From A Quiet Place to Avengers: Infinity War to Saving Brinton, Hawkeyes have contributed their fair share in Hollywood. Students excel at the University of Iowa and long after they graduate. The creators of the box-office hit A Quiet Place can vouch for that. Childhood friends Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, both Hawkeyes, came up with the idea for the film while students at Iowa. And they were no strangers to success. The two earned a development deal with MTV after winning MTVU’s Best Film on Campus challenge in 2005. They credit part of their success in film to the experiences they had while on campus—including several foreign film classes, a nonverbal communication course, and the overall collaborative spirit of Iowa City—which taught them how to think about film, and life in general, in a new way.
Joe Russo, who co-directed Avengers: Infinity War with his brother, Anthony, graduated from Iowa in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in English. Infinity War had the highest grossing opening of all time, bringing in $630 million during its first weekend. Russo cites a popular religious studies teacher at Iowa, Jay Holstein, as a major influence. “Fifty years at the University of Iowa—60,000 students have gone through his classes. You wouldn’t have Infinity War without him,” Russo said just days after the release of the blockbuster. Russo acknowledges other opportunities for educational growth at Iowa: He studied abroad in the United Kingdom and took advantage of the literary community in the world-renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Another important UI contribution to film comes from Iowa grads Tommy Haines and John Richard, along with Iowa City filmmaker Andrew Sherburne. Haines graduated in ’05 with a BA in cinema and comparative literature, and Richard received a BS in environmental science in ’04. While Sherburne attended college elsewhere, he credits the University of Iowa with providing him with most of his film knowledge. The three men put together the documentary Saving Brinton, which explores the story of Mike Zahs, a film collector who discovered some of cinema’s early and influential show reels in a shed and worked to preserve them. The documentary was created with the expertise that Haines and Richard developed while attending Iowa. Working for The Daily Iowan, Iowa’s school newspaper, was an eye-opening opportunity for Richard, as was his work with esteemed faculty. Saving Brinton has garnered support across the country, and was nearly selected for the Best Documentary Feature category at the Academy Awards.
Read more about Iowa’s impact on Hollywood at our UIowa Stories site.