Civil War Takes Over Herndon

Civil War Takes Over Herndon

The Battle of Chantilly is reenacted at Frying Pan Park.

History is about to repeat itself. Or at least be reenacted.

At the end of the month Frying Pan Park will transform from a working farm — owned by the Fairfax County Park Authority — into a bloodied battlefield with fallen soldiers and gunfire.

"I was on my way to meet Bert," said Herndon resident and author Charles Mauro about the setting of his book and forthcoming movie. "I was thinking where would we film this, because we needed a corn field ... we found everything we need in Frying Pan Park."

Mauro, president of the Herndon Historical Society and author of "The Battle of Chantilly (Ox Hill) A Monumental Storm," said it occurred to him as he was driving to meet his co-producer, that the park that is "right next door" would be the perfect setting for the main battle scene reenactment.

ALTHOUGH a first-time author, screenwriter and now co-producer, Mauro already looks like a producing pro with an embroidered "The Battle of Chantilly" baseball hat — much like the ones Ron Howard or Steven Spielberg wear during their production shoots.

But the idea to make a historical film, or even a book in the first place, was never his intention.

"I first got interested when I bought Civil War books for my daughter when she was in high school," said Mauro, adding he ended up reading them.

"I didn't start out with the intentions to write a book," said Mauro.

He also didn't have the intentions to make his book a historical film until he met Bert Morgan.

Morgan, president of BLM Productions, said he first came up with the idea to make Mauro's book into a movie after the Fairfax County History Commission and the Fairfax Public Access Channel 10 asked him to look into interviewing Mauro about the book for his local television program "Virginia's Living History."

"I got the idea because The Battle of Chantilly was the only Civil War battle that was fought in Fairfax County," said Morgan. "It was also the only battle where two major generals died in one war, and there's not much known about it."

MORGAN, WHO CREATED two other Civil War documentaries — "The Battle of Cedar Creek" and "First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run)" — said a major challenge, in order to be the legitimate film they envisioned, was to find financial support.

"We basically had to beg, borrow and steal from people to help at our sites," joked Morgan. "We assessed our money situation, decided the cost, how we were going to do it and get underwriting support and then Chuck and I just started banging on doors."

One door Morgan banged on turned out to offer more financial support than he had imagined.

Dr. Mark Tummarello, of Family Dentistry in Fairfax, at the request of Morgan — his patient — became the film's major underwriter.

"I think this is a project that was well worth any help I could offer," said Tummarello, who admitted until he heard of the project he never knew a battle had occurred so close to home. "This was right in our backyard and it's very sad that so many of these battlefields are being developed."

Tummarello said that although his support is strictly financial, he has learned a lot from talking with Morgan and watching the filming.

"I don't think many of us take the time to read the history markers," said Tummarello of Virginia's Civil War background. "It's just so amazing we are around so much history."

After receiving Tummarello's financial support, Mauro and Morgan worked to cut corners by employing Civil War reenactors from the Historical Entertainment company, which was the major casting company for the movie "Gods and Generals."

"The reenactors know this stuff," said Morgan of their authenticity. "They come dressed and they come dressed right."

Morgan said the serious reenactors "would never enter the field without being historically accurate," adding that most have at least $15,000 to $20,000 worth of costume detail and props.

"When they come to scenes like this, I swear to God it's like going back in history," said Morgan, adding some even bring horses and tents.

WITH THE REENACTORS providing most of the props, the only other worry was where to film the three major scenes and with what type of film.

Morgan said they opted for digital film because it was cheaper, adding that major movie producer George Lucas used digital in part of his "Star Wars" movies.

Mauro said for authenticity purposes they used a house from the 17th century as well as other props that were from that period.

They have already filmed at the Ox Hill Battle memorial site, the Blenheim Estate, the 17th century house that was a private residence, and lastly Frying Pan Park.

The two estimated the movie will cost around $15,000 to complete, adding they still need some underwriting support which is tax deductible.

The ultimate goal for the independent film is to enter it into the Cannes Film Festival pre-screening venue.

"If 'The Blair Witch Project' can sell by being screened in Cannes, France, we figure we can do it," said Morgan.

But, before they can get to France, Morgan and Mauro need to finish the final battle of the film Oct. 24, 30 and 31 at Frying Pan Park and spend at least another eight months to a year in the post-production phase before releasing the film, which will first air on Fairfax Public Access Channel 10.

"We're just doing everything everyone has done in the past," said Morgan of starting out in the film industry. "Even Ron Howard did this."