Video Chats With Mom Become Popular Web Series

May 9, 2014
Originally published on May 10, 2014 9:34 am

In 2009, after filmmaker Joshua Seftel‘s father passed away, he and his sisters worried about staying in touch with their mom, so they bought her an iPad, and even though she was nervous about it at first, they convinced her to start using it.

First they sent emails back and forth, but soon Seftel and his mom started talking on FaceTime. Seftel says that around this time he remembered his mother said she had always wanted her own show. So he thought, why not?

He started recording their FaceTime conversations, and posting them on YouTube. Seftel and his mother talk about pop culture, movies and fashion — and their videos have thousands of hits.

Ahead of this Mother’s Day weekend, Joshua Seftel and his mother, Pat Seftel, joined Here & Now’s Robin Young to talk about their videos.

It’s about two different generations finding a way to connect.
– Joshua Seftel

“I think the series is about connecting,” Joshua said. “It’s about two different generations finding a way to connect, and in every episode, we try to bring it to a personal level and really learn something about my mom.”

Some of the things he’s found out have been funny, like when he found out the origin of his middle name, Rand, during a discussion about Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s baby daughter, North West.

“I was pregnant and I was driving down a street here in Schenectady, thinking about, ‘What am I gonna use for a middle name?’” Pat said. “And there was this store that sold Venetian blinds and window treatments, and it was Rand Blinds. And I said to myself, ‘Rand, Joshua Rand!’”

Pat says she has to do her homework to stay on top of all the and popular culture she and her son discuss.

“When I go to the beauty parlor, I read all the magazines, because I don’t know what he’s gonna ask me,” she said.

And Joshua has noticed his mom carrying herself like the TV star she’s always wanted to be.

“She does a lot more prep with the makeup and hair these days,” he said. “The first few episodes, she didn’t care as much, but as the series has gotten a little bit more of a following, the hair has looked better and better.”

Most importantly, “My Mom On Movies” has been a way for Pat and Joshua to stay connected and become even closer — and Joshua said they’ve been inspiring viewers to do the same with their parents.

“We’ve received a lot of email, letters, and from fans and people who watch the series, saying they’ve been inspired — that they’re either gonna buy their parents an iPad, or or they’re just going to call their parents and talk to them more,” he said. “And to me, that’s amazing. That’s what we want.”


    • Joshua Seftel, award-winning filmmaker and creator of “My Mom On Movies.” He tweets @JSeftel and @MyMomonMovies.
    • Pat Seftel, retired social worker, grandmother to four and star of “My Mom On Movies.”
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Well, speaking of connecting...


JOSHUA SEFTEL: I want to do a Mother's Day episode.

PAT SEFTEL: A Mother's Day? OK.


YOUNG: That's documentary film maker Joshua Seftel with his mother, 76 year old Pat Seftel using FaceTime in a recent edition of their Mother Son YouTube series, "My Mom on Movies" in which they talk about everything from style to Miley Cyrus's twerking. The videos have thousands of hits. Pat's getting recognized in the supermarket. Josh Seftel joins us from the studios of NPR New York. Welcome.

J SEFTEL: Thanks.

YOUNG: And Pat Seftel joins us by Skype from her home in Schenectady, New York. Pat, welcome to you as well.

P SEFTEL: Thank you.

YOUNG: I understand that initially this was sort of a technical nightmare for you to talk to Josh through this new technology.

P SEFTEL: Well, I was very nervous about the whole thing and I didn't think I was going to like it. And I didn't think mostly that I could do it. But, you know what? My son was right. I love it.

YOUNG: Well, and you're good at it. Josh Seftel, how did you come up with this?

J SEFTEL: Well, it all started actually when my dad passed away a few years ago.

YOUNG: Yeah, sorry.

J SEFTEL: After that, thank you, after my dad passed away a few years ago, my sisters and I started to worry about my mother, and we were concerned about staying in touch with her. So we decided to buy her an iPad. And she resisted at first, but she took to it, and suddenly we were emailing all the time and I realized we had access to do FaceTime. We could actually talk on video.

And my mother had always said that she wished that she had her own TV show. And it was then that thought let's do this. Let's make a little TV show by recording our FaceTime conversations on the iPad. And that's how the series came about.

YOUNG: Pat, what did you call FaceTime originally?

P SEFTEL: Oh, Face Lift. In fact, I often still do it by accident.

YOUNG: Although it's really not. You know, there's something really unflattering about that if you have it below your chin. That's all. So hold it up high. But, so you started having these conversations. Let's just listen to a little. Here you both are talking about a new trend in female actresses, the pixie haircut. Let's listen.


J SEFTEL: Did you hear Pamela Anderson just cut her hair short?

P SEFTEL: I can't even begin to imagine.

J SEFTEL: Why do you think this trend is happening?

P SEFTEL: Well, you know, you have to understand women. They get tired of things. You know, they like to be up there in the forefront of style.

YOUNG: I mean, these conversations are sweet, but what else is happening here? I'll ask you first, Josh?

J SEFTEL: I think the series is about connecting. It's about a mother and a son. It's about two different generations finding a way to connect. And in every episode we try to bring it to a personal level and really learn something about my mom.

YOUNG: So what have you found?

J SEFTEL: Well, for one thing, I discovered the origin of my middle name, and that was in an episode about Kanye West and Kim Kardashian's baby.

YOUNG: What is your middle name?

J SEFTEL: My middle name is Rand.

YOUNG: Where'd it come from, Pat?

P SEFTEL: Well, I was pregnant, and I was driving down a street here in Schenectady about what am I going to use for a middle name? And there was this store that sold venetian blinds and window treatments. And it was Rand Blinds. And I said to myself, Rand, Joshua Rand.

YOUNG: Well, Josh, that's just so sweet. And I mean it's a beautiful name, Joshua Rand. But, so you found out you're named after a venetian blind store.

J SEFTEL: That's right.


YOUNG: You wouldn't have known otherwise. You might not without this also be confronting some modern day media. Here's just a little bit of your review of "50 Shades of Gray." Let's listen.

P SEFTEL: Uh-oh, uh-oh.


P SEFTEL: They were describing these steel balls that he used that he put in a certain area of her body.

J SEFTEL: What area?

P SEFTEL: Well, I don't want to talk about it.

YOUNG: Pat, we heard from Josh about how he's learning things he wouldn't have known.


YOUNG: I guess I'm hearing that perhaps that's happening for you too.

P SEFTEL: Absolutely. When I go to the beauty parlor I read all the magazine, 'cause I don't know what he's going to ask me.

J SEFTEL: I've also notice that she does a lot more prep with the makeup and hair these days. So initially the first few episodes she didn't care as much, but as the series has gotten a little more of a following, the hair has looked better and better.

YOUNG: Well, and you're still a spring chicken, Pat, but I'm betting there are people who want to add a little more life to their parent's life.

J SEFTEL: We've received a lot of email, letters, and from fans and people who watch the series saying that they've been inspired, that they're either going to buy their parents an iPad or they're going just call their parents and talk to them more. And to me that's amazing. That's what we want.

YOUNG: Well, one of the conversations you had came out of a review of a Bradley Cooper film. Bradley Cooper, of course, most recently in "American Hustle," and you started talking about how his father died and how he and his mother moved in together. Let's listen.


J SEFTEL: How would you like it if I lived with you?

P SEFTEL: Oh, I'd love it. It'd be like a dream come true.

J SEFTEL: Really?

P SEFTEL: Oh, yeah.


P SEFTEL: I like you and I miss you. But I don't know if it would be so good for you.


P SEFTEL: I'd probably drive you a little bit crazy.

YOUNG: So, you know, a conversation about living together that you might not have had.


J SEFTEL: That's right.

YOUNG: Yeah. Well, I know you're planning to see each other for Mother's Day, but also you have an offering for fans. What's your segment going to be?

J SEFTEL: We have a new Mother's Day episode called "Notorious Moms" where we talk about some of the notorious mothers in TV and film. And Mom, you didn't really like that, talking about that so much because you wanted to talk about...

P SEFTEL: Oh, I didn't like it at all. I didn't like it all. He asked me what I thought about Carrie's mother. Oh, my God.

YOUNG: You're talking about Carrie, the one who has the humiliating experience at the prom?

P SEFTEL: Yeah. Yes.


P SEFTEL: And her mother was a psycho.

YOUNG: Oh, boy.

P SEFTEL: Yeah. I kept saying why are you, you know, why are you asking me about them for Mother's Day?

YOUNG: Josh, why?

J SEFTEL: Well, she wanted to talk about Edith Bunker from "All in the Family." So we talked about that for a while.

YOUNG: Well, and that is a great choice. Well, we look forward to that. We've been speaking to the Seftels, Mom Pat, her son, the film director, Joshua. Their YouTube video series is called "My Mom on Movies." We'll link you up at Thank you, both of you, and Pat, happy Mother's Day.

P SEFTEL: Thank you, and same to you. Bye-bye. Whoops.

YOUNG: Pat, what happened there? Is that - oh boy.

P SEFTEL: I moved my iPad and every time I move it must do something there.

J SEFTEL: Yeah, don't move it, Mom.



YOUNG: Pat, what a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you.

P SEFTEL: Thank you so much. So I hit close, right?

YOUNG: Right.

J SEFTEL: Yeah, bye Mom.



YOUNG: This is for Pat, who loves Edith Bunker.


This is a great moment.

YOUNG: Well, and it is a big day coming up this weekend for many.

HOBSON: It is.

YOUNG: Just remember what James Joyce said. Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world, a mother's love is not.

HOBSON: I couldn't have put it better myself. And I want to say happy Mother's Day to my mom and also happy Mother's Day to my grandmother, who also probably doesn't know how to use an iPad.

YOUNG: Get her one.

HOBSON: I should.

YOUNG: In fact, from what I hear about your grandmother, I can't wait until you get her one. Happy Mother's Day to everyone.

HOBSON: HERE AND NOW is a production of NPR and WBUR Boston in association with the BBC World Service. I'm Jeremy Hobson.

YOUNG: I'm Robin Young. This is HERE AND NOW.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.