(Andrew West Vial)
b. November 24, 1940, Richmond, Melbourne, Australia.
BIOGRAPHY:The son of a PNG Patrol Officer and explorer, Andrew Vial was taken to New Guinea after birth but had to be evacuated back to Melbourne as the Japanese invaded. His father remained as a coast watcher and was eventually killed in a plane crash.
1955-1968: At school he developed late, although he gained a scholarship, later qualifying as a research scientist. His interest in film came from being an actor in a corporate science film as well as being an extra in the original American blockbuster feature On The Beach. He started two businesses in his twenties then turned to film production full time and with a friend directed and produced Catapult in 1969 which was a big success. Paid for from the profits of his other business it was sold to Village Roadshow and was used as a pre-intermission short continuing to earn money for the next ten years.
1968-1998: As the exhibition formats changed Andrew explored other markets and found that European cinemas and film festivals still showed shorts. Over the next 30-40 years he travelled to many, many, International film festivals and won over 100 awards (including Participation Diplomas and Certificates, and at major festivals such as London, Vienna, Filmex-Los Angeles, Bangalore, and the now defunct Australia/New Zealand combined Adelaide/Auckland Film Festival.)
Avalanche (1974), a film on the moment of birth, was sold to TV networks in Europe and shown widely outside Australia, and No Bag Limit (1973) starring David Gulpillil and about the annihilation of the aborigines of Tasmania was similarly sold in Europe but not shown on Australian television. Because his films were self funded there were no restrictions on the subject matter and graphic images. Even the later films such as Does It Feel Like A Long Ten Minutes? (1979), documenting an abortion, which he directed and co-produced (with Liz Rust) and sold to UNESCO, and Edge of the Ice (1998), shot in Lapland, have not been been show on Australian TV due to the Australian networks' self censorship regulations.
As a founding member of the Melbourne Filmmakers Cooperative and later a participator in the Sydney Filmmakers Coop, Andrew went to UK in 1972 and worked as a part time tutor at the National Film School in London, followed in later years by several Australian film schools .In about 1980 he created a television acting school called Videorep which offered people the chance to learn acting and work in the established film industry. This continued for about three years before developing and becoming mainstream through official State Government funding. Andrew Vial served on many film festival juries and has been the Australian Head Delegate for the past seven years to the International Asia Pacific Film Festival currently domiciled in Taiwan.
His longest film to date is 70 minutes as he has not been able to raise funds to make a high budget feature film using government sources.
OVERVIEW: I have always felt inspiration from dream images and although my first film Catapult (1969) was unashamedly commercial and designed to make money, I was also influenced by the Cantrills in the experimentation sphere and new ways of viewing images. Edge of the Ice (1998) is very experimental and I was influenced as well by the incredible talents of people like Nigel Buesst, Antoinette Starkiewicz and Tom Cowan. I was also impressed by European directors Bergman, Polanski, Roeg, American counter-culture directors Morrissey, Warhol, and geniuses such as Keaton and Chaplin.
The precise order, timing, and juxtaposition of images in order to create an unreal/surreal state is what I strive for and I am conscious of often leading the viewer into an area of confusion contrary to a normal linear progression.
I see this coming from my own rejection of the sort of early films I viewed where outcomes were predictable and boring. I also feel that I have not always been successful in my films by going down this path.
Directing films is a talent that is actually quite scarce and as an actor in TV soap dramas I have been amazed at how poorly some TV directors know their craft. Many have never acted themselves and have no idea how to get performances out of actors, how to motivate them and what is going on in the actors mind when being given direction.
No Bag Limit
With David Gulpillil in No Bag Limit (1973) it was easy. In those days Gulpillil spoke many Aboriginal languages but very little English. With this actor empathy was spontaneous and mind blowing - an enormous talent!
With Ray Boyd the Olympic athlete in Catapult (1969) it was also easy as champions can always perform on cue. Later I worked with many more Olympic athletes and world champions and found this characteristic to be uniform throughout.
In Avalanche (1974) directing revolved around getting the total confidence of everyone involved right up to the Matron of the hospital.
Also in Does It Feel Like A Long Ten Minutes? (1979) the crucial concern I had was making the film despite the demonstrations going on outside the clinic where I was filming.
In 1977 I was invited to make a small international coproduction between Korea, Indonesia, Australia, and Taiwan, at Central Motion Picture Corporation Studios, Taipei. This was pretty challenging due to the various languages and cultures but the film was made entitled Taiwan (1978) within its budget and I have enjoyed a great relationship with Chinese Taiwan ever since.
A Whore's Tale
I tried a totally different style for A Whore's Tale (2001) where the pivotal character, a prostitute with a lot she wanted to say, had no acting training other than her profession. Once she stopped trying to be an actor she delivered an amazingly truthful life performance which was recognized immediately in the Arab world when I showed the film in Shiraz, Iran.
In Deadline (1980-86) I used a very basic television studio technique due to its requirement to be shot within a timeframe of 20 hours and on a miniscule shooting budget - a few hundred dollars from memory. Here I had professional actors who could deliver under these extreme conditions and my time was taken up by trying to train the technical crew on the job.
This type of of project was similar to Blacktown Concert (1983) where the biggest distractions to filming were the live audience and rock stars being filmed. Also shot on a miniscule no-budget for principal photography, I decide after this that if I ever were to shoot more television epic concerts I must have a full studio trained crew and a budget to take care of minute to minute contingencies which are always present in these sort of live situations. I also found that it was difficult to control the technical process in the auteur-style I had developed over many years.
So it always seemed that the effort required to create an entire film by one's self just wasn't worth it unless the result finished up as my own unique personal statement on the subject matter.