Student Spotlight: University of Iowa men’s gymnast creates video series depicting team’s final season

Ahead of their “final flight” season, University of Iowa men’s gymnast and videographer Stewart Brown taped a series called “Our Stories.” The series gave Brown’s teammates and coaches the chance to vocalize their journeys to Iowa gymnastics and what their time there has meant to them.


Photo of Stewart Brown filming for Hawk Vision. Contributed.

Megan Conroy, Arts Reporter

Junior gymnast Stewart Brown began making videos at the age of 12 but discovered his true passion for the art form while attending the University of Iowa.

There, he saw a need for film coverage in the men’s gymnastics team, Brown said. He knew that the team put together a promo video each year, and decided he wanted to make it.

Wanting a brand for his film work, he reached out to his connections at HawkVision, a media production unit within the Iowa Athletics Department. He left with not only a logo, but a life-changing opportunity.

“I went into a meeting with Chris Ruth, my now mentor, about logos and walked out with a job,” Brown said. “It’s a crazy story — what it went from to what it is now. I changed my major and completely pivoted my life around it.”

The former civil-engineering major is now studying Sport and Recreation Management, with a concentration in communications, public relations, and journalism, and works for HawkVision, shooting videos at a variety of athletic events such as basketball, volleyball, and even football games.

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Near the start of the 2020 fall semester, Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta, in partnership with UI President Bruce Harreld, released a letter to the public detailing that four sports would be cut after the 2020-21 academic year because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impact on the University Athletics Department. One such sport was men’s gymnastics.

After the team learned that its upcoming season would also be its last, Brown saw a need to tell the stories of his teammates and coaches. Originally, the filmmaker said he would capture footage during practice as a sort of “Final Flight” look into the season.

The task became too strenuous with his busy schedule, however, which is how the “Our Stories” series was born, Brown said.

The series was shot over the course of just a few days in the HawkVision studio at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The questions were set up beforehand, so each teammate came into the pre-setup studio for their interview. Brown sat down with his teammates and told them that this was their chance to lay everything out to be heard.

The video for each gymnast begins with a name, and “This is my story.” The gymnasts then detail their journeys, from just starting out in gymnastics, continuing the sport through high school, and how they eventually came to the UI.

Iowa gymnast Stewart Brown competes during the Big Ten Championships in April 2019.

“Our sport isn’t one people rave about, but everybody loves an athlete even though they rarely know a lot about their personal life,” Brown said. “I think the project offers a really unique perspective into who we are. These stories need to be told because you’re losing a sport, but you’re also losing individuals.”

Brown noted that some questions were catered toward specific teammates. During the coaches’ videos, head coach JD Reive and assistant coach Thomas Buese spoke about how they ended up at Iowa to coach a team that wasn’t very competitive until Reive revamped it in 2010.

“I’ve learned a lot of interesting things that I never would have known,” Brown said. “It’s been really cool to hear everyone’s story, and I’m thankful for this perspective.”

Every year, the men’s gymnastics team produces a video for each of its upcoming seniors. The message this season was that now every member of the team is a senior, in a way, and Brown said he wanted to film the series in the same way.

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With his videography experiences and the team’s last gymnastics season approaching, Brown said he knew he wanted to put together a passion project for his team. Brown took on the role himself without pay in order to tell the stories he felt needed to be told.

All 15 videos of each gymnast’s story, as well as both coaches, have been posted to @iowamgym on Instagram.

“I hope that viewers of the videos can get to know our stories and see that we’re just like anyone else, human and with feelings,” Brown said. “I want them to realize that even though this happened, we’re not defeated. Even with all of this negative stuff, there’s always a story behind it and we move forward.”