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Who’s who: Irene Cortes ( Canada/The Philippines)

New wave of filmmaking: building sets to be permanent, not disposable.

Irene Cortes’ unique and budding approach to filmmaking aims to positively contribute to shooting locations through the building of real sets, that can be used by real people; long after the shooting phase is completed. Her efforts have brought her to the realization of 3E Studios, a production group that pivots from the concept of building permanent film sets. In effect, 3E works to create impactful feature films that also benefit ecology, & the local environments in which they are shot. Her latest film is set in a futuristic ecological utopia. And she is going to build it in real life. Wow. Read more below.

Irene Cortes

Image: nowhereherenow.com, rendering for geodesic domes that behave as both a film set,& solar plant in Tubao, La Union

Irene Cortes has been a filmmaker for 18 years,and with much experience in traditional production practice, she now strives to bring in a new approach to the whole process. And, she intends to draw on the immense pool of talent & creativity found within the film industry, to change the way we look at filmmaking.

For the past four years, Irene has been musing on the possibilities of marrying cinematic set building with vernacular architecture; a type of architecture that reflects the environmental, cultural, technological, and historical context in which it exists. Irene identifies this alternative approach to filmmaking as a a new wave of production called “building film”, which finds a home in her current film production project entitled Nowhere Here Now.

She describes Nowhere Here Now as an ‘eco sci-fi’ and a ‘living fiction’ which draws on both sci-fi storytelling, as well as Filipino folk stories, to engage a script where the story and environment (the film is to be shot in Irene’s native country, The Philippines) closely inform each other.

The film takes place in a futuristic ecological utopia, and draws on a set design inspired by both “Buckminister Fuller’s geodesic dome and the Bahay Kubo, a traditional Filipino hut. Using materials indigenous to the location, this set design will look futuristic and “natural,” while providing renewable energy to the surrounding community,” (Toronto Standard)- See artist rendering of the set above. While creating this unique physical story world in which the film takes place, Irene’s ambitions take the process one step further in order “to build this living ecological utopia, to build it for real, and for real people”.

This alternative approach comes as a response to productions such as Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979), which stands as an example of set-building gone wrong. “The crew used real dynamite to blow up forests [in The Philippines], built new roads through the village, and effectively turned the town into a brothel” (Motherboard). To Irene, the case of Apocalypse Now exemplifies the way in which films are able to effect the environments and people local to areas of shooting, and she aims to reverse the real-life damage that has been done. In order to look at reducing such negative effects, Irene insists that with a little bit more attention, and intention, films are capable of building the settings (and allocating resources) for their stories in a way which produces positive impacts in real life.

Nowhere Here Now is currently in preproduction, and Irene has secured shooting locations as well as an array of partnerships ( including film crew, the local communities, renewable energy engineers, and The Philippine government). Funding is the last facet to be secured before production gets the green light.

In a unique way, funding opportunities for this approach are diversified due to the project’s appeal to both the film crowd as well as social-environmental entrepreneurship enterprises. Interestingly, Spanish enterprises have taken to Irene’s approach particularly kindly, and Irene explains that most of the response she has gotten for this project has been overwhelmingly positive; most are intrigued, surprised, and inspired by thoughts of this new approach.

In order to help gain exposure for the project, a documentary is currently being filmed in order to document the alternative process behind “building film” , while drawing attention to funding possibilities for interested investors.

“I’m looking to explore the affects of an audience when they are aware of what happens outside of the frame. The power of cinema had people running out of the theatres when they first saw that train coming! How do we use that energy to confront our ecological crisis?” (Motherboard).

If you enjoyed this article, you will also like the following from our blog: LA GOES LED: ON THE STREET AND ON-SET TOO? and ‘MINUSCULE’ PREMIERE- A GREEN PRODUCTION, WITH GREEN CONTENT TOO!