In a room, two flights and two doors away from the main lobby of Oak Park's Village Hall, is a narrow room where award-winning videographer Joe Kreml works on projects for the village and VOP-TV.
Kreml and everyone else at the village just calls the workspace the control room. But a room with most of its space taken up by a table of buttons and levers configured on black boxes that hold television screens of varying sizes; a room with only two sources of light, the soft blue natural light coming from one window and a lamp on a desk nearby needs a more intriguing name.
The older equipment in the control room is used to broadcast village hall meetings. Before David Powers, the village's communications director, hired Kreml 14 years ago the only content shown on VOP-TV, then referred to by its station name channel 6, were bulletin boards and board meetings.
"One of my first tasks was to hire someone to do full time video," said Powers. Hiring Kreml took the village's channel "to a whole new level."
Over the years, Kreml's skill coupled with the pervasive power of YouTube have been a beneficial match for the village government.
"YouTube blew the doors open," Powers said. With a newly hired videographer and a new platform, the village had a new way to talk to the community.
"I've always liked making videos," Kreml, the 47-year-old videographer, said backlit and outlined in blue from his seat near the window. "The main thing is working with the people. Everyone has a story to tell."
The people, Kreml said, is what makes Oak Park interesting to him. When he is not in the control room editing video projects or recording village meetings, he is on the street capturing the locals.
In fact, the submission that earned Kreml the top award for government television and online video programming from the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) recentlywas a 14 minute video compilation of shorts focused on topics ranging from public safety to dining options. Village staff members with a certain finesse, such as community relations director Cedric Melton and social media coordinator Patrick Rollens, often appear in Kreml's projects.
Melton, for example played Shaft in a psychedelic spoof Kreml taped and edited to promote the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio. In another comical video, Rollens played the part of an artsy know-it-all to promote the Oak Park Sculpture Walk.
Kreml's vivid, quirky and sometimes funny videos for the village prove that government television does not have to be limp and lifeless.
Before the Columbia College film grad became the video rock star of the village, he worked for the city of Wheaton as its public access producer. While there, he put together a comedy show with friends called "Video From The Id." But in a lot of ways, Kreml said working in public access television was like shooting "Between Two Ferns," a series of humorous video parodies hosted by Zach Galifianakis which mock the style of public broadcasting shows.
In Oak Park, however, Kreml is not only free to be a part of all aspects of the creative process but is also free from the confines of a studio. He is free to explore the community for his projects.
With a number of interesting people to showcase outside of village hall, Kreml, discovered local businesses owners, community leaders and volunteers to highlight in short video profiles.
"We like to tap into some of the talent that's in Oak Park," said Kreml. He named Wednesday Journal/OakPark.com blogger and food journalist David Hammond as one of the area's talented residents.
But the admiration is mutual.
Kreml and Hammond have known each other for several years and have worked on a video dining segment called "You Really Should Eat This" for the past three years.
"What impresses me most about Joe is his disciplined approach to shooting video," Hammond said. "I sincerely admire his push for perfection, and I think it brings out the best in those of us who are on camera."
In the hustle of a restaurant, with customers moving in and out of a shot and owners trying to help with the video while meeting the demands of their business, it would be easy for one to lose his or her cool. But not Kreml. Hammond called the expert videographer "cool, patient, focused" while working on a shoot.
"I've never seen Joe lose his concentration or his sense of humor."
It is Kreml's focused but easy going personality that another VOP-TV video host commended as well.
Sarah Corbin a staffer at the Chamber of Commerce and host of "Where I Shop," a newer addition to the village's video series line-up, said Kreml is kind and "super talented."
"He has a way of making you feel like you've been old friends even if you have only worked with him a few times."
Kreml lives in Berwyn with his wife Eve and 10-year-old daughter. His passion for film and video has permeating powers. Kreml said his daughter is now shooting and editing her own videos.
Perhaps the village will have another Kreml displaying her creative video talent in its control room lair in the future.
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