My Best Gift Ever: Time Capsule for a Grandmother

Recently, we received a note from Bonnie Fagan, a grandmother who received a Signature Portrait from Portraits that Move as a gift from her daughter and grandchildren.

Bonnie has been kind enough to allow us to share her words with you, words that speak to the power of Portraits that Move and our mission of sharing joy and celebrating family.

Months ago my daughter gave me a Portraits that Move video of my two grandsons living in Brooklyn, New York.  We are many miles away from one another, but this video keeps me smiling and happy.  I look at it weekly it seems.  Just want to feel the love even though I can’t just reach out and touch them.

The spirit of each child was captured in just minutes... their image and personality captured in a short time capsule.  I feel so grateful that I have this to switch on when I miss the boys the most.

Thank  you for thinking of this great idea... my best gift ever!  To me this has been truly priceless. 

- Bonnie Fagan, from Washington DC and Badger’s Island Maine

On the Celebration of Getting Older

I had a birthday this week! I love my birthday because I love celebration, friends, family, and of course, cake. I have so much to celebrate this year, my son is flourishing, my work is going well and I have a new, incredible love in my life.

I also have had some health struggles this year, which have, for now, gone away. After a rough summer with them, I am left feeling appreciative for feeling better and excited for another new year. I have a deep and profound gratitude for more time on the planet with those I love. I look at getting older as a privilege and as something that is exciting. 

I already wrote about the wonderful surprise party I had a couple weeks ago. The celebrating did not stop there!  I had an amazing vegan dinner with my family last week and on the actual day- a romantic dinner with my cherished boyfriend.

Fortunately for me, my guy values documenting life just as much as I do. He often has a camera in his hand and savors the good moments of life. And luckily our dinner was no exception.

holiday celebrations portraits that mvoe

Having a birthday of course brings up things we constantly talk about at Portraits that Move; how short life is and how fast it goes by. We have a need to experience the moment and also to capture it. We love what we do and get excited about the opportunity to do it this time of year.

portraits that move celebrates holidays

Halloween is coming up and just beyond it, the holiday season. We are doing our holiday work now, so that our clients will be ready for the season with their Portraits that Move Video Holiday Cards. They will have the image, the sounds, the movement, the documentation of their beautiful families.

I have gratitude to you for allowing this work to be part of my life. I celebrate that and now is the season that I get to help you celebrate your family.

We are hosting two Holiday Video Card Shoot Dates: Saturday, October 15 (2 hour slots from 10:00 am - 4:00 pm) and Sunday, November 6 (2 hour slots from 10:00 am - 6:00 pm).

Complete the form below to get more information and to reserve your timeslot.

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I would like to book a Holiday Video Shoot on the following day:
Please contact me with more information about the Holiday Video Shoot Sessions



Peek at Our Filmmaking Process

We talked with Max and Julian about video games, superpowers and what they love about mom.  We talked about how it feels to have a brother and to be one.

Throughout the Portraits that Move filming process, we asked Max and Julian questions independently and together.  We gave them space and time to really talk to us, to do more than introduce themselves and some of their favorite books and keepsakes (Harry Potter, a panda photo). 

Our questions and the environment we create during a Portraits that Move film shoot, allowed these adorable, imaginative boys, ages seven and nine, to tell us about some of their aspirations and their concerns. And as always, we got some priceless responses.

"growing up makes me scared because I have to pay taxes and make money"

"I appreciate my family because they're nice to me and they care about me.  I love them."

Like all of our portrait length and snapshot films, we as filmmakers and the family who received the final product, developed a new insight into children's lives.  And what a gift that is!

Discover your own Portraits that Move Portrait or Snapshot.

Like Most Parents, I Want to Bottle Up My Kids' Youth and Vitality: Notes from Mom, Kim Goldin

Before I say anything else, I first want to disclose that Susannah Ludwig, owner and creator of Portraits That Move, is one of my closest and longest-standing friends in the world.  You may think this provides me an organic bias, which perhaps it does, but on the flip-side it has allowed me access to the initial concept and works to date from the start; I have had more time to invest than most in falling in love with the service, dreaming about what a video of my children might look like.

Like most parents, I want to capture my kids' youth and vitality, and put it in a bottle for me to access at any given point in time.  They are growing far too fast, and with always being behind the camera, I often lose out on many moments as a result of trying to capture their spontaneous antics.  The irony of course, is that you cannot both adequately document and experience a moment at the same time.  Enter Portraits That Move.

Also like most parents, we don’t have unlimited funds to spend on anything deemed “extra” but had seen enough of these videos to know that the joy one would provide our family would be long-term.  We saw it as an investment we would cherish, like a piece of fine art.  Having decided to move our family to the UK for a three-year adventure this past summer, we felt that capturing our daughters’ thoughts and fears and excitement about this move would be an excellent platform for a Part I of II video, highlighting who they were before we went, with the plan for the second video to document how they have changed while abroad when we return.    

custom video portraits that move review

I cannot stress enough how pleased we were with the end product of our first video!!  Between the amazing interview questions and tactics to put our girls at ease, the outstanding videography that captured the intimate side of our children when they didn’t know anyone was watching, and the brilliant story they painted via expert editing, we have a masterpiece like no other, that brings us joy each time we watch it—which we continue to do many months later.  

I cannot recommend Portraits That Move enough—a video of your children is a gift-to-self like no other.

Kim Goldin

Happy and satisfied cheerleader for Portraits That Move

Dreaming of Growing Up

One of the things that I most love to ask kids is what they want to be when they grow up. I find the answers they provide exciting, compelling and quite astute.  Kids are able to dream, they do not let limitations inhibit them. They are tapped into their strengths, their interests and what brings them joy. The world is open to them and it is incredible.

I get really excited about the idea of following our kids, as they get older to see if they hold onto the same dreams or if they change them in the some way.  I want to reflect their beauty, power and greatness to them. I want them to know that I believe in their biggest dreams.

As I child I dreamed of being an actress, a gymnast or a teacher. Although I started making video at fourteen years old, I never imagined my work would bring me to this path, this place, this moment. It is more fun, and more fulfilling that I ever thought it could be.  I wish the same for all of our kids.

Here’s to them and to the dreams ahead.

Take a Break - Enjoying and Planning Vacation Time with Kids

It's vacation week for many families here in New York City.  Some of us are staying local and the kids are heading to playdates and activities, others are visiting family and flying to warmer climates.  Any time we escape our typical routines the days can have a special magic. Especially, when we take a little extra time to listen, to share our stories and to enjoy what makes each one of our children - and our families - so unique.

restful vacation staycation memories

At Portraits that Move, we encourage families to take vacations together, with grandparents and siblings, and to remember, whether traveling or trying out a staycation, to disconnect from stress and to connect with our kids.  Any time away from the daily grind, whether a week or a day, is time to create memories large and small, and to give our kids the space they need to talk, to listen, to share, and to love.

vacation package custom family vacation films

This is also the time of year for summer vacation planning.  At Portraits that Move we are thrilled to offer our Vacation Video Package again this year.  This is perfect for families who want to document the beauty of their vacations. From the destination itself to the experiences they inspire, we are able to come along and document it all for you to come back to and enjoy for years to come, during the busy times when we need to remember the joy we find together.

Telling My Story

In 1971 I was born prematurely with an extremely rare esophageal birth defect. I had several surgeries as a baby and spent much of my early life in and out of the hospital. It was touch-and-go for a very long time. Most of my childhood after about age 3 was healthy and my health stabilized until I was about 21.

Since age 21, I have had 3 major surgeries to repair my esophagus, hundreds of tests and several long hospitalizations. My digestion will never be “normal,” and the struggle I deal with is constant and consistent. It is at times harrowing, often uncomfortable, and extremely confusing.

I have alluded to my health struggle before without ever telling my full story. I have always known that my experience is what allows me to tap into the richness of life and that I bring that to all of the conversations we have with kids, most especially to those with illness. I am deeply aware of how short life is, how fleeting and how meaningful.

So, why now? An opportunity came into my life to tell my story as part of a show ONLY HUMAN on NPR's WNYC.  I meditated on it and decided that sharing my experience could be helpful to others. When I looked deep down, I recognized that it was unfair to ask others to share their experiences if I was not willing to share my own. 

Listen to me tell my story:

I hope it makes you laugh, brings you some insight into who I am and why documentation is so important to me. I hope it moves you, makes you think, and encourages you to share.

Thank you for listening, for reading this blog, for sharing your own stories and most of all for supporting me and our work. All stories are worth telling and I appreciate your support in our mission to do so.  

Definition of a Hero

Last week we shot some footage for a campaign of work we are doing with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. ALSF is an organization that raises money to fund childhood cancer research.  Last year we created four videos for Alex's Lemonade Stand and this year we are creating more.

We had the opportunity to meet a little boy named Cole and his family who are ALSF heroes. Cole is 11 years old and in remission from cancer. Cole is a powerful kid. He has a huge smile and his zest for life is infectious.

The definition of hero is a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds or noble qualities.  Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation defines all the children that are battling childhood cancer, as heroes and I could not agree more. In my experience spending time with these children (or any other child batting serious illness) these children are motivated, filled with fun and grateful for their lives.

Being in their presence puts things into perspective.  It makes you stop, take stock and assess things. Emotionally, it is the opposite of what one would expect. It is actually uplifting. These children are generous, open and kind. They take each moment seriously, which forces the same for those in their lives. They celebrate everything and joy radiates from them.

I can’t wait to share this video once we finish it and the others that will follow. I feel lucky to have met Cole, Edie, Kaela, Tony and others, and I so look forward to getting a moment to share in their joy and helping to fight the fight of childhood cancer in our own way.

How My Role as Film Producer Trained Me for Motherhood

I was 36 years old when I had my son. I always knew I wanted children, ideally, lots of them. I babysat at a young age, taught at camps and felt energetic and excited whenever I had the chance to be in the presence of children.

I spent my twenties and thirties building my career. I love my work and I always have. I am driven and passionate about being a filmmaker. I have been lucky enough to have worked on incredible projects, with talented, inspiring people.

By the time I was 36 I had been on the team of four narrative, theatrical films and I had produced documentaries for PBS, MSNBC, Ovation TV, Court TV, IFC and other networks. I had won a producing fellowship at Sundance, had produced countless corporate videos and commercials and had several big projects in development.

I was so invested in my work that I took on the production of a documentary, Close-Up Photographers at Work, 8 weeks before my son was due and it aired 4 days before his due date. I loved that project and thankfully, my son was patient.  He arrived two days late, so I had a couple days of downtime before he arrived. I think he and I were always in sync - even then.

newborn baby lessons motherhood and family documentary filmmaking

As all parents know, once my son was born, my world got turned upside-down. I fell madly, deeply in love with him and at the same time, I felt incredibly panicked about how out of control my life seemed.

I wanted to be with him all the time, yet I felt pulled back to my work. Ultimately, I found an amazing balance and it worked out beautifully for both of us.

And as both my son and I grew, I realized that being a producer is excellent training for becoming a parent. As a producer you need to do the following things, all of which prepare you for the challenges and responsibilities of parenting:

You plan everything   

A well thought out schedule is the backbone of any good production. As a parent, planning and structure are important. Children thrive when there is a rhythm and a familiarity to their lives.

You expect change and are able to roll with it when it happens

Things change in production all the time. People change their involvement with the project. Things get started and then halted. Even weather can change a shoot unexpectedly. 

It is the same with children; they have their own ideas, needs and intentions. And sometimes, as parents, we have to be ok with throwing our plans to the wind.

You encourage them to be their best selves

Producing is about collaboration. Once you have hired the best team possible, you have to do everything you can to support them in bringing all they are to the work they do.

The role of mother is exactly the same. You learn what your child needs, what makes them tick and how to encourage the most authentic manifestation of who they are.

You listen

Whether I am in conversation with a director, client, crew member or my son, I listen with my full attention.  I want them to be heard and to know their voices and opinions are important. 

Lilah tells us at she loves out her mom as we kick off our Mother's Day celebration.

It is in collecting thoughts and creating an environment of trust that the best films and the best parenting happens.

You trust that they will have the life meant for them

Films and children have their own paths. It is not my job to define what that path is, but to gently support and suggest things along the way. It is not up to me, entirely, when a film gets released or what my son’s interests are.

I can listen to what the film tells me and heed the cues my son gives me.

You create space with love

With films it is the director’s responsibility to dig deep and tell the truest story possible. With parenting, our responsibility is to accept and love our children exactly as they are. In both cases, it is critical that a platform is created for this acceptance and love. 

I work hard to do this every day with my son and with Portraits That Move.

Since having my son, I have made some of my best work, On Mediation, Kings Point, Boomtown and many more.  Now, with the work we do here at Portraits that Move, creating documentaries for families, I am so thankful to get to do this every day, to get to be a mother to my son and to have both of these worlds so intertwined, informed and strengthened by each other.

Be a Leader and a Follower - Advice from Grandma Rose


My grandmother, Rose Ludwig, was an extremely wise woman. She lived to be almost 93 years old and had a great deal to teach all of us about life, love, and relationships. She studied psychology and was interested in what makes people tick - especially when it came to matters of the heart. She was happily married for 45 years, so I guess, she knew what she was talking about.

leaders and followers avice from documentary filmmakers.png

We were very close. One day she said to me, “In every relationship one person is a leader and the other is a follower and it is important that these roles should be able to shift and each person is able to switch places.”  The other day it occurred to me that this is an important theory in regards to how we do our work.

When we show up at someone’s home to shoot a portrait or a snapshot, we have a plan. We have spoken with your family ahead of time and have a structure in mind. We have a system, one that we have carefully created. However, when we get there if the kids want us to know something other than what we have planned, we follow their lead. We let them guide us- we let their truths be the path. We listen carefully to the child, to their needs and to the needs of all of those involved.

family documentary

The listening can become almost meditative. It is about openness, feeling, sensing and then following. Listening is an empowering act. And ultimately one from which you can derive tremendous knowledge and power. If you listen carefully enough you will know the answers to make the best decisions. One has to be able to follow in order to lead well.

This is important in parenting as well. We are our best selves when we listen, when we take in and absorb what our children need. In listening, we are empowered to be the best parents we can be.

I remember when my grandmother gave me her advice about being a leader and a follower.  I thought, who would want to ever be a follower? She was right though, and I have come to understand that sometimes following is the clearest path to leadership and to our truth.

Slow Down and Savor the Memories We Make Every Minute

As modern parents, our lives are busy, hectic, frenetic. We are trying to do more, achieve more, have more and our children are a huge part of this. We rely on technology to help us get it all done, and this can be a wonderful thing. The downside of this new pace of our lives is that everything is faster, including how quickly our children grow up and how fast we feel the time going by.

Before we know it, our children are 3, 5, 12 years old, and we realize we were so busy that we forgot to sit in the moment, to feel it, to treasure it. Sitting in the moment is hard, it pushes us to feel more, to recognize all that we have (and the flip side of that, all that we have to lose).

But it is this act of being present that is what is best for us and ultimately best for our children. When we take the time to live in the everyday, we are creating memories that we, and our children, will treasure.

The memories of small moments hold us and keep us close. The way a child looks, the way he phrases something, the things that are important to her, and to our families are worth documenting. Modern technology makes it easy to record these moments, but we too often do so in a way that is haphazard or flippant. We are fast about recording our lives, rather than intentional.  Just like we are often fast about living our lives, rather than intentional.

This is where Portraits that Move comes in. We help you to hold these moments in time with love, reverence and care. We stay present with you and then we give that moment back to you, to savor. In making our short documentary films for families, we slow down the frenetic pace of everyday life with kids and allow you to feel the real moments, the memories, of your child’s life, today. 

Learn more about how the Portraits that Move experience has helped parents to slow down, appreciate and savor moments with their kids. What about this time in your child's life do you want to remember most?