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Ukraine TV Seeks New Partnerships and Audiences in the West at MIPTV


More than a year after the large-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian writers, directors and producers are well on their way to freeing the country’s television industry from its historic dependence on their large eastern neighbour.

Before the war, cross-border cooperation had been the rule, with some of Ukraine’s biggest producers operating in Russia, and Moscow’s biggest known stars. Kiev’s top TV talents often looked to Russian backers to fund their most ambitious projects, and to Russian viewers – in a country with 143 million, compared to Ukraine’s 43 million – to provide the bulk of their viewership.

No longer. As Ukraine’s military and civilian population continue their heroic fight against Russian aggression on the battlefield, the country’s biggest TV players are shifting their attention to the West and actively building bridges with broadcasters, financiers and creative partners in Western Europe as a means to rebuild their shattered industry. and make it independent of the aggressor nation in the East.

“Ukraine has become the center of new European stories,” said Kateryna Sheveliuk, executive producer of STB TV, a channel owned by Ukrainian conglomerate StarLight Media. “We know that the world observes and sympathizes with our pain, victories and stories of humanity and love. (But) due to the economic impact of the war on our industry, the creation of such stories can only happen in collaboration with our European counterparts. The future of the Ukrainian audiovisual sector depends heavily on their support.”

StarLight, together with the country’s largest producers and networks, has formed a production collective, the Ukrainian Content Creators (UCC), to develop, finance and distribute high-quality Ukrainian series with the help of international partners. The model will see Western broadcasters, financiers and production companies invest in a range of Ukrainian projects designed for global appeal. To ensure the projects have international appeal, a group of industry judges, including executives from Lionsgate, ITV Studios, All3Media International, SevenOne Entertainment and Anonymous Content, among others, who have been selected with pitches, must go through.

At the international television market MIPTV in Cannes this week, the UCC presented the first three projects selected for the next funding round. They include the historical crime drama Nest of snakes from Film.UA Group, the dark comedy Real? from Starlight Media, and the contemporary detective story imposter from 1+1 Media.

nest of snakes, chosen as the overall favorite by a group of independent industry judges, is based on true events that took place in the USSR in the 1980s. The story follows Detective Boot and Prosecutor Barats as they investigate a mass poisoning that has claimed the lives of several children. Writer Anastasiia Lodkina, director Olexii Yesakov and producer Kateryna Vyshnevska are behind the project.

“I think the social value of Nest of snakes is high because it can appeal to young people in Western Europe with a message that is not only about what is happening in the news, but also about the history (of the Soviet occupation),” said Marek Solon-Lipinski of Polish channel TVP, and one of the judges. “A show like this can make[Western viewers]understand why what happens happens.”

Real? follows the life of a high school student named Vika, who has made elaborate plans to commit suicide on her 16th birthday: February 24, 2022. The Russian invasion throws those plans out of whack and the country’s response to the war forces Vika to reassess her attitude to life. The project is from writer/showrunner Eugen Tunick and director Oleksii Taranenko.

imposter has a classic noir setup: after a successful robbery, a robber hooks up with a woman he meets in a bar. In the morning he wakes up to find her dead and charged with murder. Showrunner Sergiy Karpenko, director Denys Tarasov and screenwriters Andriy Vishtak and Artem Kobzan are behind the project.

All three series will now seek co-production partners over the summer, with a view to shooting this year and completion in 2024.

When choosing the first UCC projects, Khrystna Shkabar, producer of development and co-productions at 1+1 TV Channels, a 1+1 Media company, says, “We were looking for something where we could show scripts, where we certain attachments were in place, in fact ready-made status. These series had to be producible and they had to be international for the worldwide audience.”

Kateryna Vyshnevska, head of development and co-productions, for FILM.UA Group said that the international support for the UCC “is not a charitable contribution, but an investment in new European stories that will captivate European viewers.” But, she admits, Ukrainian industry needs Western Europe to rebuild and grow.

“The whole idea behind Ukraine Content Club is to build a bridge between the Ukrainian and international audiovisual industry and to strengthen Ukraine as a high-quality provider of unique, original and in-demand content for international screens,” she says. “We absolutely see Europe as a partner – both now and in the long term.”

Several European-Ukrainian co-productions are already in the works, including In her cara 10-episode drama from Starlight Media, and Narcos producer Gaumont from France. The series revolves around Lydia, a Ukrainian therapist who uses her car to get civilians to safety. Each episode is a single ride, where Lydia’s passengers open up to her about their stories and struggles.

Co-finance a group of Western European lenders, including Germany’s Red Arrow and Scandinavian networks SVT, NRK and YLE Those who stayeda six-part anthology series inspired by true stories of people living in Kiev in February and March 2022, after the start of the Russian invasion.

“The war in Ukraine has made it clear how much we (Ukraine and Western Europe) already share,” said Vyshnevska. “And as millions of Ukrainians seek refuge in Europe, more shared stories are born every day. Our vision is that UCC will enable cooperation between Ukraine and Europe in a win-win way, with the added benefit of helping the Ukrainian audiovisual industry in these challenging times.”

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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