Communication Studies - Abbott and Johnson

Neal Abbott and Professor Thomas Johnson

Research Project: Ironhead, a nine-minute documentary film that records the creative artistry of Kelly Ludeking—ironmonger, sculptor, and teacher.

Neal Abbott, Majors: Communication Studies, English

Thomas C. Johnson, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies

About the Project

“Through his company, KRL Metals, Kelly Ludeking has participated in, facilitated, and hosted over one hundred iron pours since graduating from Minneapolis College of Art and Design with a B.F.A in sculpture and furniture design,” Johnson says. “Most important to the film, Ludeking is the founder of the Down on the Farm Iron Pour, a collaborative gathering of local, regional, and international artists held annually at his family farm near Decorah.”

What Was Most Challenging About the Project?

“The most challenging aspect of this project was setting aside my own personal storytelling desires and working in collaboration with another filmmaker,” Abbott says. “It’s difficult to let moments you’ve shot and edited be deemed unworthy of the final cut, but it’s necessary in that it makes for a stronger piece as a whole in the end. Letting go of those pieces was the biggest challenge for me, but I know I grew as a filmmaker because of my willingness to put the project and the end goal first.”

Most Fascinating Discovery

“Before this project, I had no idea that something like an iron pour community existed,” Abbott says. “I found that the beauty was not only in the finished piece but the process itself was inspiring and exciting to witness firsthand.”

How Has this Project Contributed to Your Learning Experience at the Undergraduate Level?

“I’ve done a lot of filmmaking in my last few years at Luther and this was a really tremendous opportunity for me to focus solely on producing a film over the summer,” Abbott says. “It gave me the chance to produce a movie with a professor who has inspired me and proved to be a great mentor.”

What Did You Learn about Yourself During the Research?

“I learned a lot about my ability to collaborate with others for the production of something greater than I could achieve by myself,” Abbott says. “With the resources Luther provided and the collaboration with numerous faculty and staff here, I was able to help put together a film that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The experience of being able to work on this project with others who are just as passionate for filmmaking was incredibly rewarding."

What Advice Do You Have for Others Considering a Research Project at Luther?

“Absolutely do it!” Abbott says. ”Find something you’re passionate about and do a research project so you can really gauge what your life could be like to be doing what you love full time.“

What Applications Might This Project Have in the Real World?

“While the creation of the film itself is the most obvious part of the filmmaking process, screening and discussion provides opportunities for critical public engagement,” says Johnson. “When this happens, a film is transformed from passive text to a communal, meaning-making event.”

How Will the Research Be Shared?

Fresh off earning honorable mention for the Walter Ordway Best of Fest Award at this year’s Oneota Film Festival, our next step with Ironhead is to submit it to film festivals around the globe.

—Thomas C. Johnson

Why Include a Student in the Research?

Because filmmaking demands teamwork.

—Thomas C. Johnson