At least within the boundaries of the Missouri and the Mississippi, the “Iowa Nice Guy” is a celebrity. The descriptor may be somewhat clunky, but what started as an irreverent but eloquent online video rebuttal to some rather unfair Iowa Caucus coverage has turned into other viral videos like “Cyclone Nice,” “Hawkeye Nice” (hey, they had to do it), “Justice Nice,” and even a weekly segment on the ESPNU program College Football Daily. The “Iowa Nice” videos have inspired everything from angry responses and bad parodies to effusive praise and flattering coverage – so, whether the content is well received or not, it’s obvious the character is making an impact.
So who’s behind this video phenomenon? Iowa State alumni, of course. Iowa Filmmakers is a Des Moines-based digital film production troupe run by Paul Benedict, Scott Siepker (’05 psychology), and Brendan Dunphy (’07 zoology & entomology). Siepker and Dunphy have TV, acting, and hosting gigs outside of their work with Iowa Filmmakers (Siepker hosts the program “Iowa Outdoors” on IPTV and Dunphy just launched “Insects and the City” on the Science Channel – actually, you’ll be able to read more about Dunphy in the upcoming winter issue of VISIONS magazine), but Iowa Filmmakers is where they do the projects they love — and strive to do them in Iowa.
But it’s Siepker who gave life to the “Iowa Nice Guy,” the character who has arguably become the face of Iowa Filmmakers. Young Alumni News recently caught up with Siepker to find out what it’s like to be THAT guy.
FIVE QUESTIONS WITH “IOWA NICE GUY” SCOTT SIEPKER ’05
When did the acting bug bite you and is acting what you want to do with your career?
This is a very timely question. It now has been 10 years since I was bit by the acting bug. It happened in Acting I class at Iowa State taught by Professor Emeritus Patrick “Doc” Gouran. Sadly, Doc passed away earlier this month. Not only do I credit him with getting me started in acting, but he has been my mentor since that entry level class. More importantly, he became my dear friend, especially in these last months as his cancer overtook him.
It was through a recommendation that Doc made to the head of the theater department, Jane Cox, that I took my first role in collegiate theater in “A Christmas Carol.” The character’s label was: Belle’s Husband. He had no name and about three lines. But by the time the curtain fell on that production and that semester ten years ago, I was on the path that took me away from my psychology major and into a life in the theater.
What inspired you to make the “Iowa Nice” video? Where does the character come from?
Paul David Benedict, one of the co-founders of Iowa Filmmakers (along with myself and Brendan Dunphy) was listening to a news report about Iowa during this last caucus cycle, and the way they described Iowa just didn’t match up with what he knew Iowa to be. So he started arguing with the radio and then thought “I should write this down.” So he did, then sent it to me. I read it and knew immediately we need to film it, as it tapped into all the things we Iowans were thinking but too polite to say.
You’ve now made multiple spinoff videos and the “Iowa Nice Guy” even has a regular feature on ESPNU. Did you expect the character to take on such a life of its own, and what are the pluses and minuses of the “Iowa Nice Guy’s” popularity?
Short answer is no. We didn’t know it would take off this way. It has been a very fun ride.
The pluses are that it has given us a much higher platform to make films, not just these Iowa Nice films, but our true passion: narrative pieces. The more well-known you are, the more likely individuals will invest their time in watching your work.
The only negative is that I have to tread lightly to avoid being pigeon-holed as the “Iowa Nice Guy.” I want to make sure I can continue to grow as an actor and play the types of roles I have always wanted to play. Luckily, we have a great film company committed to producing a wide variety of film genres, so I will get that chance.
You obviously are passionate about our state. What has motivated you to serve as this sort-of evangelist for Iowa?
I was born here, I was raised here. I am Iowan. It is not a perfect state, but it is home. And I want to make sure that others can understand how much this state has to offer and to help others that are here to realize (if they don’t know) how wonderful it is.
With the technology now available, I want people to know that you can make your dreams come true right here in Iowa. We know it, but we are trying to produce more and more evidence that we are correct.
So, are you really a nice guy in real life?
Ha! The Iowa Nice Guy is different than me in a few ways. One, he is a jackass. Two, he is much cooler than I am. It is funny sometimes to watch people adjust their expectations of me when they first recognize who I am. Some expect a much more “in your face” guy, and that is not my style at all.
About this story | Interview by Kate Bruns, associate director of communications. Originally published in Young Alumni News Dec. 17, 2012.