Produce Iowa
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Produce Iowa

Inside “The Film Lounge” with Thomas Johnson

It’s time for another sneak peek at the Iowa filmmakers whose work you’ll see in the upcoming series “The Film Lounge,” premiering next month on Iowa Public Television. If you’ve missed some of the earlier filmmakers, click through the rest of our blog when you’re finished here and get to know the rest of the featured artists.

You can also check out the free preview parties scheduled for Feb. 5 in Iowa City, Feb. 9 in Des Moines and Feb. 11 in Sioux City. IPTV, Produce Iowa and the Iowa Arts Council worked to put these together so film fans can get an early look at the series and meet filmmakers and other fans.

So now let’s meet Thomas Johnson of Decorah. Throughout his career, he’s produced an array of documentary films. His first, “Sons of the Road” (2001), profiles three eclectic street performers in Fremantle, Western Australia. “Sons of the Road” was a finalist for Best Documentary at Auburn University’s Movie Gallery Student Video Competition, as well as the all-around Best Documentary at the Georgia Tech Cable Network Film and Video Festival.

In 2013, Thomas produced a series of documentary films: “Hours with Novian,” “Hours with Amanda,” and “Hours with Ben.” Each film consisted of three sections totaling exactly 100 seconds each. Within those sections, each subject reflected on rest, work, and play. Thus, each film is a triptych on its own, as well as when screened together. The documentaries were an official selection of the Oneota Film Festival, Speechless Film Festival, Louisville’s International Festival of Film, and the Mt. Hood Independent Film Festival.

Thomas’ contribution to “The Film Lounge” is “Ironhead,” his latest documentary from 2015. It documents the creative work of ironmonger Kelly Ludeking and the happenings at his Down on the Farm Iron Pour, a yearly communal gathering of local and national artists collaborating to make cast iron art at the Ludeking family farm in Decorah, Iowa.

The film received an honorable mention at the Walter Ordway Best of Fest Award at the Oneota Film Festival, in Decorah, and was an official selection of the Yellowknife International Film Festival, Milwaukee Film Festival, Fargo Fantastic Film Festival, Liverpool Lift-Off Online Film Festival, Frozen River Film Festival, Speechless Film Festival, Red Wasp Independent Film Festival and the Wild Rose Independent Film Festival. So yeah, it’s gotten some great play so far.

Thomas grew up in Rushford, Minnesota, and studied at Saint John’s University and graduated from the University of Minnesota. He currently serves as an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Luther College in Decorah, where he focuses on critical media studies and media production.

So, what are you currently working on?
I’m working on a short documentary about Marieke Penterman, a woman born and raised in the Netherlands who now makes award-winning authentic Dutch Gouda cheese alongside her husband, Rolf, in Thorp, Wisconsin.

What kinds films do you usually make? And what themes does your work deal with?
I primarily produce short subject documentary films. My work deals with ambition, community, education, creativity and balance.

What do you enjoy about being a filmmaker in Iowa?
From the Wild Rose Independent Film Festival in Des Moines to the Oneota Film Festival in Decorah, the film festival scene in Iowa provides so many amazing opportunities for folks to connect with artists, filmmakers and audiences.

What is one thing you would like to see change about the film scene in Iowa?
One thing that might benefit the film scene in Iowa is the possibility of finding unique ways to collaborate with colleges and universities.

Originally published at on January 25, 2017.




Iowa’s State Office of Media Production

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