Wednesday, May 29, 2013

‘Williston Revisited’ to Premiere on June 7

Local Filmmaker Looks at 20 Years of Change in Fast-Growing Vermont Town

The Cover of the DVD for Williston Revisited.
WILLISTON, Vt. - The Town of Williston will celebrate the 250th anniversary of its charter signing on June 7 with the premier of Williston Revisited: A Community Portrait. The film by Willistonian James Heltz of Green Mountain Video chronicles the changes in Williston over the past 20 years.

In 1991, Heltz created “Williston: A Community Portrait,” a 26-minute documentary, which covered two-plus centuries of Williston history. It won awards from the Vermont Historical Society and American Association for State and Local History. It premiered at Williston Central School on July 2, 1992 as part of the Town’s Vermont Bicentennial Celebration and aired on Vermont Public Television.

In “Williston Revisited” residents reflect on its recent history and address the question of how a fast-growing community can maintain its sense of identity in the face of tremendous change.

Two decades ago, Maple Tree Place was farmland. Wal-Mart hadn’t been built. Allen Brook School didn’t exist. The fire department was mostly volunteers. In 1990, Williston’s population was 4,887, as of the last census in 2010, it was nearly double at 8,698.

Filmmaker Jim Heltz, left, and Willistonian
 Bill Skiff as Thomas Chittenden. 
“When I moved to Williston, back in 1990, there was no supermarket, there was no pharmacy,” Heltz said. “You’d have to go to Hinesburg, Essex Junction or South Burlington to go to a supermarket or find a pharmacy.”

 “There has been a tremendous amount of change in 20 years,” he said. “It seemed like a project that would be perfect to help the town mark its 250th anniversary on June 7."  Heltz collaborated with his wife, Grace Heltz, on the 16 interviews over the past year, and with local photographer and journalist Stephen Mease on the project. Major financial support for the project came from the Friends of Dorothy Alling Memorial Library, and the Williston Historical Society. premiere of the film will be on Friday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the Williston Central School Auditorium. The day is also the birthday of Ginger Isham, whom Heltz interviewed in the first installment of Williston’s film history and revisits in the new film.

The Isham Family 
“Their story is very similar to Williston’s development, how they’ve changed,” Heltz said of the Isham Farm, which now produces maple syrup, corn, sunflowers and berry products. “Twenty years ago, the Isham Farm was a dairy farm with Jersey cows. There’s one calf on the premises now. So they’ve diversified how they’re farming. It’s farming, but it’s not usually what you’d think of when you think of a Vermont farm.”

Like the Ishams, Heltz has adapted to changing times. The first Williston community portrait was made on Betacam SP, then the industry standard for video production and distributed on VHS. The updated documentary was filmed in widescreen high-definition digital and will be available on DVD. 

The original “Williston: A Community Portrait” was divided into three main sections: the historic past, the present and a look to the future. Through the use of photos, paintings, news clippings, artifacts, maps and on-camera interviews Williston’s history, people and voices were recorded. It premiered at Williston Central School on July 2, 1992 as part of the Town’s Vermont Bicentennial Celebration.

For the new film, Heltz dispensed with voiceover narration in favor of on-camera interviews and visual montages set to music. The film is visually rich with images captured in the community over the past year and includes a wide range of interviews with new and long-time residents about life and change in Williston. 

For the June 7 premiere, the public can gather for a community dessert potluck at 6:30 p.m. at the Williston Central School cafeteria, followed by a big-screen showing of “Williston Revisited – A Community Portrait” at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium. The event is free and open to the public

Copies of the film will be available for purchase at the premiere and during the town’s annual July Fourth festivities for $20. For more information about the project and to see some excerpts visit the website or call (802) 872-7000.

“WILLISTON REVISITED: A COMMUNITY PORTRAIT” FILM PREMIERE:  Friday, June 7, at 7:30 p.m. in Williston Central School auditorium, Williston. The premiere of a new documentary about Williston and the changes in town during the past 20 years by Williston filmmaker James Heltz, owner of Green Mountain Video. Part of the town’s 250thcelebration of its charter on June 7, 1863. Free and open to the public. A community dessert potluck will be held at 6:30 prior to the film showing. For more information, visit or call (802) 872-7000.

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