Where Was I.S.S. (2023) Filmed?

Under the direction of Gabriela Cowperthwaite, ‘I.S.S.’ launches us into orbit with the International Space Station and its Russian and American crews. One of the best examples of the two geopolitical powers’ cooperation is the station, which facilitates the cooperation of astronauts from both nations. NASA astronaut and former Marine Kira Foster joins her diverse team of American and Russian colleagues on the ISS. Despite initial language barriers and cultural differences, camaraderie quickly forms among the crew, with romance blossoming between Kira’s fellow American, Commander Gordon Barrett, and Russian cosmonaut Weronika Vetrov.

However, the tranquility of space is shattered when Kira witnesses multiple nuclear explosions ravaging the United States. As communications with Earth fail, the NASA astronauts receive a chilling directive from the U.S. government, alleging a Russian-initiated nuclear attack and ordering them to seize control of the ISS. Suspicion and tension mount as the crew members come to terms with their distressing situation amidst dwindling supplies and a looming first strike from the Russians. The film accomplishes a great feat in convincingly portraying zero-gravity environments amidst the ISS, generating questions regarding its filming sites and processes.

I.S.S. Filming Locations

The exospheric setting of ‘I.S.S.’ was created using a studio in Wilmington, North Carolina. Principal photography began in mid-February of 2021 and was wrapped up in a few weeks by March of the same year. Shooting was carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, since it was largely confined to the studio, the filming process remained mostly unaffected. Joking about the difficulty in portraying a Russian cosmonaut, actor Pilou Asbæk wrote, “I play a Russian cosmonaut named Alexey. Yup again…I’m doing zero gravity and Russian… to be honest…the zero gravity is easier than speaking Russian.” Let us take a closer look at the sites chosen to create the settings for ‘I.S.S..’

Wilmington, North Carolina

Situated in coastal southeastern North Carolina, Wilmington was chosen as the filming destination for ‘I.S.S.’ owing to its EUE/Screen Gems Studios or Cinespace Studios on 1223 North 23rd Street. The studio provided on-site amenities for the cast and crew along with trained professionals and art resources, making for the perfect filming site when production was difficult due to COVID-19 risks. The studio’s 10 sound stages supplied ample space for constructing the intricate interior of the International Space Station. Production designers and set builders under Geoff Wallace meticulously recreated every detail of the station, from crew quarters to control rooms in pods around the soundstages.

Despite the elaborate set building, post-production is where the film’s magic came alive and Cinespace’s advanced facilities came into play. The actors were carried on tethers hanging from the gantry. These had to be edited out frame-by-frame, involving a mountain of work in post-production. While some of the space station was built practically, the large structure of its exterior was simulated along with the earth and the void of space. Editors, visual effects artists, and sound designers collaborated with the production designer to create the setting of ‘I.S.S..’ The result is a cinematic experience, that seamlessly integrates the mechanical complexity of the practical set and an incredible level of visual effects to immerse us within the zero-gravity suspense of the film.

Image Credit: Rotten Tomatoes Trailers/YouTube

Shooting at Cinespace Studios not only allowed the film crew to have complete control over crafting their sets and the lighting but also facilitated seamless logistics and provided financial incentives in the form of tax rebates. Other films that have utilized the facilities of Screen Gems Studios include, ‘Stranger Things,’ ‘The Umbrella Academy,’ ‘The Expanse.’

Read More: Best Survival Movies on Netflix