Browsing through videos on Instagram of people dancing to songs, Jana Heller thought it might be fun for her family to make their own music video and shared the idea with her husband, Steven. Like many families across the country right now, the Heller family of Maple Valley, Wash., is staying home to help fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“It’s real easy to sit around the house and be bored,” Steven says. “It’s up to us parents that we make good memories. Let’s focus on things we can control and make memories that last.”
So, on a Thursday, they started brainstorming, deciding to recreate a music video, shot for shot, lip-syncing the words. When they found Journey’s “Separate Ways,” they knew they had found a winner.
“There were six people in it,” Steven says. “We could see how it could be shot around the house and yard. We got our kids on board; our oldest daughter got so excited.”
Lily, 15; Jackson, 14; Asher, 12; and Violet, 9; all pitched in the following day, raiding the closets for outfits and accessories to match the music video. The family didn’t have to spend a dime, though they did have to make a few alterations to their clothes, like spray-painting a checkerboard design on one of Steven’s shirts. Jana used one of her son’s red Scouts BSA shirts.
Using an iPhone to film and another iPhone to watch music video clips so they could accurately recreate them, the family worked on filming for more than 8 hours that Saturday. On Sunday, Steven edited the footage down to the 4-minute, 26-second final product and posted it on Vimeo. Watch the side-by-side comparison here:
Since the impromptu weekend project went online, major news outlets have shared it, and the family has appeared on the Today Show on NBC. As of April 21, the side-by-side video — originally only posted for the entertainment of friends and family — has eclipsed 750,000 views.
Though they’re not currently in Scouting, Steven credits his family’s time in the movement to helping complete their project. Steven started as a Cub Scout when his family lived in San Diego and continued after they moved to Spokane, Wash. He made it to the First Class rank. When Jackson and Asher were old enough, Steven and Jana enrolled them in Scouting, and Jana served as a den leader.
Scouting helped fine-tune everyone’s problem-solving skills and teamwork. Instead of drums, Jana grabbed buckets and trash cans. Asher plays the clarinet, but pretended to play the bass for the video. Lily, who plays the guitar, and Jackson, who taught himself how to play the piano, were naturals for those instruments.
Steven, an information technology director, and Jana, a nursing student, aren’t planning on making another viral video right now. That wasn’t the point. Spending time together and having fun was the real reward, and that’s what families should seek to do, Steven says.
“Find something that brings your family together,” he says. “You’ve got to get creative. That weekend is the part we’ll never forget.”