It had taken me five years to gather the courage to put this thing together. I lied to myself and thought I was ready. I’d converted the wedding video, hauled thirty VHS tapes to school and scanned through all of the footage. I’d loaded up each segment of my father’s life into pretty little categories: Dad, Grandpa, Family, Friends. Each with its own neat chapter on the DVD menu partitioning his life.
Jim Walsh died suddenly in 1997 at the age of 57. And I’d “been the soldier,” to quote my dad’s Uncle Jerry when I called him with the news. After a year, I could say the sentence, “My dad died” without that vice-grip on my esophagus. I remember at the funeral home, my sister saying, “I’m looking forward to it being a year after.” It’s true, you go through those little anniversaries: “Six months ago, Dad was up north with us,” etc.
The editing is grunt-work to say the least. You develop a thick-skin as you roll the tape back and forth, trying to find the spot where Dad actually was in front of the camera for more than 20 seconds–he was pretty private, for being a salesman. But after all the chapters were created, I decided to open it with a little montage. Therein lay the emotional trap door.
I knew the song to use. You could ask my mom, my three sisters, half our friends what song and they’d all reply “What a Wonderful World,” by Louis Armstrong. My dad loved not only the lyrics, but also impersonating Satchmo almost as much as he liked impersonating Jimmy Stewart.
So I lay down the track of the song and began noticing that an eerie amount of lyrics lined up with the footage I’d just been editing over the past 40 hours–blue skies, shaking hands, babies crying. The synchronicity kept coming–even when I slowed down a clip to because he was in the scene so briefly. My dad wasn’t too mechanical on this earth, but he was giving me some pretty hi-tech help that day.
If you ever want to have folks cry at a tribute video, consider using the following three ingredients:
1. A great song
3. The subject walking away from the camera (preferably also in slow motion)
I just finished uploading this 11 year-old DVD to YouTube and forgotten how potent that formula could be.