Four Iowa alumni gather at a Hollywood lounge accented with textured walls and lanterns that emit golden light. We see SAM SHAW (04MFA), LILA BYOCK (04MFA), MARK LAFFERTY (04MFA), and VINNIE WILHELM (04MFA), a group of charismatic, hilarious, and whip-smart writers who arrived at the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 2002 and quickly became lifelong friends. Together, they've created, written, and produced award-winning television in Hollywood, using the lessons in storytelling and collaboration they honed at the University of Iowa.
Get to know these screenwriters, who have worked on shows like Hulu's Castle Rock, Disney+'s The Right Stuff, WGN America's Manhattan, and HBO's Watchmen. Watch Act One for the scoop on their time at Iowa, hear their musings about the creative process in Act Two, and watch them dissect a scene from Manhattan in Act Three.
Iowa City proved to be the birthplace of a legendary set of relationships that would lead Shaw, Byock, Lafferty, and Wilhelm from the Iowa Writers' Workshop to the lights of Hollywood. Over a game of pool, the friends reminisce about their time at Iowa, which they say left them uniquely equipped to meet the needs of the TV industry.
Behind-the-scenes work on a TV show can be grueling, but it's the time spent elbow-deep in the mechanics of storytelling that continues to bring Shaw, Byock, Lafferty, and Wilhelm back to both writing and producing. There's an element of magic inherent in the way a story can come together when the writers room gets going, and it's those experiences of almost otherworldly collaboration that invigorate the group.
Shaw created Manhattan, a historical drama about scientists working on the top-secret Manhattan Project in the 1940s, and brought on Lafferty, Byock, and Wilhelm to join the writers room. The show, which ran on WGN America in 2014-15, reunited the four friends almost a decade after their graduation and led to many subsequent collaborations. Here, the writers analyze how two scenes came together from season two of Manhattan.
DIRECTION: Seth Friedman
VIDEO EDITING: John Emigh
PHOTOGRAPHY: John Orchard
WRITING: Lulu Dewey, Shelbi Thomas
WEBSITE DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT: Nick Beecher, Jimmy Losasso, Mike Miersen, Zack Schmidt
DIGITAL PROMOTION: Karla Hurley, Nicole Knoll, Katie Linder
Mario Anzuoni, Reuters-stock.adobe.com
Mark Hill, HBO
Colin Hutton, HBO
Henry Nicholls, Reuters-stock.adobe.com
Jane Van Voorhis