Old School

Cinematographer Edward Goldner skilfully employs film, including 35mm Ektachrome, on three stunning music videos – interview by James Cunningham

AC – How did you get involved with the three music videos you shot on film?

EG – My career started with music videos. I had largely taken a break from them over the past few years to focus on television commercial work. I love shooting commercials, however I am at a point where I want to take on more projects that allow me to interact with narrative and push things visually, without being too conservative.

I worked with Freya Esders (Director) on all three projects. Esders is an old friend so we have quite an informal working relationship and tend to share similar aesthetic sensibilities. The first of the videos was for Melbourne duo KLLO, who I didn’t know at the time.

AC – Why the decision to shoot on film?

EG – The concept for ‘Downfall’ was drawn from Esders’ own experience of having moved from the Sunshine Coast to Melbourne and at times needing to return back home to restore her headspace. I wanted to photograph the two environments differently and film was a great tool to achieve this. 

I had a heap of leftover 35mm filling up the vegetable drawer in my fridge, including a couple of rolls of very rare Kodak Ektachrome 100D. That particular emulsion is known for having intense saturation. I felt that it could work well for the Queensland material, which needed to have a certain vibrance. It is uncommon to see any motion picture slide film these days so it also presented an opportunity to create something quite unique. 

I’m an advocate of committing to bolder choices so there was something exciting about the idea of baking looks into the image without too much opportunity to second guess ourselves in the grade. The Melbourne scenes called for more muted, grainy imagery. I shot those on Vision3 500T negative film, which was underexposed to push the texture. I was so happy with the process and results of the KLLO shoot that I was eager to continue with film on my next project; a music video for the song ‘Endless’ from Melbourne-based artist Lucian Blomkamp.

AC – Can you talk about the ‘looks’ you were working toward visually with each clip?

EG – ‘Downfall’ was pretty minimal in terms of outside influences. Esders and I both shoot a lot of stills photography and tend to like wider lenses. She had a heap of material from the Sunshine Coast, taken on her Contax G2 with a 28mm lens. I think those images definitely influenced the way I approached the environment. 

On ‘Endless’ we looked at the films of Krzysztof Kieślowski, particularly the way he utilises colour. We were keen to commit to something bold in terms of giving each sequence a character. There was something appealing about how committed he was with his choices. Technically, a lot of his work is far from perfect, which resonates with me at the moment as I’m all for taking risks in the effort of creating interesting work. 

‘Potential’ is much more current stylistically so there was a wealth of music video and fashion references to draw inspiration from. The mixed format thing has been flogged pretty hard so we were conscious to make it our own and use it as a tool to serve the clip. Beyond existing films and photography, the locations we scouted were our biggest influence since we added so little and were ultimately reliant upon what was already there.

A shot from Lucian Blomkamp's 'Endless' music video - DOP Edward Goldner
A shot from Lucian Blomkamp’s ‘Endless’ music video – DOP Edward Goldner

AC – What cameras and lenses did you shoot with?

EG – We had great support from Cameraquip and VisionHouse. ‘Downfall’ was shot on a Moviecam Compact MkII with a set of Zeiss Superspeeds. These Superspeeds were a good choice in terms of keeping weight down and allowing us shoot in low-light with a slower speed stock. The Blomkamp clip was shot with a set of Cooke S4s, which would have to be one of my favourite spherical options. The second KLLO clip was also shot with S4s but 4-perf since we were going for a 4:3 finish. This freed up a few more camera options so I went with an ARRI Arriflex 235, which was a pretty amazing improvement on a weight level. 

AC – Can you speak briefly about your crew?

EG – All three music videos were shot with with tiny crews and minimal equipment. We relied entirely on available light. In terms of camera department, we were amazingly fortunate to have Jesse Minter along for both KLLO shoots and Chris Child on ‘Endless’, who both brought with them a wealth of skill and experience. Knowing that things were so well covered on a camera level allowed me to really focus on shooting. 

‘Downfall’ would have to be one of the most bare bones shoots I’ve done to date. It was just Esders, Minter, Chloe Kaul (on half of KLLO) and myself up in Queensland. During the cane field shoot, I remember turning around at one stage and seeing Esders wrapped in a white bed sheet (my makeshift bounce for the shoot), whilst Minter was somehow simultaneously swinging a lens and lacing up a new magazine. 

AC – How did you approach the post-production process on the projects?

EG – Post-production was interesting, particularly on ‘Downfall’. Only two motion picture labs in the world still process 35mm colour reversal. We went with Dwayne’s Photo, in Kansas, who have a bit of a cult status within the analogue world. There is actually a film about them called Kodachrome coming later in the year. 

During pre-production, we were short on time so for camera tests, we actually shot a few feet then chopped the film into tiny strips and sent it to Michaels, a stills lab in Melbourne, who were able to develop it since E6 is still quite common in the photography world. All of the colour negative film was sent to Werner Winkelmann at Neglab in Sydney, who is an absolute legend. The footage was transferred on the ARRISCAN Film Scanner at Park Road Post in New Zealand. 

Colourists CJ Dobson (‘Endless’ and ‘Potential’) and Ciara Gallogly (‘Downfall’) did a beautiful job on our colour grades. We tended to keep things fairly minimal on a grading front with the exception of ‘Endless’, where Dobson’s work helped to provide a defined colour palette to each of our sequences. 

AC – Looking back on what you had set out to achieve, do you think you succeeded? What might you have done differently? 

EG – I’m completely wrapped with how things turned out on each project. The first shoot was certainly a bit of a shock to the system after being away from film for so long. You forget the small things like how dark an optical viewfinder can become with a heap of Neutral Density filters. 

Just the other day, Esders and I were actually looking at some of our project’s old outlines and references that we’d put together in pre-production. It was really rewarding to see how much of our initial intention came through intact. 

Edward Goldner is a skilled cinematographer working on music videos, narrative shorts and television commercials including for Bonds, Honda and Samsung. He was awarded the NFSA-ACS John Leake OAM ACS Award for an Emerging Cinematographer in 2011.

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