WEST POINT — Most of the stories in the “At Home in Greater Nebraska” series feature people who have moved back to their hometowns or are newcomers to the state.
This one, however, spotlights someone dubbed by the Nebraska Community Foundation as a “stayer.”
In fact, Brian Kreikemeier’s family has been staying in Cuming County on its farm outside of West Point since 1906. And the founder and president of B & B Productions has no intentions of pulling up roots — ever.
“When you have plenty to do of what you love to do, you don’t think about leaving,” said Kreikemeier, who has had plenty to do all his life.
He and his wife, Mary, started their family of five children shortly after they graduated high school. They now have 12 grandchildren.
Hundreds of B & B videos have been viewed by thousands of people who have been moved to either buy or to cry, depending on whether the piece was meant for a commercial client or a nonprofit organization.
Countless people have visited face-to-face with Kreikemeier, as he interviewed them many years ago when he was on a local radio station, or when he videotaped their wedding, or when they opened their hearts to explain why they care so much about whatever story he was capturing at the moment.
“We Are Storytellers” is more than B & B’s slogan; it is the truth.
Kreikemeier’s path to storytelling through the voices of others began in 1992. After working for many years at the Wimmer’s meat plant in West Point, he moved from his part-time stint with KWPN radio to a full-time position as news director and morning announcer.
“That’s when I learned about interviewing people, listening to them and telling their story,” he said.
Having had a rock band from the age of 13, Kreikemeier was familiar with sound production, which led to his first B & B iteration — a sound production company, working local events, concerts and fairs. He eventually phased out of radio work, sold the sound business and moved into video production, producing a little bit of everything from commercial promotions to wedding videos.
“Mary and I did everything together. She really stepped up when we were shooting weddings, and even the kids helped,” he said.
Kreikemeier eventually split the company to create Wedding Storytellers, which grew to include three full-time employees and a dozen or so part-time workers, generally students eager to learn. One year, the company did more than 100 weddings. The crew was in high demand because they could shoot, edit and deliver a finished product to show already at the wedding reception.
Over the past several years, Kreikemeier turned more and more wedding assignments over to his employees, and in 2017, he sold Wedding Storytellers to a longtime employee, Derick Buck.
Today, he focuses his storytelling more on everyday life rather than special occasions.
Kreikemeier has been creating stories about communities that are affiliated with Nebraska Community Foundation for more than five years. His stories are told through the voices of the people who live there. No professional announcer doing voice-over. Just people speaking from the heart.
“The common thread throughout all these community stories is the energy and passion of the local volunteers, and the positive attitude they have. Geography doesn’t seem to matter. They are excited about the possibilities in their hometown, and how NCF brings sustainability to their efforts,” he said.
Kreikemeier sees a difference between nonprofit and commercial storytelling. “With nonprofits, the people are often volunteers. They’re not getting paid for their work. They’re passionate and invested in what they’re doing. This makes for great video because it touches your emotions. Of course, business clients care deeply about their work, too, but the type of passion is different,” he said.
“I have done hundreds of videos for nonprofits, dozens for NCF. And from time to time, I do tear up,” he acknowledged. “People open up their soul. There have been times where I had to stop shooting and just give the person a hug.”
In 2017, Kreikemeier was given a big symbolic hug from the Philanthropy Council of Northeast Nebraska when he was honored with the council’s annual Philanthropy Award for his generous and unique service to nonprofits across Northeast Nebraska.
Why do some people seem naturally inclined to give of themselves and others not?
“The first thing is family,” he said. “How you are raised. My family was probably not outwardly philanthropic, but we grew up understanding that giving back was important.
“Then secondly, it’s the people you come in contact with. Working in radio I met and listened to a lot of really great people. They inspire you and lift you up. They help raise up the community. West Point is a humble place, but it is a generous place.
“I joined the Cuming County Community Fund because I was asked, and I was familiar with NCF’s work because when I traveled to their affiliated fund communities, they were sending me to interview the best people in Nebraska.”
These days Kreikemeier devotes part of his time to a business he started in 2015. Best Point Web Design gives high school kids the opportunity to learn about business and their community, and, hopefully, about the option of moving back to their hometowns.
“I’m a stayer. I love to travel, but mainly in Nebraska. Especially western Nebraska — often by myself. You never know what the story will be. You just don’t know until you get there.”
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Want to learn more?
See an example of Brian Kreikemeier’s work in this video featuring Katie Gutzmann, a “returner” to Pender at https://vimeo.com/280543544