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Political Mercury

April 26, 2012
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‘Iowa Nice’ vaults to more prominence in Webbys

By Douglas Burns

Photo of Scott Siepker taken from the video “Iowa Nice.”

Which one of these things is not like the other?

ESPN, Epoch Films, Warner, Walt Disney Bros., Politico and Iowa Filmmakers.

Actually, according to one esteemed international measure, they belong together.

Iowa Filmmakers, a trio of talent operating on a shoestring budget but possessing a king’s ransom of creativity, has earned an Official Honoree designation at the 16th Annual Webby Awards in the Viral category for the widely popular “Iowa Nice” video, a fiercely funny defense of our life and culture that has registered more than 1.2 million hits on YouTube alone.

“We’re in the same breath as those multi-billion-dollar companies,” said Scott Siepker, 29, the actor in “Iowa Nice” and a principal in Iowa Filmmakers. “Three guys and a camera. It’s humbling to say the least.”

The Webbys are the Internet version of the Grammy or the Academy Awards. To be clear, “Iowa Nice,” didn’t win a Webby (the online Oscar). But the honorable mention status carries weight and draws more attention to Iowa Filmmakers.

“It is something very significant,” Siepker said in an interview after learning of the honor.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow termed “Iowa Nice” as “the single most entertaining ad to come out of Iowa this political season.”

Nearly 10,000 entries were received from all 50 states and more than 60 countries, and the Official Honoree distinction is awarded to the top 15 percent of all work entered that “exhibits remarkable achievement,” David-Michel Davies, executive director of the Webbys, said in a letter to Siepker and the Iowa Filmmakers.

The two-minute “Iowa Nice” video seeks to debunk certain coastal narratives about Iowa being a cultural monolith of prejudiced reactionaries.

In the video, Siepker, pictured near the state capitol and in farm settings, defends agriculture and champions the state’s history of tolerance — the legalization of gay marriage and opportunities for women as attorneys, for example. It also spotlights the science involved in modern farming.

The video went live at about 10:30 p.m. Jan. 1 and earned instant street credibility online.

Siepker, an adjunct professor of acting at Drake University, Paul Benedict and Brendan Dunphy are the principals behind Iowa Filmmakers.

They’ve launched an ambitious number of ventures and have effectively used a self-made platform.

You will hear more from these three to be sure. But they promise to never desert us.

Siepker said an organizing principal is loyalty to Iowa, and a desire to broadcast their love of the state to a broader audience — a goal the Webby honor furthers.

“Iowa Nice” shows that Siepker and his collaborators are intent on turning on its head the popular perception of us as amiable hayseeds, the kind of people who smile politely when faced with putdowns from New Yorkers and Californians dripping with urban irony.

“We also have a chip on our shoulder right with that pride,” Siepker said.

And they have the wit to carry the chip. So, go ahead, as Robert Conrad said of his Eveready batteries in the 1970s, try to knock it off. As long as the cameras are rolling, Siepker and friends — and Iowa — will get the last laugh. CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.

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