Welcome to Wonderland

Inthemix Review

The Director, James Short

I first met James Short following an introduction from a mutual friend back in early 2003. James was talking about editing footage from dance parties for a film he was creating called, 'Welcome to Wonderland'.

Over the next few years, I would recognise James when I was out, often at outdoor events filming, taking pics or talking to DJs. He was always chatty, super friendly, came across as intelligent yet humble, deeply considerate of what he was doing, yet spontaneous and a lot of fun.

Fast forward to May 2006 and I attended the premier screening of Welcome to Wonderland. I spoke to James briefly before the screening; he was nervous, full of energy and nervous expectation. In his speech before the film he was close to tears, and incredibly grateful to everyone for coming, and the support and help from all involved.

"This has truly been an epic journey for myself and the team. Over five years but it has finally ended in the realisation of a dream, a labour of love but a truly enjoyable one."

"My aim was to try and unveil the beauty, power and intrigue created when music, the natural environment, and people come together." Having watched the film three times now, I can attest that it achieves just that. But how do you go about making such a film?

"Making a film about outdoor dance culture was always going to be very difficult because you are filming in the natural environment, and only have a short period of time to conduct interviews before the speaker stacks are turned on. Harsh weather conditions, and the fact that you have to film at any given hour of the day or night presents both technical and physical challenges".

"Conducting interviews with music pumping in the background and asking people to reflect in the middle of intense celebration and release was also no easy task".

Being about outdoor dance culture, the focus on the music was always going to be as important as the stunning imagery. James worked with some of Australia's best electronic artists, including Sugar (Felix Hamer from Green Ant who run the annual Rainbow Serpent festival), Ben Last (Mantrix), Ganga Giri, Dj Krusty and Drew (Sun Control Species) to create a haunting, pumping and truly fitting soundtrack.

"The music is one of the central characters of Welcome to Wonderland. We were really fortunate to have five wonderful composers work on the film who created a beautiful film score... there are over 50 pieces of music in the film including classical, jazz, reggae, trance, dance and world, which is quite extraordinary for a film".

"I think it would be fair to say that Welcome to Wonderland is a little left of field for a documentary, and we really tried to create a unique film that not only tells a story but also shares an experience. Its an exploration of the power and simple pleasure that we can all experience through music and dance, and I think this is one of the really wonderful things about it because it is something that everyone can relate to".

The finished product is a box set with the DVD, additional extra special features, and a bonus CD soundtrack is arguably the best thing to come out in Australian Dance music in recent years. It makes essential viewing and listening for any electronic music fan, and the net effect is, it makes you want to dance!

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