A documentary about Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who designed and built Central Park, Brooklyn's Prospect Park, and a number of other urban oases throughout the country, brought a Summit High School alum back to her alma mater.
The film, "The Olmsted Legacy: Urban Parks in America," was screened at Summit's Reed-Reeves Arboretum on November 20. Rebecca Messner, SHS Class of 2004, wrote and directed the documentary that was produced by her father. Messner visited her alma mater on November 19 to share portions of the film and talk to Film Studies, Moving Image, Humanities, AP Environmental Science, and US History classes about Olmsted and the making of the film.
"I had a lot of fun focusing on the arts at Summit High School," Messner told the students who gathered in the library for her presentation. "I was in the musicals, played in the band, and made films."
In introducing "The Olmsted Legacy," Messner explained that after leaving his job on Wall Street her father became interested in environmental issues and began exploring the possibility of making a documentary about American parks through his foundation, Red Fields to Green Fields. He eventually chose to focus primarily on Olmsted, who, with his partner Calvert Vaux, began designing and building the country's first public parks in the 19th century. ìPalace grounds for the common man,î as Messner described them.
Showing selections from the film, which features archival photographs and interviews with Olmsted experts, historians, and conservationists, Messner explained her job of researching and cataloguing the vast amounts of information on which the film is based. She said other family members and friends also pitched in to assist the professional film makers who created the documentary. Actor Kevin Kline is in the cast as the voice of Olmsted.
"The students really enjoyed Rebecca's visit," said Corey Walsh, supervisor of Summit High School's English Department. "It was a great opportunity for them to look at the research, writing and technical aspects in the medium of film making through the lens of a number of different subject areas."