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City leaders put surprising spin on contest video for HGTV

Marion vies to win makeover from network with thousands of other small towns

Staff writer

Marion’s leaders demonstrated their desire to beautify the city last year with a $1 million project to remodel Main St.

Now parks and recreation director Margo Yates has enlisted help from residents Gene Winkler and Doug Kjellin to create a video submission in hopes of beating out thousands of small towns vying to win a renovation from HGTV’s “Home Town Makeover” contest.

The six-part series, hosted by Ben and Erin Napier, will feature a town of less than 40,000 that will see the revitalization of its public parks, businesses, and even family homes.

Applicants were encouraged to showcase the qualities that made their town unique.

“We’ve seen booms, we’ve seen busts,” said Kjellin, who narrates a poem as the video scrolls through shots of Marion. “We’ve dealt with adversity and also seen success, and right now if you want to bring us some cash, we’ll take it.

“You want to get something that is as catchy as possible and covers as much ground as possible without getting to trite or flippant.”

The poem details Marion’s history and how HGTV can help, while Winkler’s photos provide a line-by-line visual record of both the city’s beauty and its blighted buildings in need of repair.

One difference between Marion’s submission and those of many other communities — it doesn’t shy away from examining the city’s flaws.

“We wouldn’t even be considered without explaining what we would like them to help us with,” he said. “There are some communities where it’s kind of an advertisement for the community, and I think that misses the mark.”

Some of the less refined images include shots of the now-empty lot where a Dairy Queen burned down, and closed storefronts like Cindy’s Café.

Showing some of Marion’s grit and need for improvement demonstrated potential and the purpose the project could serve, Kjellin said.

“I don’t think they were looking for a Pollyanna, one-minute puff piece about the community,” he said.

Having found out about the project Jan. 31, Kjellin, Winkler, and Yates created the video and submitted it Feb. 4.

Working on such a short schedule was difficult, but sometimes improves product, Yates said.

“It did make a difference, but sometimes short-notice stuff gets done quicker and better,” she said.

One of the noticeable features of Marion’s submission was that it used photographs, as opposed to video content.

Compiling photos into a movie was simpler than using video feed because the group used a different visual subject with every couple lines of text, Winkler said.

“It’s tough to go out and get a video of each thing that’s only about three seconds long,” he said.

Last modified Feb. 20, 2020

 

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