University of Iowa alumni and Hollywood screenwriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods visited the UI on April 9 to discuss their professional careers and their cowritten, just released film, A Quiet Place, directed by John Krasinski.
Beck and Woods took the opportunity to talk about their careers from the ground up, as well as the influence the UI has had.
The beginnings of the duo’s career took place in a middle-school lunchroom in Bettendorf. Woods approached Beck’s lunch table, and they bonded over Wood’s interest in making short films with his Star Wars action figures.
“You would have changed the course of history if you sat somewhere else,” said cinematic-arts Associate Professor Christopher Harris, a moderator of the discussion.
Their friendship continued, and they ended up attending the UI, making various connections that proved valuable in their upcoming careers.
“Coming from Iowa, that’s a leg up; it’s something we find very special to this very day,” Beck said. “Anytime we run into somebody from Iowa, there is a kinship there but also a creativity that’s shared, a unique perspective that you don’t necessarily get if you come from somewhere else.”
Beck and Woods have worked on most of each other’s major projects collaboratively, something they attribute the quality of their writing to.
“What makes having a writing partner nice is that you are never precious with your work; it always feels like someone else’s work, so we never fall in the trap of thinking that it’s better than it is,” Woods said.
After some time in Hollywood, Woods and Beck developed a relationship with MTV films, where they would frequently send pitches, one of which being a TV pilot called “Spread.” It did not get picked up by the network but proved helpful in developing their shared philosophy of filmmaking.
“If we want to write something, and nobody wants to make it, that we are still passionate about, we would come back to the UI and film it,” Woods said.
The two did return to the UI and film “Spread,” tapping into their connections to get aid in the production. It was a difficult task, Woods said, because the UI did not exactly want them filming on campus.
Following “Spread,” Beck and Woods also wrote and directed another film, titled Nightlight, in 2015. After that, their next major project was A Quiet Place, released on April 6.
They wrote the film based on a simple premise: If you make any noise, you die. Drawing on silent filmmakers such as Charlie Chaplin for inspiration, they produced an initial 67-page script including only three lines of dialogue.
Fortunately, everything fell into place for them, and not only was the project picked up by Paramount Pictures, they also got their first choice of actors on board. They also were able to remain involved on the production side as well as executive producers.
Such as with the case of “Spread,” they had plans to produce A Quiet Place here in Iowa on a lower budget if nobody picked it up.