The duo came up with the idea for ‘A Quiet Place’ while students at the UI
Thursday, May 25, 2017

When childhood friends Scott Beck and Bryan Woods arrived on the University of Iowa campus, they knew exactly what they wanted to do and where they wanted to go. They started making films as kids and have now turned their passion into their profession.

After years of hard work, Beck (BA ’07, communication studies) and Woods (BA ’07, communication studies)—both natives of Bettendorf, Iowa—have caught their biggest break yet. The duo recently sold a screenplay to Paramount Pictures for a film called A Quiet Place.

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The movie industry was all abuzz when the deal was announced in March because the film will feature John Krasinski (The Office, Promised Land) and Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, The Girl on the Train) in the married couple’s first on-screen appearance together. Krasinski also will serve as executive producer and direct the film. Michael Bay, who produced and directed blockbusters such as Transformers and Armageddon, also is on board as a producer. The film is expected to be released in April 2018.

For Beck and Woods, the deal with Paramount follows years of building momentum, starting when they were undergrads at the UI. The duo earned a development deal with MTV after winning MTVu’s Best Film on Campus challenge in 2005. They also placed among the top 50 filmmakers for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Project Greenlight competition.

Beck and Woods wrote and directed the horror film Nightlight, which was released through Lionsgate in 2015, marking their first professional feature. Now the Los Angeles–based filmmakers are starting to see more projects thrown their way.

Paramount is keeping many of the details about A Quiet Place under wraps, but Iowa Now caught up with Beck and Woods to talk about their time at the UI and their budding careers.

Iowa Now: What has life been like for you two since the deal with Paramount was announced?

Woods: We’re very grateful because it’s been very busy. Part of it is because we’re working on several other projects now (including Haunt, which they wrote and will direct this summer), but since the Paramount announcement and since the script has been circulating around the business, it’s been really kind to our career.

Beck: That had been a long time coming. (A Quiet Place) was an idea that we came up with while we were students at Iowa. It was like 10 or 11 years ago that Bryan and I were sitting outside of our apartment on South Johnson Street talking about this idea. We kind of put it in a drawer and didn’t really crack it back open until a year and a half ago.

We’ve been working on a film career for almost 20 years—since we were kids—but you hit a point sometimes where it just feels like critical mass. We are very grateful to have so many things hit at once.

Iowa Now: What were some of the things you learned at the UI that have helped you in your career?

Beck: As a filmmaker—as important as it is to study film—it is also important to get enough life experiences. For instance, we took this nonverbal communication course. So much of film is about the nonverbal or what’s being said behind the dialogue. That was a really interesting study into human nature and applying that to writing and directing.

There were a lot of foreign cinema classes that we took that exposed us to different cinema experiences around the world. Those exposed us to new forms of storytelling.

Woods: We always felt it would be advantageous for us to get a well-rounded education. It never felt like we were making movies outside of class. It was all one thing. Class was informing us as people—how you are as people impacts how you are as writers.

Scott Beck and Bryan Woods on location
Scott Beck, left, and Bryan Woods both encourage Iowa filmmakers to embrace their Midwestern roots. "We have had such an amazing experience making movies in Iowa because the people inspire creativity," Woods says.

Iowa Now: You made a lot of films while you were in school. What were some of the resources you were able to tap into and what inspired you during that time?

Woods: There’s an amazing creative community. We worked with so many people, like the actors, the comedy scene, and the many amazing writers we interacted with. We also found an amazing collaborative spirit in Iowa City.

Beck: In a lot of our courses, we found collaborators whom we still work with to this day. There’s a former UI student that we met freshman year, Shane Simmons (BA ’07, cinema and comparative literature), and we use him as a producer and a sounding board for a lot of our projects. Kevin Kelley (a documentary filmmaker and videographer at the UI) came across us or we came across him as undergrads and we formed a great relationship. We very much considered him a mentor. A lot of our formative relationships came about through those four years at school.

Woods: I think there’s something about being in touch with real people and Midwest values. There’s an authenticity to it that I find very inspiring. You would think in Los Angeles, being surrounded by people who work in film and television, that it would feel more like a grander creative incubator. It’s more of a business out here than it is back home, where it’s all about the artist and pursuing passions because you love it.

Beck: Any time we get back to Iowa, it’s like a recharge of sorts, especially Iowa City.

Iowa Now: You’ve been friends since you were kids, went through high school and college together, and all the while have been building a career together. What makes this partnership work?

Beck: Bryan is a great sounding board to make sure that everything is as watertight as possible with the creative aspect because we really challenge each other and challenge ourselves to do the best work we can. We have this healthy, friendly competition of ideas and build upon each other’s creative concepts. It puts everything through a focus and filter that is better together than it would be if either of us was working by ourselves.

Woods: Honestly, I’d question whether or not I could do it by myself because there is a lot of rejection and disappointment. Filmmaking and writing is such an emotional endeavor. It’s great to experience all of the highs, but also the lows with someone else who is going through the exact same thing.

Iowa Now: What advice would you give to UI students or Iowa filmmakers?

Beck: Our mantra is, don’t feel limited by your location. You feel far from the film industry, but our perspective was to just make movies and improve with each one. Each film was an opportunity for a learning experience.

It comes down to having a unique perspective and a unique voice, and I think the great thing about being from Iowa is that there aren’t many Midwest stories being told. Something that Bryan and I hold onto very dearly is where we come from.

Woods: Being in Iowa gives you a unique point of view inherently. Embrace that. We have had such an amazing experience making movies in Iowa because the people inspire creativity. Young filmmakers should be trying to use up all of those resources, because there are a lot of amazing and talented people there.