By Aadit Tambe
University of Iowa senior Skyler Knutzen came to the UI to study physical education but instead discovered a passion for storytelling.
“I didn’t have a major when I first came to the University of Iowa; cinema had bounced around as an idea but wasn’t necessarily the plan when I first came in,” he said.
At the time, Knutzen was toying around with the idea of studying physical education after being inspired by an eighth-grade teacher.
“I thought of going into physical education, but Iowa does not offer that program, so I transferred to Iowa State and I did that for a semester …” he said. “After a semester, I knew that wasn’t the goal or the dream.”
He changed his major to advertising. After taking a few video and design classes, his father gave him a camera. He went on a climbing trip with Iowa State, where he made a short documentary. This was the turning point, he said, and he chose to pursue his newly discovered passion: storytelling.
“This is when I decided to transfer back to Iowa as a junior and decided that this is what I wanted to do — I want to go out and tell these stories,” Knutzen said.
It is important for other peoples’ stories to be heard, he said.
“The most important thing about storytelling for me is sitting down, and listening to someone, and giving somebody the space to tell their story,” he said. “Just having that opportunity to get to know someone, I feel lucky and privileged.”
At his time at the UI, Knutzen was involved with Fools Magazine, where he showcased his photography and videography skills.
Knutzen interned in Panama, where he told people’s stories for three months. He worked under the former editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post.
“[It] was amazing, and I had this opportunity to just tell stories, and I got back, and I was at home, and I had the same passion and drive to keep telling stories, and I learned to look at the people around me in a different way,” he said.
After the internship, Knutzen said, he had so many ideas and a wall full of sticky notes about what he wanted to do next.
He went back to Panama over spring break, where he told the stories of the Guna Yala community and how their way of life is going to change because of rising sea levels.
“I met Ondi Timoner in Panama, who is a two-time Sundance-winning documentarian, and I ended up going to New York the next summer and working on her feature films,” he said.
Knutzen also interned with Josh Goleman, a cinematographer in New York, where he worked on shoots for Spotify and musicians, he said.
He is going to Italy this year for summer break, where he plans to take a break after a busy year. After returning from Italy, he wants to continue working on his story about the Guna Yala community.
He hopes to move to Los Angeles to work. However, he likes the slow pace of life in the Midwest and in Iowa, and he appreciates how personable people are.