Shanté wasn’t expecting to find a film crew waiting for her when she showed up for family Christmas, but the experience made the Barun family’s holiday one to remember.
As is true of all of the Barun kids, Shanté doesn’t have as much leisure time to spend with her family as she used to. So when she walked into their Christmas gathering in December 2014 expecting a relaxed evening, she was caught off guard to find a camera crew waiting. The Baruns were beginning their journey of capturing their family history with a Christmas photo and video shoot.
“It took me back a little bit to the days when Ken, my stepdad, was working for McDonald’s and had more of these high-profile events going on constantly,” Shanté said.
It didn’t phase her for long though. Shanté doesn’t mind being in front of the camera and she’s comfortable thinking on her feet. She and her sisters thrive on making people laugh, Shanté said, but she completely understands that not all of her siblings feel that way.
“I honestly think some of them were probably taken aback and definitely needed that glass of wine or a craft beer to help ease the small anxieties that come with being on the camera,” she laughed.
Though being interviewed on camera may not be everyone’s comfort zone, Shanté said the FamilyArc crew quickly eased their nerves. They took time to explain the filming process and helped each family member operate optimally, even under the lights of the cameras and the eyes of their family.
“Even though I’m comfortable in those kind of situations, the crew was a huge help to me because I didn’t know what I was walking into,” Shanté said. “It was done in such a way that was relatively nurturing.”
The whole family sat in the living room as the crew gave each sibling a chance to talk about a favorite memory and something they appreciate about Ken and Sethea. The room was filled with laughter, jests, and interjections as family members tried to add to or correct one another’s stories.
The siblings teased Seth that his well-spoken tribute was incredibly hard to follow. Here’s Seth sharing about the day he graduated college and one of his favorite memories about his dad and best friend.
Shelsea talks about wrecking her first car—a birthday gift from her parents—and how her dad’s response reveals some of the qualities she loves most about him.
Having their parents in the same room and being asked to talk about them brings up a unique dynamic. Shanté described it almost like a roast, yet the goal was obviously not to demean anyone.
“You’re purposely bringing up things that are embarrassing or trying to yank someone’s chain, but it was interesting to be able to tell these stories knowing that they’re going to be hearing them,” Shanté said.
Even the crew couldn’t stifle their laughter at Adam’s story about Sethea, but his respect for her was also very evident.
Though there hundreds of stories the Barun siblings could have told about their parents, seeing which ones stuck out enough to come to mind on camera offered a window into their lives and what they value about Ken and Sethea.
The temptation to censor yourself while in front of a camera is strong, Shanté said, but she insists that being honest is extremely valuable in this scenario. (Their family also knew the FamilyArc crew would use discretion when editing the film.)
“I knew that if I wasn’t candid as I was, I would probably regret it, because in 10 or 15 years when we look at these things, they’re going to be even more interesting and more hilarious,” Shanté said. “I think there’s a huge benefit to capturing what it was like at that time specifically this past Christmas but then also talking about what it was like eons ago.”
Capturing interviews on camera also made space for conversations that may not have happened otherwise. Though Louis often gets teased about not marrying into the family … yet … he still views Ken as a father figure in many ways and he took the opportunity to tell the family that.
Shanté said the whole experience brought a new element to their Christmas get-together. Not only was there laughter and touching moments, but bringing up those old stories changed the tone of their gathering in many ways.
“After having the crew there and everyone being around, it caused us to talk more about not only Christmases past, but things that we had done as a family and it was a great way to bring up old, fun stories,” she said. “It added a different element of nostalgia to our holiday as a whole.”
It also gave the siblings a longevity of perspective as they thought about these videos and capture memories being around for generations to come. Even if those generations are still far off thoughts. Here’s Louis’ description of Ken for Ken and Sethea’s future grandkids.
Shanté said she definitely sees the value in doing another session with a film crew to keep up with their family’s story. Her gut reaction is to say the crew should come back once every three to five years, but she started rethinking that after looking through her photos recently.
“I was looking through my phone and noticing the time stamps of something from a year ago today and thinking about all the things that have transpired in the last 12 months; I’m a totally different person than I was.”
Sometimes things change overnight, and sometimes they take much longer, but the reality is that everyone is changing and growing every day. Shanté and the rest of the Barun family are not who they were a year or two or three ago. Shanté said she thinks it would be valuable for the family to reconvene for another video session in a year to 18 months so the documentation can continue to grow with their family.