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Meet Susan E. Spehar of Metal Barn Productions Video Services in Jasper

Today we’d like to introduce you to Susan E. Spehar.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Susan. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I started doing personal oral histories in Miami in 2008. My company name back then was Visual Heirlooms, Inc. I would interview elder members of families and take the video footage back to my studio and edit it, adding old photos, heirlooms, music, etc. Whatever a family gave me to include.

When I retired in 2013, my husband and I moved to Jasper. I’m not a very good retiree. I couldn’t “relax” – something I’d always fantasized about doing when I was a busy corporate HR director. So used to being busy and learning new things, I started volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and eventually became the Chair of the Family Selection Committee. I still do that, and help out with other local non-profits like Hospice and a school lunch program for the needy. But I really missed doing the oral histories.

In 2014, I decided to start another company here in Jasper and built myself an office in our barn (which at the time was where my husband and I lived. Which is right across the drive from our new house.)

The name of this company is Metal Barn Productions, LLC. I immediately upgraded my editing equipment and software so for a while I would take a job here and there but mostly was getting up-to-speed with my new technology. Studying and practicing my craft in a new way.

I’m not a typical company. It’s just me. And I take the jobs I want to work on so that I don’t have to rush. I like to take my time and enjoy the process.

My clients are typically the adult children of parents who are “getting up in years.” The adult children are afraid their parents will “pass on” suddenly and they’ll lose a lot of history and old family stories. The adult children typically go in together to pay for the oral history and then at the end each of them buys a copy of the finished product which is resplendent with interview footage, family photos (captioned and ID’d), stories of heirlooms, voice overs and music. The preview process is conducted on www.Vimeo.com or www.YouTube.com. And, as I said, HD DVDs or Blu-Rays can be purchased by family members.

Editing oral histories is time consuming, but I plan to be doing this until the day I die … I love doing it that much.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It hasn’t been smooth. We moved to the deep South. We are transplants. We don’t know a lot of people and so networking is critical. Word of mouth has been my best friend. Facebook and a website help enormously.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I am known for trusting the interview process. I do have some 200 questions I can pick and choose from to ask my family subject matter expert, and the family hiring me also usually has questions they want answered about their parent’s past. I try to get all those answered in the two hours it usually takes me to get it all down on film.

I am a spiritual person. What happens in nine-times-out-of-10 is what I call ‘spiritual allowing.’ As my client relaxes and I relax, the conversation between us becomes very fluid, open and trusting and memories start to emerge from recesses of their mind that EVERYONE in the family had forgotten about. It’s surprising to my client, I ask them to just trust it. Relatives who watch the film later are so appreciative of the surprise stories that were shared.

I am always pleased when the adult children I worked with in the past let me know that their parent has graduated to the great beyond. Then they tell me how they and their children watch the film I have created over and over again and how wonderful it is for them to have and share with the descendants to come.

What sets me apart from others is that I am doing this because I love it, and have the luxury right now of time and patience. Since it’s just me, I don’t have a lot of overhead. I need to get paid, but it’s not the driving force in my company. Doing a great job, is.

What were you like growing up?
I was the second child in a very large 1950s family. I was the one who sat in my Aunt’s lap at family gatherings. Her lap was too big for anything but round dresses so I fit there comfortably at the age of six. There I feigned sleep and listened to the “adult” conversations and stories flying across the cigarette smoke.

It was a special kind of thrill to be able to sit at our kitchen table and hear things not meant for a young child’s ears. While most of what I heard was definitely not appropriate for a little girl, I was fascinated by my parent’s willingness to talk about it and even more impressed when my relatives would ask probing questions and get answers.

As a result of this early “training” I gleaned from the lap of my Aunt Celestine, a love of and for story telling was born. I became a good listener and interviewer. I became the child – and later the adult – who was always asking questions. Moth-to-a-flame. Irritating to most.

I believe that preserving family history for children, grandchildren and future generations – using video, especially – is the most loving and responsible action a parent or grandparent can do for their descendants. Indeed, it is my life’s mission to do as many of these as I can before I too, pass on.

Pricing:

  • 2-hour oral history interview, with or without predetermined questions Final Product is a 1-hour Hi-Def DVD or Blu-Ray edited tape Price: $2,000
  • 1-hour oral history interview, with or without predetermined questions Final Product is a 1/2 -hour Hi-Def DVD or Blu-Ray edited tape Total: $1,000

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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