of Scott Siepker taken from the video
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 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.
Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa
newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily
Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.