By: Ed Komenda
The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA)
February 17, 2012
Ask about home, and McNulty will tell you stories about her six children and her grandchildren and plenty more about growing up.
McNulty turned 90 in the fall and there was a grand party at a New Cumberland church. There, her family aired a gift more telling than most — a documentary about her life produced by Washington D.C.-based film company Reel Tributes.
McNulty tells her own story in the film, fielding questions from her oldest daughter. Pictures from a massive family collection accompanied the tales, floating across the screen in black and white, putting faces to her memory’s massive collection of names.
To McNulty, storytelling is the most natural of things.
David Adelman agrees. It just took him a while to realize it.
The 30-year-old CEO of Reel Tributes had spent years at business school, graduating from Harvard University, cum laude, later earning his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He was there when he got the call that his grandmother had died.
With the news, he thought about all those years she roamed the earth. What had he learned from her?
From a very young age, Adelman knew he wanted to start his own business.
But what business? The question burned inside him as he worked days as a private equity investor and consultant.
But at his grandmother’s funeral, he met serendipity.
He and his mother had produced a documentary telling the story of his family’s heritage, trailing from 19th century Russia to modern-day San Francisco.
The documentary used photographs and anecdotes from Adelman’s grandmother, Eunice, the family’s chief storyteller. By the end of the film, most members of the family were in tears.
There it was, a permanent record, preserving his family’s stories forever.
Adelman felt lucky to have that. He knew that with his grandmother’s death, many stories would have died, too.
Sure, there were photos. But it’s easy to forget names and faces on a fading piece of paper.
After honoring his grandmother’s memory, Adelman knew he wanted to help other families preserve their history. That day, Reel Tributes was born.
“Everyone should have the right to capture their family’s history,” Adelman said. “The stories are so important. They help us discover and understand who we are and where we came from.”
McNulty came from a place of literary significance.
As a child in grade school, she had felt inspired to become an English teacher by her own teacher. He’d assign the class to write a story for the next day, but McNulty always waited until the next morning, before class.
It wasn’t because she was lazy. It was because she had already done a lot of writing.
“It was very easy for me to write,” she said. “I loved to do it.”
She wrote many short stories, but never sent them to magazines.
Before she could become an English teacher and famous author, she became a mother, and realized it was an occupation that would consume the rest of her days.
She enjoyed keeping to herself and raising her family. She got a kick out of watching them grow and learn to hold conversations. McNulty never ran out of things to say. But she still felt nervous sitting in front of lights and a camera a few months before her 90th birthday.
She took extra care that morning to apply her makeup, style her hair and pick out her best dress.
Dolling herself up was usually nothing to fret about. But on the ride to Philadelphia, disaster struck.
She forgot her nail polish.
McNulty gets dressed up every morning, even if only to bake pies or clean the house.
“She’s very conscious about the way she presents herself,” said Ann Hoffman, McNulty’s oldest daughter. “She always has to look good.”
But more than her love of looking good, Hoffman knew of her mother’s love for stories.
McNulty could catapult you back in time with the turn of a phrase. You could see her wit at the family cemetery on Memorial Day, down a long, winding Potter County road called Lick Run. There, McNulty walks along graves and connects tales with tombstones.
“Here’s Virginia,” she says, looking down at her sister’s grave.
Virginia died of polio before polio had a name.
“Here’s Jack,” she goes on, talking about her late brother.
Another one lost before he could share his own stories.
“Here’s Daddy,” she says, and shortly after there’s a story about her stout, Irishman husband, who was a cook in the war and cook at a prison, but he never — not once — cooked at home.
So it was natural for Hoffman to enter an auction in early 2011 offering a chance to document her mother’s life.
Reel Tributes had decided to give away a film for free. The average price tag for a film? $5,000.
After airing the film at her mom’s party, Hoffman knew the money would be worth it to any family.
“There were a lot of wet eyes,” Hoffman said.
McNulty, who walked from table to table, singing to guests, didn’t know her stories had that kind of power.
“I hope we can get together again when I’m a hundred,” McNulty said.
The family clapped, got ready to leave, feeling the film had really been a gift to them.
Read the full article online at http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2012/02/reel_tributes_documentary_pres.html