Posts Tagged ‘Meredith Wilson’

“Creative-minded people enjoy a mix of influences. They want to hear different kinds of music and try different kinds of food. They want to meet and socialize with people unlike themselves, trade views and spar over issues.”
Richard Florida
The Rise of the Creative Class

“We focused on places that specialize in out-of-the-box thinking.”
Kiplinger’s editors on their picking the 10 Best Cities for the Next Decade

When people think of Iowa the word creative isn’t usually the first word that pops into their mind. (Nor even the second or third word.) But what makes Iowa a fitting metaphor for screenwriting outside LA (as I have tried to show in the last two and a half years) is some tremendous creative talent has flowed from this state. Way back to painter Grant Wood and playwright Meredith Wilson (Music Man) to current actors from right here in Cedar Falls Michael Mosle and Annabeth Gish.

Certainly every state in America has, to borrow Richard Florida’s phrase, a creative class. In fact, Florida says they actually represent 40 million people in this county. He doesn’t limit the creative to writers and painters but includes those in education, biotech and architecture and small business.

I was living in Orlando when I first read Florida’s book The Rise of the Creative Class and was excited to a see a shift in the culture where creative people were not just tolerated, but seen as a key part of economic development for cities across the country. It’s been a while since I read the book, and I’m not sure how recent economic changes have altered the course of Florida’s predictions, but the lasting impression I got from reading the book is—it’s a good time to be creative.

(And even those in non-creative professions are more creative in their lives these days due to the increasing popularity of home improvements and decorating TV shows, taking better pictures of their kids, cooking gourmet meals. blogging, etc.)

Which brings me back to Iowa. Des Moines has made national news this week a couple of times and they are not unrelated. First when Slipknot bass guitarist Paul Gray was found dead in a hotel room is a Des Moines suburb. Slipknot came on the scene in the 90s and was unorthodox even by heavy metal standards. I’m not sure when people’s perception of Iowa began to changed, but it may have something to do with the founding of Slipknot in 1995—or when the Iowa-based band won a Grammy in 2006 for “Best Metal Performance.” (Maybe someone can fill in the gap between the dreaded Des Moines in the 60s & 70s that Bill Bryson writes about in his books and the Slipknot era.)

The fact is times are changing. A 1999 quote I’m fond of digging up comes from Steven Spielberg; “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. We’re all gonna be on the Internet trying to find an audience.”
(Interview with Katie Couric on the NBC Today Show)

This week Kiplinger magazine name Des Moines the seventh best city to live and work. (10 Best Cities for the Next Decade.) Austin was listed as #1 and Seattle #2. No surprises there, nor with Boulder a little further down the list—but Des Moines? Really? This is what Kiplinger was looking for:

“Places with strong economies and abundant jobs, then demand reasonable living costs and plenty of fun things to do. When we ran the numbers, some of the names that popped up made us do a double take at first…One key to a bright future is a healthy shot of people in the creative class. People in creative fields — scientists, engineers, architects, educators, writers, artists and entertainers — are catalysts of vitality and livability in a city.”

This is nothing new to people in Des Moines. In a 2002 article by Florida he listed Des Moines as #2 (after Madison, WI) in his “Small-Size Cities Creativity Rankings.”

I’ve been fortunate over the years to have traveled to all 50 of the United States and I’ve seen creative people everywhere; Pittsburgh, Birmingham, Portland, Cleveland, Boston, Santa Fe, Minneapolis, Talkeetna—you get the picture. And I’m sure in all of those places there are screenwriters chipping away on scripts that they hope will find their way to Hollywood or perhaps a local filmmaker who can bring their words to life.

“Screenwriting from Iowa” is just here to give you a little encouragment—a glass of water for thirsty souls on a long journey.

PS. If you happen to find yourself driving through Des Moines on I-80, stop by the East Village downtown to see some of the creative changes happening in Iowa.

PSS. Also making Kiplinger’s top ten list is Rochester, Minnesota. Cedar Falls, Iowa where I live is about two hours south-west of Rochester and about two hours north-east of Des Moines…so once again in the middle of a lot of action.

Related Post: Off Screen Quote #2 (Bill Bryson)

Scott W. Smith

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When I came up with the title Screenwriting from Iowa in 2006 it was meant to be ironic. That is Iowa is one of the last places that people think of when they think of screenwriting and movie making. Of course, it was a set-up of sorts because right here in Cedar Falls, Iowa is where the seeds were planted for the box-office hits Sleeping with the Enemy and The Bridges of Madison County as it’s where writers Nancy Price & Robert Waller wrote their novels. 

And then there is the entertainment history of Iowa being the birthplace of Johnny Carson, John Wayne and Meredith Wilson (Music Man). Then there’s The Field of Dreams, The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, blah, blah, blah. Ground I’ve covered a zillion times on this blog. Then University of Iowa grad Diablo Cody hits the scene and Ellen Page comes to Iowa to make a film (Peacock) this summer and suddenly Screenwriting from Iowa doesn’t seem that ironic.

And then news hit me today that the secret is really out on the creative happenings in Iowa. Movie Maker magazine Winter ’09 recently came out with its list of 25 hot places to call yourself a moviemaker. Can you guess what state made the list? First in their words:

Each year MM surveys the country to find the areas you’ll be happiest to call home if you call yourself a moviemaker. This time we’re doing things a little differently—first, by opening up the playing field to 25 cities instead of 10 and, second, by focusing on those places that offer the perfect combination of employment opportunities, reasonable costs of living, strong quality of life, affordable home prices and, of course, financial incentives.
Movie Maker Staff
              Best Places to Live in 2009

…and coming in at #25 is Des Moines, Iowa.

But the whole title of this blog is Screenwriting from Iowa…or wherever you live outside L.A., and with that in mind here is the whole Movie Maker list of The 25 best best cities in the U.S. to ride it out as an independent moviemaker this year :

1. Chicago, IL 
2. Atlanta, GA 
3. New York, NY 
4. Shreveport, LA 
5. Albuquerque, NM 
6. Boston, MA 
7. Stamford, CT 
8. Memphis, TN 
9. Milwaukee, WI 
10. Austin, TX 
11. Detroit, MI 
12. Miami, FL 
13. Seattle, WA 
14. Portland, OR 
15. Philadelphia, PA 
16. Sedona, AZ 
17. Salt Lake City, UT 
18. Wilmington, NC 
19. Boise, ID 
20. Denver, CO 
21. Bozeman, MT 
22. Wichita, KS 
23. San Diego, CA 
24. Richmond, VA 
25. Des Moines, IA

Maybe it wasn’t so crazy for me to move from L.A. and Orlando to Iowa.

Related post (and my very first post):  Life Beyond Hollywood


Scott W. Smith

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