Scott Siepker wants to change the undesirable image of Iowa conjured by both outsiders and insiders. To him, Iowa extends beyond cornfields and small-town living, especially in the pursuit of dreams.
“I think these days, if you’re in my industry, you don’t have to go to Los Angeles, you don’t have to go to New York,” the actor said. “Nowadays, with the advent of the Internet, you can take your art to a national platform from anywhere. My anywhere is Iowa.
“Iowa is not just a platform for me; it’s a trampoline. There are so many people here who want to help you make your dreams come true — and also the traffic’s not terrible.”
The actor, writer, producer, and filmmaker is in Iowa City for two events hosted by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature. The first will take place at 5:30 p.m. today at the Iowa Brewlab, 505 E. Washington St. Siepker will present “Made in Iowa,” an unscripted, dialogue-style talk in hopes of inspiring others to also see the Midwestern state as their trampoline.
“I’m big on that it’s never too late to go after your childhood dreams or your adulthood aspirations,” Siepker said. “I don’t care how old you are; you can still go after whatever. And why not? I think that’s where happiness lies, in the pursuit of the dream.”
And Siepker’s pursuit, though not without its challenges, has led him to many opportunities in the writing, producing, and filmmaking industries.
In 2010, Siepker, filmmaker and writer Paul Benedict, and actor and producer Brendan Dunphy started a filmmaking company called Iowa Filmmakers. They made “Iowa Nice” toward the end of 2011. What started as a hilariously scripted rant about Iowa’s greatness — inspired by a NPR report of Iowa City being a liberal enclave — quickly turned into a platform.
The video, with more than 1 million views on YouTube, generated international attention in major media outlets such as CNN, BBC, The Atlantic, and GQ. Since then, Siepker and Benedict have done other “nice” videos.
Siepker’s visit is part of an ongoing effort by the City of Literature to reach out to people in the Iowa City community who don’t normally get an opportunity to engage in the bustling literary scene.
“Our mission is to promote the written work, but beyond that, it’s kind of about storytelling,” said John Kenyon, the executive director of the City of Literature. “If [people] want to do it by just telling people stories, to us that’s still literature. And [Siepker’s] entire thing is about telling stories, and educating people, and entertaining people.”
Siepker is also scheduled to MC “What’s so Funny” at 7:30 a.m. Friday at the Brown Deer Golf Club, 1900 Country Club, Coralville. The event is a humorous mock business breakfast featuring local writers and leaders. Presenters will include Dave Parsons from Tallgrass Business Solutions, Brittany Borghi from the University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program, Robyn Hepker from Benson & Hepker design and Megan Gogerty, a local comedian and actress.
Both events will serve as fundraisers for the City of Literature. And although the office went through various hopefuls for the events, Kenyon said Siepker’s message stood out.
“The fact that we as Iowans shouldn’t sit back and just be quietly proud,” Kenyon said. “It’s OK to stand up and trumpet that we have a lot of amazing things going on here in the state. Our City of Literature designation is something we think people should make a bigger deal about, and he’s somebody who can draw attention to that and has a particular kind of tone and voice that’s appealing to people.”
But Siepker’s ultimate goal is to go beyond being just appealing to people.
“What I love the most about being here is you can be the change that the state is becoming. You can have an effect on where the state goes next,” Siepker said. “If I lived in Los Angeles, even if I won an Academy Award, I wouldn’t matter that much in that market, but if I was here and doing the work I am now, now I have a bit of a platform to help this state take another step forward in becoming next level.”
“Made in Iowa,” Scott Siepker
When: 5:30 p.m. today
Where: Iowa Brewlab, 505 E. Washington
“What’s so Funny”
When: 7:30 a.m. Friday
Where: Brown Deer Golf Club, 1900 Country Club, Coralville