UI denied 'Girls' due to 'negative' plot line

HBO came to the UI about a week ago and asked to film on campus for two days

Vanessa Miller
Published: March 28 2014 | 12:31 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:16 am in

The University of Iowa official who rejected a request from HBO to film on campus for its popular series “Girls” was not only concerned about potential distractions but with the plot line, which he said casts the university in a negative light.

“I reviewed the script and was concerned that the story line didn’t place the university and the community in a favorable light,” said Joseph Brennan, UI vice president for strategic communication.

HBO came to the UI about a week ago and ask to film for about two days on campus, Brennan said. The request was to shoot near academic buildings, which Brennan felt could have created a distraction for students.

“Those two factors combined made me decide to decline,” Brennan said.

He declined to discuss specifics about the “Girls” plot, specifically the aspects that concerned him, out of respect for the show’s producers.

And, Brennan said, he doesn’t know whether denying the show’s request to film on campus will change the plot in any way.

“Certainly we have not asked them to change the plot line,” he said. “And, as we all know in the world of TV and movies, you can use one location and it can fictionally stand in for another.”

The show’s plot, which follows a group of young adults living in New York City, turned to Iowa City during its season three finale on Sunday when main character, Hannah Horvath, got accepted to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

One of the show’s writers, Sarah Heyward, is an alumnus of the UI’s MFA in English program, nationally and internationally heralded for producing Pulitzer Prize winners, U.S. Poets Laureate, and National Book Award winners.

Even though the UI turned down the show, Brennan said the university is “flattered to be asked and proud of its graduate.”

But Josh Schamberger, president of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, has expressed disappointment with the university's decision to turn down HBO. And, Schamberger said, he has had discussions with the City of Iowa City and the Iowa City Downtown District about possibly reaching out to the show's producers to discuss possibly filming in the community.

"We were talking about the curiosity we had with this decision and about trying to track down the folks at HBO to let them know that certainly the city would have interest in welcoming them to shoot here," Schamberger said.

He said it's possible they would change their mind after reviewing the script.

"But the city, the downtown district, and the CVB have all talked and want to make our city welcome for someone wanting to shoot a feature that large," Schamberger said.

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