Building a Tribute Video Business with Celebrities and Blasts from the
TORONTO, Aug. 29 /CNW/ -A bout of insomnia spawned a quirky small
business which, in 20 years, has seen thousands of celebrities and civilians
alike take their turn in front of the camera.
CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, director
Norman Jewison, titans of industry and five Canadian prime ministers have
participated in Your Life Productions' tribute and roast videos, alongside
favorite teachers, ex-girlfriends, first bosses and, of course, friends and
"The videos are usually done for events like landmark birthdays,
milestone wedding anniversaries, retirement parties and person-of-the-year
fundraisers," said company founder Bob Pomerantz, whose camera crews have
visited more than 15 countries to get the goods on more than 200 honorees,
since the company was founded in 1987. Many of the videos are prepared in
secret and sprung on an unsuspecting honoree at their special occasion.
While most of the shooting is done in studios, corporate offices and in
people's homes, more exotic locations have included jail cells, corporate
jets, courtrooms, lavatories, classrooms - even a nudist colony.
The video biographies have taken the form of game shows; reality shows;
movie parodies; the Evening News; funny infomercials and commercials;
traditional documentaries; phony "Q&As"- even entire specialty TV channels
based on a person's life and personality.
"I'll never forget 'The Maltese Stikeman', done to honour (the late)
Heward Stikeman, of Stikeman Elliott law firm fame, at a fundraiser in
Montreal. I got to direct Stikeman's childhood friend, Christopher Plummer, in
a comedy bit. We also got to do funny sketches with people like (the
Olympics') Dick Pound, and (former federal cabinet minister) Marc Lalonde - it
was quite a thrill."
Pomerantz never dreamed of starting a business, or working in what is
essentially not-for-broadcast TV production. The former newspaper writer and
editor had been working the overnight shift in late 1986 at the Toronto Star
and not getting much day-time sleep. To clear his head, Pomerantz took a
highway drive, and was dreaming about ways to escape shift-work when he had an
odd epiphany - making "This Is Your Life-type" movies. He was so excited, he
pulled off at the nearest exit, called his sister, and before he knew it, was
producing a "test" tribute video for his brother-in-law's 40th birthday party
- with a February, 1987 deadline.
He gathered together a couple of print-journalism pals, and called
acquaintance Jeff Ansell, who was then a TV reporter at Toronto's CITY-TV.
Ansell brought himself and a freelancing CITY cameraman to the table, an
editing suite was secured and-presto! - the screening debut of "Fred Marcus: A
Life." The 20-minute biopic featured, among others, Fred's first girlfriend,
his favorite high school history teacher, and his dentist.
"I was terrified, because I really didn't know what I was doing," said
Pomerantz, who writes and produces many of the shows. "But they laughed, they
cried - it felt good, and I was hooked."
He did it part-time for 18 months, then quit his staff job at the
newspaper to do it full-time. Since then, he's had more than his share of
adventures and rubbing elbows with celebrities.
Biggest eye-opener in 20 years? "Brian Mulroney being funny and a good
sport - he did some self-deprecating humour in a video for (Rogers
Communications executive) Tony Viner, and for a 50th birthday video for
(Indigo! founder) Heather Reisman.
"But Conrad Black was a close second: very funny, and really friendly.
Even gave us cookies."
For further information:
For further information: Bob Pomerantz: (416) 762-4100; tollfree: (877)
862-4100; firstname.lastname@example.org; yourlifeproductions.com