Let the Filming Begin: Week in Review

by Silvia Oakland

Nathan monitoring cameras during interview with the Gradwolhs
Nathan monitoring cameras during interview with the Gradwolhs

Do you ever have a moment of realization that this is all too real? That was how I felt this week.

Last Friday we took our first trip to Ames, Iowa to begin filming physically-distanced interviews. Before filming on Saturday, we ate dinner together at Hickory Park, dug into some delicious ice cream, and later watched some Disney+ to our night. It was a good night of relaxation and bonding before our big day of filming.

After waking up early and eating a hearty breakfast (shoutout to Nathan’s mom), we began our journey to the first location. We began what would be roughly a 10-hour day of filming at the Ames History Museum and spoke with Alex Fejfar and toured the museum.

At the museum, we saw plenty of photos and documents about Maria, including a ceremonial dress she once wore. We were also able to see their current exhibit of the prohibition in Iowa.

We continued our day by speaking with David and Hanna Gradwohl, adopted family members of Maria.

While sitting in their beautiful home filled with artifacts from all over the world (51 countries they told us!) we learned about Maria’s kind heart, incredible sense of humor and the passion she had to fight for what is right.

Our final interview was with Jennifer Thompson and Anna Pope Morgan, Maria’s grandchildren. Their father, Ronald Thompson, had recently passed away earlier in the year but they allowed us to go view old photos and documents that Ronald had inherited from Maria. One we found really interesting and amazing was her letter from Robert D. Ray, the governor of Iowa in 1973, expressing his praise and gratefulness for Maria.

We ended our day by filming Maria’s brick which is placed in the Plaza of Heroines at Iowa State University. And as I watched my group mates set up, tear down and go through the motions of interviews I had that realization that things were real.

We were telling the story of Maria and we were doing what we loved, much like she was. I felt like a fly on the wall, and I watched with a full heart and a huge smile hidden under my face shield and mask combo.

Silvia Oakland is the Producer/Writer for Simplex Stories. Originally from Hawkeye, IA, she has around five years of experience as a multimedia journalist. Feel free to reach her at

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