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Reston on Film

Steve Resz recently released his documentary about Reston.

Tucked under Pat Snyder’s arm like a football were two DVD copies of “Reston: Past, Present & Future,” a 190-minute documentary about Reston.

Snyder, a Reston resident of 12 years, thinks Reston is fantastic. “Everything’s here. It’s quite something,” she said. And now she has something to prove it.

After watching and listening to a presentation about the movie, Snyder, with her DVDs in hand, approached the filmmaker, Steve Resz of Reston. “My grandchildren are going to get these,” said Snyder, patting her two copies.

IT WAS A REWARDING testimony for Resz. For the past three and a half years, Resz has either been behind a sophisticated Sony digital video camera filming or in front of his Apple computer flat screen editing.

“I figured it would take two years of filming and about a year of editing,” said Resz, telling a small, intimate crowd at the Reston Museum Wednesday, May 24 that whittling down 150 hours of footage into a three-hour film delayed the release date by about six months.

During Resz’s last few years in the telecommunications industry in the late 1990s, he planned to produce documentaries as a career during retirement. His first camera, which he bought as a reward for giving up smoking, was delivered the day after Sept. 11, 2001. “I shot footage on 9/15,” he said.

Just a few months into retirement and still learning about the camera, Resz decided to focus his work on an old adage he adopted as an author. “It struck me: write what you know,” he said, choosing to film what he knew: Reston.

The following summer, Resz, like a ubiquitous fly on the wall, began filming at many of Reston’s signature events. In June, he filmed Reston’s inaugural Founder’s Day, including footage of several children releasing doves at Lake Anne Village Center in honor of those who died during the terrorist attacks the previous fall.

WHILE RESZ’S footage drives the documentary, the movie’s depth comes from extensive research. The film describes the various historical reincarnations of Reston, starting from as far back as Potomac Indian communities in the area through Lord Fairfax’s oversight of the property, and from Max Wiehle’s effort to create a town to Sunset Hills Farm and the Bowman distillery.

Taking advantage of George Mason University’s Planned Community’s Archives, which includes hundreds of boxed Reston records, Resz scanned nearly 1,000 pictures and documents. The documentary also includes archival film footage of several prominent Restonians and historic moments, such as the opening of the Reston Community Center, the groundbreaking ceremony for the Reston Town Center and the unveiling of “Bronze Bob,” the statue of Reston’s founder Robert E. Simon at Washington Plaza.

A few months ago, Resz decided to donate about 147 hours of his unused footage back to the archives at George Mason.

For Simon, who attended the presentation, the film brought back many memories, with several chapters flowing like a biography. But it was other surprises in the film that most impressed Simon.

“Wow,” uttered Simon, watching as footage of Embry Rucker appeared on the screen. Rucker, who died several years ago, was the first Episcopal vicar in Reston, an activist who spent his life trying to help the neediest people in the community. The homeless shelter in Reston has since been named in his honor.

“I still don’t know how he got that film of Embry Rucker,” said Simon.

Resz also found footage of state Sen. Janet Howell (D-36) as she passionately campaigned for township more than 25 years ago. “We can’t see our plan implemented being under the county ordinance,” she says in the documentary. Howell has since changed positions on incorporation, opposing the latest effort led by the Reston Citizens Association to become a town.

IN ONE OF the latter chapters of the film, viewers get an opportunity to see Resz drawn out from his silent role behind the camera. During a scene at one of the local pools, a little girl looks at the camera and asks, “What are you doing?” Resz responds: “I’m filming a movie about Reston.” Without a moment’s hesitation, the little girl says, “Reston’s the best place on Earth.”

“I had a lot of those comments,” said Resz, concluding his presentation.