“I think that the Internet is going to effect the most profound change on the entertainment industries combined. And we’re all gonna be tuning into the most popular Internet show in the world, which will be coming from some place in Des Moines.”
Steven Spielberg to Katie Couric on the NBC today show in 1999
“Unbeknownst to many outside the Midwest, over the past 15 years Des Moines has transformed into one of the richest, most vibrant, and, yes, hip cities in the country, where the local arts scene, entrepreneurial startups and established corporate employers are all thriving.”
Colin Woodward, Politico Magazine in 2016
How America’s Dullest City Got Cool
Thug Writer, Oscar-winner, University of Iowa grad, & “Screenwriting from Iowa” muse Diablo Cody
Do you remember 2008?
You know, the year when subprime loans helped led to a financial meltdown as stock market prices around the world plunged. Heath Ledger, Sydney Pollack, and Paul Newman all died in 2008. Fidel Castro resigned as President of Cuba. A senator from Illinois was the first black person elected as President of the United States. And at the end of the year, investment advisor Bernie Madoff was arrested for “one big lie” (i.e. securities fraud) that resulted in an estimated $18 billions missing in client accounts.
It was an interesting year.
And way back on January 22 of 2008 I started this blog. And here we are 8 years—and 2,196 posts—later. I think that first post had about 5 views. (If you were one of them thank you.) Sometime later this year I’ll hit a million views. I’m sure there are blogs out there that get a million views a month—or even a day—but I’m pretty excited to know that what started as writing down a few thoughts into a WordPress blog while living in Cedar Falls, Iowa has been viewed so many times by people all over the world. (I think my in my last count there were views in over 180 countries.)
So I’m proclaiming this Diablo Cody Day. Because it was seeing Juno in January of 2008 and reading the story of how this Chicago native, and University of Iowa graduate, wrote the script for Juno in the suburbs of Minneapolis (and was being hailed as a new voice in Hollywood) that provided the inspiration for starting this blog.
She’s weathered a few storms since then. I’ve weathered a few storms since then. And the odds are that you’ve weathered a few storms since then. (Blockbuster video stores, not so much—though there are actually 50 of their 9,000 stores still around.) May some of those storms provide inspiration for future stories that engage and/or entertain people.
Stories that may be shot in Georgia or Louisiana, that may be produced by Amazon, ESPN, Hulu, etc. Right now I’m currently captivated like many by the Netflix docu-series Making a Murderer and the Serial podcast on the Army’s Bowe Bergdhal wandering off base in Afghanistan and being held captive by the Taliban for five years.
Movies in the past year like Spotlight, Brooklyn, and Bridge of Spies show that in capable hands we can look back on the past and have hope for the future. In filmmaking and humanity.
And in the television world there is simply no way you can keep up with the flood of quality programing. Last year NPR stated that if you watched one scripted prime-time TV series per day, you wouldn’t have enough time to watch every series.
“According to estimates provided to critics and reporters last week by the research team at FX Networks, more than 400 original scripted English-language series — just in prime time, not counting game shows, reality shows, documentary shows, daytime or nighttime talk shows, news or sports — will air on American television in 2015 before the year is out.”
Television 2015: Is There Really To Much TV?
Toss in the content creators on the internet and there are unusually good things happening in unlikely places. All I’ve tried to do in the past 8 years is pick up a few bread crumbs (from over 600 writers/directors/filmmakers) and pass them on in hopes that they’ll offer some direction and inspiration for others.
And since this blog is titled Screenwriting from Iowa, let me give a shout out to the state that birthed this blog (and where I lived from 2003-2013). This week leading up to the Iowa caucuses on February 1 there is no shortage of press coming out of Iowa as Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and the rest of the presidential hopefuls make their way across the state in search of votes.
I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the title of Politico Magazine’s article posted yesterday about Des Moines, Iowa: How America’s Dullest City Got Cool. Colin Woodward unpacks how a place once known as Des Boring reinvented itself;
In recent years Des Moines has been named the nation’s richest (by U.S. News) and economically strongest city (Policom), its best for young professionals (Forbes), families (Kiplinger), home renters (Time), businesses and careers (Forbes). It has the highest community pride in the nation, according to a Gallup poll last year, and in October topped a Bloomberg analysis of which cities in the United States were doing the best at attracting millennials to buy housing. “Never mind California or New York,” Fast Company declared two years back. “By some important measures, Des Moines is way ahead of its cooler coastal cousins.”
Diablo Cody going to college in Iowa City is just part of the creative gumbo stew that’s been stirring up in the Hawkeye state many years. And this blog is just another link in that chain. Thanks to both the state of Iowa and Diablo Cody for the inspiration. And thanks to all you readers whose views also inspire me to keep cranking these posts out.
Best wishes on your writing.
Juno Has Another Baby (Emmy)
2010 48 Hour Film Festival/Des Moines
San Francisco vs. Des Moines
Postcard #77 (Iowa State Capital)
Postcard #11 Des Moines
Scott W. Smith
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