Cornerstone Entertainment, Inc. is stepping up efforts to provide international exposure and experience for its artists though its #CSGoesGlobal campaign.

According to the 16-year-old full-service agency, this is the result of years of pursuing and building relationships with agency partners from other countries, particularly the United States initially.

“We’ve been talking to (agents) for the longest time. It’s just that it’s only recently nagkaroon talaga ng projects yung mga artists ng Cornerstone and hence, we felt that it was high time for us to really promote our #CSGoesGlobal initiative,” Jeff Vadillo, Cornerstone vice president, recently told The STAR in an exclusive interview.

“We have been auditioning for the longest time already for different roles and possible projects in the States. And it’s not just in the States. Actually now, kahit nga sa Asia, nagkaroon ng opportunity. Pinalad kami na at least nagbunga naman yung mga connections and partnerships natin.”

Bannering the roster of artists with international projects is Inigo Pascual, one of the lead stars in the upcoming US series Monarch.

Alex Diaz (seated, right) with Glitter & Doom co-star Ming Na Wen, and directors Tom Gustafson and Cory Krueckeberg.

“It’s one of the biggest (projects) so far because that’s an entire season and by one of the top studios in the States. That’s as much Hollywood as you can get — Inigo working for Fox and working with Susan Sarandon and all these artists in Hollywood. It’s going to be a mainstream TV series na drama and musical,” Vadillo noted.

Another artist, Alex Diaz, is in Mexico filming for the movie musical Glitter & Doom, which is based on the chart-topping music of the ‘90s duo Indigo Girls.

“It is a US-produced movie. Even the cast are Hollywood actors, including Ming Na Wen… Being able to work with actresses like her in the States is a huge thing and milestone for Alex.”

Vadillo regards this time as exciting for Cornerstone as a talent management agency, as he noticed more Hollywood opportunities opening up for Filipino actors. “Not just Filipino actors living in the States but (also) for Filipino actors living in the Philippines. You know how cutthroat competition is in the US. There’s a lot of equally talented Asian actors and Filipino actors (there). Being able to have these opportunities (for) Filipino actors from the Philippines, being able to work in the States, is a huge milestone.”

He said that this speaks of an ongoing trend. “They’re pushing for diversity, with all that’s recently happening in Hollywood. People want to see more cultures on screen. Of course, side by side with the emergence of streaming services, the market of which is not the usual market that the American market would have; they are servicing the entire world. Nagkaroon ng clamor to have representation on the shows that you see on screen. And as such, ang nangyari ngayon, nagkaroon ng open doors for Asians, for different types of actors…. Dumadami ngayon ang roles,” he observed.

Vadillo further cited other Filipino stars, not necessarily from Cornerstone, scoring international projects like Lea Salonga (Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin) and Lovi Poe (The Chelsea Cowboy). “We’re glad we’re part of that wave, that Cornerstone is there. We’re happy to be riding the wave of Filipinos having projects in Hollywood. We want to be at the forefront as well. That’s why we’re actively pursuing it.”

They also hoped for US stints for Kit Thompson after he won earlier this year the top acting prize in the Panorama Asia category of the 54th WorldFest Houston International Film Festival for his performance in the film Belle Douleur.

Outside of the US, Cornerstone takes pride in Leo Consul, who is starring in the No. 1 teleserye in Indonesia, Terpaksa Menikahi Tuan Muda (Forced Marriage), his third TV acting project besides hosting shows.

Other Cornerstone artists who have appeared in foreign shows and other related gigs include Arci Muñoz, who was featured in the music video for Let Me Hold You, the latest single of top Japanese rapper King Tomoro with US singer Sean Kingston. Markki Stroem, on the other hand, made his catwalk debut at the Arab Fashion Week in UAE last month.

Celebrity couple Sam Milby and Catriona Gray recently filmed in Mauritius Global Child, one of the top-rated shows on Amazon Prime combining travel and advocacies.

“Aside from being one of the highest-rated travel shows on Amazon Prime with around one billion streamers (reach), it’s also shown on several major airlines. Catriona and Sam are the first Filipino influencers and celebrities to appear on the show,” Vadillo said.

“We consider it an honor that they got both Catriona and Sam to be part of it. Once it’s produced, it’s going to be shown worldwide. But most especially in the US, it’s going to be shown in different channels there.”

CatSam also shot a Smile Train project in Kenya. The former Miss Universe recently sat as judge in the AXN Asia reality-competition show SuperModel Me in Singapore, and hosted the Miss South Africa 2021 pageant.

Vadillo further teased projects in the pipeline for Catriona. “We’re working on another international movie, it’s a Korean production, but we can’t yet divulge the details because it’s still confidential. CS Studios is also working on a possible film for Netflix. It’s going to be an all-English movie, and Catriona is also going to star in it… These are all in-keeping (with the plan) to push our artists towards a global audience.”

Cornerstone’s content production arm, CS Studios, is also mounting Drag Den Philippines with Project 8 and WeTV. It will be hosted by Manila Luzon. “Having Manila Luzon, who is an international drag icon, representing us on the world stage, and bringing Manila here in the show crafted by Filipinos (and that celebrates Filipino drag queens), that’s going to be an exciting mix.” The show is set to be streamed all over Asia and the Middle East.

Among its singers, Zephanie recently joined fellow young artists from all over the world to participate in American Idol creator Simon Fuller’s Now United Boot Camp in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Yohan King, the Philippines-trained South Korean singer and winner of the 2016 reality contest I Love OPM, was the featured artist in the 2021 Korean Festival, a “show dedicated to Koreans who lived abroad for a long time.”

Meanwhile, UK-based singer-theater star Rachelle Ann Go recently returned onstage as Fantine in Les Miserables. “We’re happy our artists are doing well in other countries and we’re not just talking about the US. We have Rachelle Ann Go, who had just finished Les Miserables again when it had special shows on West End (in London),” Vadillo said.

“We have artists doing well in Asia. We have Leo, and then Yohan is trying to make it in Korea in music. For next year, we’re planning to release singles for different countries, particularly China,” he said.

These include Erik Santos’ Mandarin song for the first quarter of 2022. “We already have a partner in terms of releasing the single in China.”

They’re eyeing to continue providing talents for international partners and producing content with the global audience in mind in 2022.

Meanwhile, when asked how the company coped with the pandemic, Vadillo admitted it was during this time that they transitioned into a content production house as well.

He said, “If I can be honest with you, during the first few months of the pandemic, we were heavily hit just like all the other entertainment agencies and talent management companies.”

He noted that a huge chunk of their income came from live events, recalling that in 2019, Cornerstone produced about 14 major concerts in the country, not to mention tours in the US and Middle East.

“If we were big in 2019, our plan was, 2020 would be our best and biggest year. More concerts and tours, nakalatag na yan,” he said.

Then the pandemic came, shutting down the live events scene and upending well-laid-out plans. “Our income stream really went down and there was a time that the company had to let go of some of the employees because of what happened,” Vadillo shared. “But again, whenever a door closes, another door will open.”

The company realized there was a need for content during this time. They started with digital shows and expanded to produce content for TV and streaming services. It helped that they already had directors and writers as signed artists.

Now, Vadillo said, they’re busy because the company has evolved. “The company didn’t focus on what we lost, but on what we can do. It focused on the markets that they can tap. OK, may opportunities sa US, focus. May opportunities sa ganito, focus there… So, we’re really blessed — that’s the right word — by focusing on opportunities in front of us. We’re able to maximize and make the company survive. And that’s the end goal — for the company to survive this season.”

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