Algona goes Hollywood
WWII POW movie will premiere in late 2022
ALGONA — An upcoming movie inspired by true events in Algona recently finished filming and will premiere late next year.
“Silent Night In Algona” is a Christmas movie set in a World War II prisoner of war camp in Algona.
The movie is being produced by Collective Development Inc. based in Lansing, Mich. Director Tony Hornus said, “I’ve been with CDI and a friend of our CEO DJ Perry for 25 years. We’re both writers, actors, directors, producers,”
Hornus said the screenplay was written by Perry many years ago. “DJ wrote this screenplay in 2007 for Algona businessman and philanthropist Donald Tietz. It’s his story as a young boy during WWII on the farm,” said Hornus. “Two years ago Mr. Tietz reapproached us and we revisited the original script, tweaked and tweaked for weeks, then decided to partner with him and his Donald Tietz Charitable Foundation to make the feature film. The story takes place between early Nov. and Christmas Eve in 1944 Kossuth County, Iowa.”
The movie tells the story of the German prisoners of war who were held in Algona during World War II and celebrated Christmas there by building a nativity scene together. When the war ended, they donated the nativity scene to the city of Algona.
Earlier this year, the company advertised that they were looking for local people to be extras in the film. That’s when Mike Magruder and his son Noah, currently a sophomore at Fort Dodge Senior High, sent in their information and several months later, got a call that they were going to be in the movie. Mike Magruder said he believes the two of them were the only ones cast from Fort Dodge but there were many others from the Kossuth County area.
Both Noah and Mike Magruder were originally cast as prisoners of war extras but thanks to Mike Magruder’s experience in country music production, he joined the team as a production assistant instead. “They needed a production assistant and I’ve done that before doing country music,” said Mike Magruder. He said he is in one scene but couldn’t disclose details of the scene.
Some scenes were filmed in Whittemore and Forest City before the crew moved to Algona to finish filming. Mike Magruder said during World War II, Algona was a prisoner of war hub. “They would go to Algona, and then get spread out in the region. What they used the POWs for was working on family farms because everybody was supporting the war effort. They didn’t have farmhands because they were fighting in the war,” said Mike Magruder.
Mike and Noah Magruder both said they found it very interesting to see how the film was made. “It’s kind of weird, because you’re used to seeing how they film it when it’s done. You don’t know how many takes they do for just one scene. You’d go through a scene and they’d film the wide shot and then you’d have to do the whole scene again while they film the closeups,” said Mike Magruder.
The Magruders said they got to meet many interesting people while filming. “The main actors for the POWs were actually German. They sit there and they talk back and forth in German and it’s just kind of cool listening to them,” said Mike Magruder. Noah Magruder said he even started to pick up a little German just being around them.
Mike Magruder said he likes that the movie dives deeper into what it would have been like for both the prisoners and the townsfolk in Algona at that time. “Yes, it’s about the German POWs and, and building the nativity scene, but then you also have the drama with the Germans and how people felt about them. Especially with them working on family farms, because back then everything was like family. You didn’t have big industrial farms, you had family farms,” he said.
Noah Magruder said it really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him to be in the film. “It was really fun. There’s a lot of amazing people there and I got to work with a whole bunch of people that you don’t know who they are and then after a few days, you just get to know them, and then you’re friends with them. It’s kind of like family,” he said. Both Mike and Noah Magruder said they still talk to some of the people they met on set.
Hornus said they value the relationships made each time they produce a film. “On every shoot we do, it’s about the relationships we make with people. This shoot was no different. We had a lot of fun in the midst of a lot of hard work,” he said.
It’s estimated to take about a year for the film to be complete. “Silent Night In Algona will have a red carpet world premiere event in Algona at Star 5 Theatres in November or early December,” said Hornus.
Hornus said he is excited to share this story through the film, “Everyone was so very helpful in seeing that justice was done to this story that is little known around the world. The fact that the enemy, German POWs, could pull off a feat that still stands and is a symbol of faith, hope and goodwill among all people, is amazing,” he said. “Like everyone else, we can’t wait to show the world where north-central Iowa is and what a great lesson was learned 77 years ago between ‘enemies’.”
For more information and photos, visit “Silent Night In Algona” on Facebook.