The Important Memories

I like to think that in my job, like everyone else, I have my good days and my bad days. The difference perhaps is that my good days are really, really good. And it is all because of the people I get to meet and the stories I have an opportunity to hear.

Today, in my studio, I had the pleasure to meet a gentleman in his 80s who had a number of film reels and videotapes he wanted transferred to a digital form. As we were talking, he disclosed that before he retired, he made his living as a professional cameraman. I’m talking high level… He worked on The Fugitive with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, Edward Scissorhands with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, The Untouchables with Sean Connery and Kevin Costner, and many others.

The stories he told… the behind-the-scenes look he provided… fascinated me and, I have to admit, I kept encouraging him to tell me more. He provided me with inside stories about how Hollywood movies are made, what the stars were like, how the unions operated, and what life as a camera technician in those days was like. He also shared professional tips on how to get the shot that was needed… and it wasn’t always a method that was taught in film schools.

But the real reason he came to see me was not to tell me stories or relive his past glory days. It was because his granddaughter had asked him a simple question: “Grandpa, what was my mommy like when she was my age?” And he suddenly realized that he had all this old family footage on 8mm film and videotape that his grandkids had never seen. So he brought it to me to have me turn it into a digital form that could be played on today’s equipment.

He didn’t want to show off his Hollywood credentials, as impressive as they are. He just wanted to share the personal films he took of his family with his family members who had never seen them. I was thrilled to meet and speak with him. But I am more thrilled to be able to help him deliver to his family the memories he most wants to share. And I feel that way about every client who walks through my door. No matter what they did (or do) for a living. I am always happy to hear your stories, but I am happier to be a conduit for you to be able to share them with those you love.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

You Say Football, I Call It Soccer

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As we continue our semi-isolation, we are ever vigilant for some new, engaging television shows on which to binge.  My wife and I just recently finished the six episode mini-series from Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. It’s called The English Game and it is currently streaming on Netflix.  It is an excellent depiction of the early years of the game the English call football. For some reason we, in the United States, call it soccer.

Based very loosely on historical events, the series follows the lives of its two main characters: Arthur Kinnard, an upper class gentleman and founding member of the Football Association (FA) which sought to provide rules and structure to a fledgling sport; and Fergus Suter, a working-class man who made his living as a stone mason who dared dream of a life playing the game he grew to love. These two individuals, who actually existed, did more than most to build the game of football/soccer into a global obsession.

Excellent character development, interesting historical elements, and dramatic pacing and flow make this a must-see show for those of us starved for entertainment diversions.  I heartily recommend it.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Safer at Home – Day Twenty-Three

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April 24, 2020

I spent much of the day running some 8mm and Super 8 film for a client in order to convert it to a digital form so it can be put on a DVD or USB flash drive. I would say that 95% of the film I receive in our studio is silent. The video cameras of the 1970s and 1980s that included a built in microphone were a bit pricey and most families opted for the more reasonable silent film option.

Which leads me to today’s topic… What is my favorite silent film?

There’s a lot to choose from. My favorite happens to rank #11 on the best silent film list on IMDB.com (international Movie Database). Not surprisingly, Charlie Chaplin directed three of the top four films. But my favorite was not a Chaplin film, although they are all worthy. Instead my choice goes to one of his contemporaries.

In 1926, the incomparable Buster Keaton starred in a Civil War comedy/action/drama called The General. It has long been recognized as a masterful example of its form. A mere 67 minutes long, it tells the story of a train engineer who tried to join the Confederate Army when the war broke out only to be rejected because he was too valuable in his job. But his sweetheart, Annabelle Lee, thinks him to be a coward. When his beloved train, “The General,” is stolen by Union spies with Annabelle Lee on board, he must move heaven and earth to rescue both.

Keaton is at his best here with his deadpan delivery making the amazing stunts and action sequences more humorous than we might expect. I heartily recommend it if you haven’t seen it. After all, being told to stay at home can have its advantages.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Safer At Home Journal

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April 4, 2020 – Day Two

I’ve been seeing a lot of Facebook or Internet challenges online. I guess it is a way for people to pass some time as they grow increasingly bored with the self-imposed confinement.

So I decided to come up with a challenge of my own.  The following was posted on my personal facebook page earlier today.

As we continue to obey our stay at home orders, one thing that is sure to increase (other than our waistline) is the amount of TV we will be watching. This leads me to issue a little Internet challenge.

People may not know this but I spent 10 years (1998 – 2008) as “the Christian Critic”. Under the name Michael Elliott, I published reviews of the films of Hollywood and embedded in each review was a biblical parable. I used some element of the film to explain or illustrate a biblical principle. I get that we all want a little entertainment escape from what is happening in the world around us. But, in my view, we always need to embrace the spiritual truths of God that can comfort and embolden us in times of trouble. One doesn’t necessarily preclude the other.

While I was writing these reviews, I often explained the purpose of them by saying, “Art reflects life; but God created life.” Any art form, by this definition, has to include elements of God’s truths – whether inserted intentionally or unintentionally. It just requires us to look a little deeper and reflect a little more while watching them.

It all started one day as I was watching The Man in the Iron Mask with Leonardo Dicaprio back in 1998. While watching, I suddenly became acutely aware of some parallels between the movie and a teaching I recently gave in our home Bible fellowship. I wrote down my thoughts and vowed that going forward, I would try to find a biblical illustration in every film I watched. As it turns out I was always able to find them – over 1,000 films in a 10 year period. Perhaps it was because I started to actively look for them. So I challenge you to do the same. Enjoy the films you watch… but then also use that time to reflect on God’s Word. Trust me, it’s a win-win.

Here’s the first review I ever wrote back in 1998:

The Man in the Iron Mask – review by Michael Elliott. Dec 6, 1998

Good vs. evil is the classic formula for conflict in movies as well as in life. This time, in The Man in the Iron Mask by writer/director Randall Wallace, those fighting on the side of good are the famous harbingers of justice, heroism, and duty: The Three Musketeers. Albeit they are a bit older, larger around the middle, and more disillusioned with life. Fighting against them, on the side of evil, is the son of the man they once served so faithfullly, Louis XIV, king of France, played by Leonardo Dicaprio.

Caught in the middle of this moral struggle is D’Artagnan played by Gabriel Bryne. D’Artagnan is the one-time “fourth musketeer,” now serving as captain of the guard. For reasons of his own, he has continued to serve king and country despite the less than worthy character of the one occupying the throne.

As France starves under the iron hand of King Louis, our retired Musketeers find themselves inexplicably drawn into the center of the fray. Banding together once more to save France, and perhaps their own souls, they concoct a plan, the success of which hinges upon the rescue and cooperation of the title character, a man imprisoned by Louis and forced to wear a mask welded about his head to ensure his anonymity.

DiCaprio is afforded an opportunity to flex his acting muscles in the dual role of the king and title character. Exploring the polar regions of man’s regions, he succeeds in that he keeps each of his characterizations somewhat one-dimensional. The king is truly evil. The man in the iron mask is truly good. And thus the internal struggle facing all humans can be clearly seen as it is manifested between these two characters.

The internal struggle of man is also embodied in the much more complex personas of The Three Musketeers: Aramis (Jeremy Irons) is seen struggling with the knowledge of past wrongs as he seeks redemption and forgiveness. Athos (John Malkovich) is seen struggling with grief as he seeks revenge. Porthos (Gerard Depardieu) is seen struggling with the pains of growing older while seeking a revitalization of his passion for life.

These struggles, because they are of the personal, internal kind, are perhaps the most intriguing to watch. Depardieu is especially brilliant in his humorous portrayal of a man, once larger then life, now coping with the reality of being merely life-sized.

The main story line which drives the movie is quite reminiscent of the record of Joseph which can be read in Genesis (chapters 39 – 41). Life the man in the iron mask, Joseph was unjustly imprisoned for an extended period of time. He maintained his integrity and decency throughout his wrongful imprisonment. Following his deliverance from prison, he rose to a position of great influence whereby he was able to save an entire nation from certain ruin.

In addition to the story line itself, the characterization of The Three Musketeers is also fodder for a discussion of spiritual truths. At one point, as they attempt to convince D’Artagnan to join their rebellion, Athos makes the point that, ideally, they should have a king worthy of their service.

As Christians, we live that ideal. We serve the one who will be the king of kings (Revelation 17:14). We may not be his “musketeers” but we are his ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) and he is well worthy of the service we render him.

Later in the movie, the musketeers, facing insurmountable odds, are forced to make a decision that many great men of the Bible have had to make. Is it better to live and betray what is right, or should one be willing to risk everything from one’s beliefs? Their decision will surprise no one. What happens as a result of their decision is quite thrilling and speaks to the benefit of always conducting one’s life by the standard of honor, integrity, valor, and courage. The standard of truth.

We may never be called to test our commitment to the truth in such a life or death manner. But the internal struggle of good vs. evil still rages within each of us. Who will be the ones who have the conviction and strength of will to resist that which runs contrary to what is right? Who are the musketeers among us? And who will be the musketeers of tomorrow? Believe it or not, these are questions which one day will be answered. And in that day, we shall learn and live the true meaning of “All for One and One for All.”

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

I Work In a Time Machine

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One of the best things about my business is the environment in which I work. It is kind of like stepping into a time capsule every day. Our studio may not be as snappy as a modified DeLorean fitted with a working  flux capacitor, but it often provides the same effect… we constantly find ourselves going “back to the future.”

This past week we spent a lot of time converting old audio recordings to CDs and mp3s. It was a blast from the past hearing a high school graduation ceremony – class of ’63. The students who graduated that year will be celebrating at their 55th reunion this year. I’m sure they would be mesmerized to hear their thoughts and dreams for the future (now the past) expressed on audiotape so many years ago. Thanks to our work, they’ll be able to.

I also had the pleasure of listening to one of my client’s parents encouraging her to talk while she was just a babe. She now has children of her own and will be going through that process again, this time taking the role of the parent teaching the child.

Time is a treasured commodity at Home Video Studio and a day doesn’t go by that we don’t recognize the importance of the many moments that have been recorded for posterity. There’s a reason we, as a people, do it. And there’s a reason we all keep schlepping boxes of these treasured memories around with us from house to house… even when we no longer have the equipment that can play them.

As the title of my blog says… Memories Matter. And because they do, we stand ready to help you ensure that your recorded memories can stand against the test of time. So instead of keeping all those memories locked away on archaic media that can no longer be accessed, bring them to us and give us the opportunity to deliver your past back to the future.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Tap Tap Tap… Tap Tap Tap

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You just never know who is going to walk into the studio on any given day.  Yesterday it was a delightful young lady of 84 who just wanted a DVD of one of her tap dancing performances to be copied.  But this was not just any transfer of an old performance of years gone by. This was a recording of a recent show. As a matter of fact, at 84, she is still teaching tap to anyone who would like to learn.

I had to ask, since I’ve been an admirer of tap dancers for some time, who her favorite all time tap dancer was.  I was expecting the usual suspects.  Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ann Miller, etc… Her reply was instant and a bit of a surprise. Without missing a beat she blurted out, Dan Dailey.

In my age group, Dailey was not all that well known as a tap dancer… to be frank, he probably wasn’t all that well known at all.  I remember seeing him in a 60s sitcom called The Governor and JJ in which he starred with Julie Sommars. It only lasted a few seasons. But, as it turns out, he was quite a hoofer in his younger days.

After bouncing about MGM in a few modest parts, his big break came after he returned from WWII and was allowed to sign a contract with 20th Century Fox. They paired him with their biggest female star, Betty Grable, in the musical Mother Wore Tights. He would eventually co-star with her in two other films. He had another big hit with Give My Regards to Broadway which boasted an all-star lineup. He then had a string of semi-successful films but the film I remember him in most was a sports biopic where he played Dizzy Dean in The Pride of St Louis.

If you still can’t quite place him, here’s a snippet of a musical number from It’s Always Fair Weather with Dailey, Gene Kelly and Michael Kidd as soldiers returning home from the war.  (Dailey is the tall lanky fellow.)

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

 

I Talk To The Trees

 

Sometimes, I feel a bit like Rodney Dangerfield… I get no respect.  After I shopped for, prepared and cooked a scrumptious dinner – (Indian Curry with Chicken and Peas – here’s the recipe), we sat around the dinner table to enjoy good food and pleasant conversation.

We talked about our day which, for all of us, seemed to be very busy.  My wife had a full day planned and didn’t get to any of it as chore after chore  prevented her from carrying out her schedule.

I brought my laptop home to catch up on some video editing in between handling some finances and repairing a curtain rod that needed fixing. I worked all day long.

I then turned to my 90 year old mother-in-law who had thus far been silent and said, “What about you Laura? What do you have to complain about?”

“I don’t complain,” she replied, “Nobody listens to me anyway.”

I jokingly broke into song. #I talk to the trees but they don’t listen to me. I talk to the stars but they never hear me. The breeze hasn’t time…#  I stopped as I saw both my wife and mother-in-law staring at me with confused expressions.

“What?” I said, “That’s from Paint Your Wagon. It’s a famous song. Clint Eastwood sang it in the movie.”

Without missing a beat, my mother-in-law turned to my wife and deadpanned, “I hope he sang it better than that.”

No respect.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

As You Wish

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Some movies just have a special place in your heart or mind.  I found out that my mother-in-law had never seen The Princess Bride so we took the time last night to watch it. It is, for me, classic storytelling. And I never get tired of watching it. That is the sole criterion for me when looking to put together a top ten list of favorite films. That, no matter how many times I may have seen it, it never fails to draw me into its world when I see it again.

While my Top Ten list is an ever fluctuating and always incomplete thing, here are some of the films that I’ve seen multiple times and have not been bored by them yet.

It’s a Wonderful Life – is always at the top of my list. An average, good, decent man comes to discover how impactful his life has been.

The Shawshank Redemption – a riveting tale of perseverance and hope set in the bleakest of all places.

A Few Good Men – I’ve always been a sucker for courtroom dramas or legal thrillers. This one, about a military court-martial, never fails to entertain.

Pretty Much any Pixar film – Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Monsters Inc, Up, Ratatouille, Toy Story… the fact that they place the story and characters on an equal if not higher plane than their animation is what makes this team so successful.

Hacksaw Ridge – Films that depict actual events, when done well, will always capture my interest. This one particularly so because I learned that the filmmakers chose to leave some events out as they thought the audience would think them too unbelievable – even though they did actually happen. It is a remarkable story of courage and conviction.

Being There – a fanciful tale of a man whose only frame of reference to life has been what he has seen on TV. Peter Sellers is masterful in the role.

The Star Trek reboot – breathing new life into an old series whose audience appeal appeared to be waning is no small feat. That J.J. Abrams successfully did it, not just with Star Trek, but also with Star Wars defies all odds. Brilliantly conceived.

These are just a few of the films I’ve enjoyed watching and rewatching over the years. I’m sure you have your own list of favorites. But nothing Hollywood puts out can ever match the level of joy derived from re-watching your own life played out on the screen via your digitalized home movies.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

 

Final Cut

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There was a Robin Williams film made in 2004 called Final Cut.  It was somewhat panned by the critics but generally liked by the movie-going public. In it, Williams played a man known as a “cutter.” In this futuristic reality, people would pay to have microchips installed in their brains that would record everything they saw and heard during their lifetimes. Upon their death, the chip would be extracted and given to a “cutter” who would then edit all that recorded information down to a viewable video summary of a life lived, cutting out any of the negative or emotionally troubling memories the surviving family members wish to forget.

In a way, it’s kind of what I can do for people – except for that creepy “install a microchip in your brain” element.  People bring me their films, video, photographs, audio recordings, etc. to digitalize them. Once they have been converted to a digital form, many clients take the extra step and have me edit out the unwanted aspects of their past – or edit in a missing aspect.

Do you have a family photo that is absolutely perfect except for the fact that Dad was behind the camera and therefore not in the shot? I can add him to the picture and blend him in so it looks like he was always there. Are all the videos of your children growing up painful to watch because your ex’s voice could be heard throughout as he “directed” the kids? Keep the images of the kids and replace the audio track with a more pleasurable musical score.

I often tell my clients that with today’s digital technology, we are limited by only two things.  Budget and imagination. If we can think it and afford it, it can be done.

I often check out this site when I want a good laugh. James Fridman has mastered the tools of the trade and people will send him their photos requesting specific changes. But it is how he interprets their requests that always makes me laugh.  Take a look here.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

My First Blog… Over 20 Years Ago

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You may not know this but Memories Matter isn’t my first trip around the blogosphere. It has been a full ten years since I retired as The Christian Critic. Between 1998 and 2008, I wrote movie reviews and film commentaries under the name of Michael Elliott.  My reviews were published in the website/blog Movie Parables and in a few syndicated columns scattered across small towns.

My very first review was the Leonardo DiCaprio 1998 film, The Man In The Iron Mask. After that, over the next ten years, I reviewed pretty much every major film that was given a national release in the U.S. In addition to providing the traditional critical appraisal of the film, I added a unique twist. I looked for (and always managed to find) a way to use the film or an aspect of it to make a biblical connection.

For instance, the familiar quote from Mr. Spock in the Star Trek series “Live long and prosper,” is more than Vulcan greeting… it is a biblical promise that can be found in both Ephesians chapter 6 and 3 John chapter 1.

In the Disney animated classic, “Pinnochio.” Jimmy Cricket tell us that “a conscience is that still small voice that people won’t listen to.” The line has even more poignance when you replace the word conscience with God. After all, “a still small voice” is how He is described in 1 Kings 19.

Writing the Christian Critic blog was a great time of spiritual growth and development for me because it forced me to look at the world through the filter of God’s Word. In addition to reading the Bible for understanding, I began to see more clearly how it can be practically applied to our lives. God did not give us His Word just so we could read it… It is meant to be lived.

That blog led to the publication of two books, Thus Saith Hollywood (vol 1 and 2). They are still available on Amazon and, come to think of it, in my studio… I think I still have a carton left somewhere.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.