Mueller: University of Iowa should reconsider the HBO filming rejection

Kasey Mueller

University of Iowa should reconsider the HBO filming rejection

In the third-season finale of HBO television hit “Girls”, main character Hannah Horvath was accepted into the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Following the finale, HBO contacted University of Iowa in regards to filming on campus. UI spokesman, Tom Moore, made a monumental mistake of denying the film request.

The Iowa Writer’s Workshop is a program where writers work for two years in Iowa City. During this time, students build up work into either a novel, collection of stories or book of poems.  According to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop website, the program is formally known as The Program in Creative Writing.

 In an article posted by Press Citizen, one of the show’s writers, Sarah Heyward, graduated from the program before moving to California. It makes sense to have a show writer incorporate some of their personal life into a script. Unfortunately, Moore did not see the excellent exposure possibility in the same light as Heyward.

 Moore initially denied further discussing the topic. Press Citizen wrote that in a prepared statement Moore said, “while we are pleased that the Iowa Writers’ Workshop is receiving national attention and that our graduate is doing well in her career, our general practice is to not allow filming, due to potential disruption to campus.”

 The next day Joe Brennan, University of Iowa’s Vice President of Strategic Communication, said he denied HBO’s film request because “he felt the storyline would tarnish the reputation of the university,” reports Press Citizen.

 Brennan continued to say that, “after reviewing the script, I felt the storyline placed the city and university in an unfavorable light, and considering the potential for disruption, I made the decision to deny the request.”

 I could not help but notice that Moore solely focuses on filming possibly becoming disruptive, while Brennan decided to focus concern on the reputation of Iowa City with only a consideration of disruption. I am interested in knowing which reputation Brennan is scared of ruining for Iowa City because the reputation I know isn’t the greatest.

 If you don’t believe it, USA Today writes, “The Princeton Review bestowed Iowa with the top ranking” party school, but that “officials in Iowa City aren’t celebrating the ranking, which comes after they’ve made recent strides in the battle against binge drinking on campus and downtown.”

Of course major leaders in the Iowa City community would not want a film crew around to document the huge party atmosphere that is University of Iowa. The Department of Public Safety has an impressive arrest log with the 2012, 2013 and up-to-date 2014 arrest docket. The 2012 docket appears to have 70 pages, while the 2013 docket drastically drops to 54 pages. The 2014 log is currently at ten pages.

With that being said, I still do not understand why Brennan is worried about tarnishing this reputation. The only thing “Girls” would tarnish is city official’s failing at attempting to have control.

 I’m assuming Iowa City officials did their research as well and learned that “Girls”has averaged 4.6 million gross viewers this season, according to Dominic Patten of Deadline. That’s a lot of people seeing the nature of Iowa City.

Moore, Brennan and the others involved in the decision-making process, could not have taken a more wrong route. They focused on film crews capturing crazy crowds at parties instead of scenes carefully structured by Lena Dunham, the creator/star/executive producer of the show, and her staff.

It’s a given that party scenes will be included, any show or movie filmed on a college campus includes a party or six. That should not make Iowa City officials shy away from an excellent opportunity. 

By allowing HBO to film “Girls” in Iowa City on the University of Iowa campus, the university would be getting paid for advertising, instead of paying for it. “Girls has a reputation for being a very real and relatable show, so the campus would probably be portrayed in an honest light.

Why does that threaten University of Iowa officials? A university should be thrilled to have a mega-famous show want to film on their campus. “Girls” also has a younger audience, so perspective students could be seeing what University of Iowa is really like, unlike some campus tour.

Not to mention the increase in revenue with film crews booking hotel rooms for extended periods of time. And HBO doesn’t mess around; they would not have cheap hotel rooms.

Ultimately, Moore and Brennan should reconsider their vote and campaign for allowing HBO to film on campus. The benefits far outweigh any “potential disruptions.”