you how many family members you’d like to interview. The important thing to remember is that our elders are here and gone before you know it, so don’t procrastinate. Even if you’re not quite ready to edit the documentary, go ahead and sit down with your family members and record their stories. The key thing to remember when interviewing a family member is that you want them to be as comfortable as possible so that their true personality comes out. So choose a location and time where they will be most relaxed. Also, to help trigger their memories, have on hand old memorabilia and photos. Or have them watch old home movies and record them describing what they are seeing and remembering. To learn about interviewing and lighting techniques, sign up for our 7-Day Documentary Crash Course.

Step 3: Gather Photos, Memorabilia and Old Home Movies

Memorabelia for a Family Legacy Documentary

Look for items that were discussed in the interviews that you can overlay on top of what they’re describing.

Items might include old heirloom jewelry, a stack of love letters, a wedding dress, artifacts from wars, children’s clothes, old money, etc.

Learn How to photograph historical items.

Click here to find free film clips and old movie footage to represent a certain time period.

Step 4: Shoot Recreations

What if one of your uncles tells a great story but there are no photos or footage documenting the event? Consider getting family members or actors to recreate the event! Put on your Hollywood director’s hat. Download some storyboard software to help you plan out your shots.

Step 5: Draft An Outline

You can make your documentary super simple and just play one interview right after the next, overlaying images of what each person is saying. Or you can get fancy and categorize the interviews into subject matters and weave together the interviews based on stories or periods of time. There is a whole art to the storytelling process.  Take our 7-Day Crash Course On How To Make A Documentary.

Step 6: Upload Footage, Photos & Interviews To Your Computer

Depending on how much footage you have, your existing computer may or may not be able to handle all that video data. And you’ll need a way to edit together the clips.

Click here to choose a video editing computer.

Click here for video editing software options.

Step 7: Editing Your Documentary

There is no right or wrong way to edit your documentary. But there are some video editing basics you can learn to help you through the process.

Click here for video editing tips.  

Click here for tips on where to find free music clips.

Step 8: Share Your New Masterpiece At The Next Family Gathering And Become The Family Hero

What a great gift to share the legacy video at your next family reunion or holiday gathering. Imagine the laughter and tears when family members watch their personal history play out before their eyes. You can either upload the video to YouTube, burn a DVD or hook up your computer to a projection screen.


Family Legacy Documentary Examples 

Family History Legacy Sample | "Three Brothers From Pittsburgh"

Talking To Bee Gibbs | Personal Documentary Film Clip

Boston Boy | Genealogy Video

Family History Biography 

Need Help From A Professional?

Would you rather have a professional filmmaker make your family legacy documentary?

Listed below are a few Video Production Companies that specialize in bio docs:



Share YOUR Family Legacy Documentary

We'd love to profile your experience making a family legacy documentary. (What gear you used, lessons learned, special techniques, etc). This is a great way to share with the filmmaking community. Please contact us and we'll set up a special page for you on this site to profile your work. Thank you in advance!

Otherwise, tell us what you think about this article and share your ideas and experiences below regarding making a family legacy video.

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