UCF student's documentary highlights Mount Dora history

 MOUNT DORA — Mount Dora Historical Society President Janet Westlake only had to look as far as her church to find the perfect candidate to interview and film longtime citizens for the organization’s new effort to capture and preserve the city’s history.

Matt Hyland, a fellow member of First United Methodist Church and a film student at the University of Central Florida, was more than up to the task. He was downright giddy about it.


“Janet knew I liked to do film work and asked if I would interview someone about the history of Mount Dora,” said Hyland, a 2015 graduate of Mount Dora High School, who plans to major in television. “I was really excited about it.”

The project mushroomed into a documentary focusing on the city’s Lake Dora waterfront, “On the Shores of Lake Dora.” The historical society will host a free preview screening at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the W.T. Bland Public Library, 1995 N. Donnelly St.


It all started after Hyland was approached by Westlake. The UCF student soon interviewed retired architect and former City Council member Brandon Wald, who designed Mount Dora City Hall, built in 1964.

Then Westlake approached Hyland about interviewing two other longtime city residents. That’s when Hyland’s already keen instincts for filmmaking kicked in.

“I thought ‘why not turn them all into a documentary?’” he said. ‘I could add old photos and landmarks in with the interviews.”

Westlake and others were quickly on board.


The result is a film about key developments in the history of the waterfront peppered with insights from Wald, longtime attorney and former mayor Jefferson Ray III and Shirley Grantham, daughter- in-law of the late community leader Robert “Dude” Grantham.

Grantham Point, with its locally famous lighthouse on the lake, is named after him.

“I learned a lot about Mount Dora just by talking with them,” said Hyland, who moved to Mount Dora from Belgium in 2008. “It was so cool just to be in the presence of people who helped shape the city.”

Westlake, who moved to Mount Dora in 2010, said the society wants people to know as much of the city’s history as possible and has plans to continue to interview those who have had an integral part of its early development.

“Our goal is for everyone to have a sense of appreciation for the investment our early leaders put into shaping Mount Dora,” said Westlake, who serves as First United’s minister of discipleship. “If Palm Island Park had been sold to the investors who wanted to develop it in the 1960s, Mount Dora would be very different from what it is now.”

Besides the three interviews, Hyland layered the one-hour-plus film with pictures from the historical society, the library and from Wald, Ray and Grantham, a longtime fixture at First National Bank, along with details about the city’s famous annual art festival, the library and City Hall.

Westlake said she thinks residents will walk away from the film satisfied.

“We want people to know and celebrate our history and we hope the documentary does that,” she said.

As for Hyland, who has a YouTube channel called MovieMadness, he said he’s ready to tackle another project with the society, if and when they want him.

“I would love to work with them again,” he said. “It was a great experience learning about Mount Dora.”

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