The Iowa Writers Room is a professionally oriented program that prepares students to enter a career in writing long-form television.
About The Iowa Writers Room
The Iowa Writers Room, though a relatively new program, grew directly from the University of Iowa’s unparalleled history of literary excellence. Iowa has long been able draw the best creative talent in the country to its graduate writing programs and some of those writers made their way to Los Angeles. Their presence has grown in recent years as alumni have filled the need for intelligent, character-driven scripted television. Indeed, the current demand for creative content is so high that UI alumni are increasingly selling the screen rights for their novels at the same time that the novels are sold for publication.
As Iowa’s impact in the entertainment industry grew, the university saw an opportunity to shorten the path to success for students by creating a value-adding, differentiated screenwriting initiative that is both low-cost and high-impact, and nimble enough to respond quickly to market demands. Thanks to the university’s many writing programs, graduate and advanced undergraduate writers already know how to create a story. This program gives them two options to learn how to tailor those stories to a new and quickly changing medium.
Writers Room Fellowships
Each year the program offers two or three fellowships to graduates of Iowa’s MFA writing programs. These include the Writers Workshop, The Playwrights Workshop, The Non-Fiction Writing Program, the Department of Cinematic Arts, and the Spanish Creative Writing Program. Fellows are in residence for the fall semester and work closely with a visiting professor to develop plans for a long-form television series and write at least one episode. During the term they engage with professional writers in Los Angeles who provide additional mentoring and offer career advice. After the fellows’ scripts are completed, they are shared with successful producers, writers and agents, most of whom are alumni of the University of Iowa. Fellows receive a $15,000 scholarship as well as travel funding to assist them as they begin their careers.
Writers Room Pro-Seminar
Each fall the program offers an advanced course in writing for long-form television. It is taught by the visiting professor, who leads students through the challenges of writing for this form. He or she mentors them as they develop an idea for a series and work on an episode. Admission to the course is open to graduate and advanced undergraduate students; applicants must submit a sample of their writing for consideration. Like the fellows, they engage with guests from the profession both in person and online. Successful scripts are sent to many of the same producers, writers and agents.
The visiting professor who mentors the fellows and teaches the pro-seminar has experience and strong ties to the screenwriting industry. Complementing him or her is an extraordinary range of successful writers, producers and agents, whose work has helped define the genre and continues to chart new territory for it.
Iowa alumni have played a transformational role in Hollywood for decades. From David Milch with NYPD Blue and Deadwood, to Mitch Burgess and Robin Green and The Sopranos, to DB Weiss and Game of Thrones, and to Lila Byock with Watchmen, Hawkeyes have captured our collective imagination and helped shape cultural conversations through their work. Our television-writing alumni have embraced this initiative and have guided the its development through an LA-based steering committee. These alumni contribute to the semester-long class and provide vital industry contacts for students interested in entering the entertainment industry. Their collective credits include: Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Manhattan, Blue Bloods, Castle Rock, Six Feet Under, West Wing, House of Cards, Mad Men, Girls, the Terror, Coach, Newhart, The Right Stuff, Gossip Girl and Northern Exposure.
Related UI Programs
Alumni Television credits
The Writers Room is funded by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, by the Meta and George Rosenberg Foundation, by Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green, and by other donors. It is supported by the Department of Theatre Arts.
Over the next five years it is hoped that the Writers Room will expand its reach to include more fellows and open that program to applicants from outside the University of Iowa. At least one additional pro-seminar will be offered, and a long-term residency will be provided for a professional writer.
Profile: Abigail Carney, recent UI alum with upcoming television series.
Profile: Mark Johnson, UI alum and winner an Academy Award, three Emmys, a Peabody, and a Golden Globe for films such as Rain Man and television shows such as Breaking Bad.
Profile: D.B. Weiss, UI alum and co-creators, executive producers, showrunners, and writers for Game of Thrones
Iowa Writers' Workshop
Playwrights Workshop (Theatre Arts)
Nonfiction Writing Program
MFA Program in Spanish Creative Writing
Department of English Creative Writing Program