Cinematographer Edward Goldner films 35mm in the Phillipines for short film Inang Maynila – by Drew Wheeler
Inang Maynila is a portrait of director James Robinson’s mother, who grew up in the Philippines before migrating to Australia. The film combines sequences with family friends in present-day Manila alongside loosely re-created moments from the past, which were filmed in locations James’ mother frequented during her childhood.
This was the first time Robinson had collaborated with cinematographer Edward Goldner. “I’d followed his photography over the years and he was certainly someone I had wanted to work with,” says Goldner. “We both went through the same film school but years apart. There was also quite a bit of crossover through mutual friends, which led to us catching up a few months before the shoot in New York, where Robinson was based up until last year.”
Goldner opted to shoot the film on Vision3 500T film stock, which presented the greatest flexibility for the cinematographer to work across a range of locations, utilising existing light much of the time. Robinson and Goldner did consider S16mm but felt a slightly cleaner image was the best fit for the project. This also provided the cinematographer with a malleable platform to create different looks.
“I wanted to create images with a sense of warmth whilst incorporating a slight roughness, honest to the world the story takes place in,” says Goldner. “I was also conscious of the flashback imagery feeling authentic. Film was a clear choice for both of us.”
The local crew were incredibly experienced, and the small crew received great support from CMB Film Services who provided them with an ARRI 435 Extreme and lens package. They were told it was the first project to shoot on film in Manilla in around nine years.
The shoot was not without drama. “Just before we were scheduled to start shooting, our rolls were impounded by customs,” says Goldner. “After futile attempts to free them through a broker, our production assistant had to fly to Tokyo, meet someone at a train station with new film and fly back to Manilla, just in time for filming to start the next morning.”
The film blends two distinct visual languages. For contemporary scenes, Goldner ran a set of Zeiss Ultra primes and worked largely with available light. He created a framework for scenes but kept coverage quite loose, following a more documentary approach.
For flashback imagery, Goldner switched to Cooke S4s with diffusion and often heightened their lighting to imbue a bit of ‘magic’ into the visuals. These scenes were storyboarded and took on a more structured and heightened aesthetic.
“We drew heavily from our locations and generally just accentuated existing design elements in those environments,” says Goldner. “Many of the spaces were actual places Robinson’s mother frequented in her childhood and hadn’t changed a great deal over time. Manilla is a cinematographer’s dream in terms of texture and colour. We leant into a lot of uncorrected green tones, which felt authentic to the environment and provided a nice mix of vibrancy and dinginess.”
Processing and scanning was completed at Kodak’s Queens New York branch whilst the film was graded with colourist CJ Dobson in Melbourne, Australia. Dobson elevated the film to a level Goldner is really proud of. The team behind Inang Maynila wanted to give the imagery a vibrancy without feeling overworked. The grade was very much about creating a romantic dinginess.
“I feel extremely privileged, having had the opportunity to travel to the Manilla to work together with Robinson and an amazingly talented local crew,” says Goldner.
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.
Drew Wheeler is a contributing writer for Australian Cinematographer Magazine.