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Meet Tom Ladegaard of Eternal Roots

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tom Ladegaard.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Tom. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am a business litigation attorney of 15 years. I was disillusioned and burnt out from working at stressful and toxic law firms. Two years ago, when my 96-year old grandfather came to visit, I decided to put my legal skills to work in another context. I asked my grandfather if I could interview him and record his life story, and distribute the interview among the family. He said Yes.

Despite my experience in examining witnesses under oath, I was woefully unprepared for this task. My only video gear was an old Handycam, and I owned no tripod, microphone, or lighting, and I knew nothing about video editing. In lieu of a tripod, I placed my little camera on top of an unstable stack of books, placed on top of an ottoman. The camera battery died, and I had to finish the interview with my phone. This was not a professional operation. We spent 3 hours getting my grandfather’s life story on video.

I then had to teach myself video editing, having no prior experience. I found some inexpensive editing software, and the learning curve was steep. I learned through a combination of trial and error and YouTube tutorials. My wife created a slideshow for my grandfather’s 90th birthday, so we had a CD full of his photos. I found photos that complemented his stories and experimented with fading the photos into the video as he spoke. I found this brought his stories to life, and it gave the video a documentary feel.

I’m used to reading transcripts in my law practice and had the idea of converting the video into a book. I painstakingly transcribed the entire 3-hour video and divided it into chapters. The same photos that went into the video also went into the book. Once the book was printed on the glossy paper stock, I realized I was on to something special.

I shared the experience on social media, and several people responded that they wished they did this when their parents were alive. One night while driving home from the law office, I had a spontaneous thought that I could offer this as a service to others. I spent a few months getting the business infrastructure and website in place, and launched the business in April 2016, calling it Eternal Roots – Your Custom Documentary.

Several months after launching I had an eerie epiphany. When I was 21 years old my mother sent me a cassette tape of a psychic reading. She showed a psychic a photo of me and recorded the reading. She made predictions about my future that seemed… implausible. I laughed off the reading because it seemed so off the mark, and mostly forgot about it as I moved forward with my life and legal career. About 6 months after launching Eternal Roots, I recalled the psychic predicting something that was eerily on point. I found the tape in a memento box and had it digitized.

The recording blew my mind. In 1998, when I was a 21-year old college student, the psychic predicted that when I am 41 years old, I would be creating transformative documentaries about humanity. I am now 41 years old and find myself making documentaries about humanity (I’ll let others use the “transformative” label if they want). I discovered at 41 that I had a latent talent for videography, just waiting to be discovered. You’re never too old to reinvent yourself.

A year after launching the business, I quit my job at the law firm and went out on my own. I spend my time equally between my law practice and my videography business. On the law side, I have a couple matters in litigation, and I write contracts, do trademark filings, and do business entity formations. On the videography side, I have grown exponentially in my video editing ability, and have expanded my offerings to include memorial and family tribute videos, and I have been creating promotional videos for businesses and professional speakers and coaches.

I’m presently creating memorial videos for the San Diego County Bar Foundation’s Distinguished Lawyer Memorial program.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not been easy. The biggest challenge is teaching myself video editing from a knowledge base of nothing. I learned from doing it over and over, and from watching tutorials. It’s hard when the creative vision doesn’t match with technical ability, so I’m always focusing on improving my craft.

Another challenge has been educating people on the concept of the custom family documentary. Most people don’t know this service exists, and I have to take them from not knowing to knowing.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Eternal Roots – what should we know?
As an attorney, I tell people I’m a business attorney who is in business himself. If you want a lawyer who does nothing but practice law, they are easy to find. Being a business lawyer who owns a business, I am uniquely situated to understand the needs and concerns of my business clients. If someone balks at the fact that I own a business and do more than one thing, then we are not a fit.

As a videographer, my superpower is my ability to connect and empathize with my interview subject. Getting people, especially elderly men, to open up and share intimate details of their lives, is not an easy task. In my videos, I have a unique ability to channel the client’s vibe and energy to create an emotionally-resonant video that aligns with their message and personality.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Empathy. I connect with people because I understand their emotions and motivations. This is critical both in my law practice and in my videography business.

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