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We chat to filmmaker Andrew Vial about The Charleston Challenge

‘Giant Charleston Challenge’ : Tell us a little bit about your background

A.V. : I originally trained and worked as a research scientist for a multinational company before starting my own chemical company, but I was always aiming to be an artist - I just needed money to make the leap into movies. When I did my first film was both successful and rewarding being shown in almost every cinema in Australia as it was distributed by Village Roadshow and later by Greater Union. It was called ‘Catapult’ and was on the subject of polevaulting featuring two great polevaulters Eddy Johnson and Australian Olympic athletics Captain Ray Boyd. : You are currently making a short film about the Charleston Challenge

A.V. : Thank you, Yes. This is a film being constructed from footage shot on a very small camera and is different from my earlier films which were shot on 35 MM or 16MM and required elaborate procedures in production. The ‘Giant Charleston Challenge’ film came about from my own interest in the refurbishment of the historic Hydro Majestic at Medlow Bath in the Blue Mountains. As part of the promotion for the re-opening it was decided to try to break the Guinness Book of Records for the largest gathering of charleston dancers. This sounded like a lot of fun and prospective dancers were urged to brush up on the basics by watching an instructional video showing the basic steps. They could then register their interest and join a practice class. So myself and some friends arrived at the Hydro Majestic just in time for the final rehearsal which was not very difficult but the rules for the record attempt stated that the dancers had to be competent and perform simultaneously for five minutes and there weren’t enough good dancers to do that. Luckily at this point another train arrived from Sydney and a whole lot more dancers arrived. In addition to breaking the previous record there were prizes for best dancing and best original charleston costumes. Some of the dancers had gone to enormous trouble to look as if they were part of the roaring 1920’s, arriving in vintage cars with fans and cigarette holders to complete the look. : Where will people be able to see this film?

A.V. : I will be showing it at local festivals as well as on current affairs and magazine shows, and it will also be available on YouTube and from : How long does it take to produce a film like this ?

A.V. : That depends on the production value being aimed for. This film started out as a short documentary on a newsworthy subject so it can be made in little longer than a television news item takes. The main thing is to show the event and the colourful participants and their excitement while creating a historical document for the future. : What do you think the future of the short film industry is - in particular do you think that YouTube channels will be the place for short films to be watched ?

A.V. : There is no question that short films have become a major artform and not just for elite filmmakers. Everyone can make films in this day and age without the need for expensive equipment. I have been giving Masterclasses in many countries in filmmaking techniques and have seen some superb productions made on computers with just a mobile phone for a camera. YouTube and others such as Vimeo and Hightail have revolutionised film distribution and exhibition and even though cinema films still have lengths in excess of two hours there is a huge market for videos in the 5-10 minute range due to peoples’ reduced attention span. I have no doubt that the market for short films streamed to personal devices will develop even further into the future.

Andrew Vial

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