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“Everything will be restored to how it was before and everything will be fine”

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

Daria Leygonie-Fialko and Kateryna Laskari • General producers and founders, SPACE Production

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The two executives spoke about the current state of Ukrainian TV production, the opening of their Paris-based office and the future of Ukraine’s audiovisual industry

Daria Leygonie-Fialko and Kateryna Laskari • General producers and founders, SPACE Production

We spoke to Daria Leygonie-Fialko and Kateryna Laskari, general producers and founders of SPACE Production, one of Ukraine’s leaders in the field of TV production. During our chat, we spoke about the state of the country’s TV industry, SPACE’s current activities in Paris and the impact of the ongoing war on production.

Cineuropa: How were SPACE and the field of Ukraine’s TV production doing right before the war?
Daria Leygonie-Fialko: On the eve of the war, both SPACE Production and the market as a whole were in excellent condition. […] We had enjoyed a very good period: for two years in a row, we became the market leaders in terms of the number of hours shot, thanks to the production of our daily lines of docudramas and detective/crime series. We were also very active in developing original content for our local platforms, which at that time were just beginning to enter production. It was a period of growth and hope. […] The war caught us at such an optimistic stage. If we’re talking about the Ukrainian market as a whole, I personally had a sense of stability: processes had been set up and honed, and everyone understood their prospects. The film-rental market had begun to develop more robustly. Some Ukrainian movies had begun to generate good revenues at the box office, and the industry was becoming more and more business-orientated.

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What has the impact of the war been on production in the short and medium term?
Kateryna Laskari: In the short term, all production, except for news, has simply stopped. All key TV channels, which had previously been competitors, immediately merged to produce a single news marathon. About two months after the start of the war, individual channels began to gradually expand their programming remit, rerunning some titles from the library, including our docudrama The Blind.

DLF: If we’re talking about the long term, everything will be restored to how it was before and everything will be fine – I’m sure of it. It’s just a matter of time, and the only question is how long it’ll take. But we got through the crisis of 2008, we were able to rebuild after the crazy changes in the market in 2014, and we survived the lockdown in 2020, although even then it seemed like the end of the world… Now it is becoming clear that that was definitely not the end of the world. And of course, war is a much more difficult trial than all of the previous crises combined. But in the long run, we will deal with this, too. We have persistent professionals of the highest level in the market, and they are also kind of crisis managers. But the most hazy prospects are the “medium term” ones. Frankly, nothing is clear in the medium term. It is unclear what the economic situation in the country will be; it is unclear how the advertising market will be revived, as it simply does not exist now; it is unclear how and when the television measurement system will be restored. Only after the establishment of all of these processes will it be possible to make some predictions, and media groups will be able to follow certain business models again. As for the platforms, this is a serious blow to this immature market. I’m afraid the rapid development that we could have predicted before the start of a full-scale war will be greatly delayed.

KL: But now, we predict a surge in the development of documentary films in our country. Such a process had started before 24 February and is not slowing down; on the contrary, it’s speeding up. Besides, our documentarians are actively asserting themselves at various international festivals. Unfortunately, they will have a lot of work in the near future, given the events unfolding in Ukraine…

You opened an office in Paris last month. What types of activities are you carrying out there?
KL: It is actually our representative office [SPACE Distribution], which was created to conduct all of our international activities related to content distribution and co-production. During the existence of our Ukrainian production house, we have built up a large library of rights, so we sell our own, ready-made content. We see that Eastern European countries are showing great interest in Ukrainian content. Moreover, we sell formats. We are already in very advanced negotiations with some territories, so we expect that at the end of this year, or the beginning of next, we will start production on at least two of our lines. Our docudrama The Blind and the detective drama Water Police are particularly popular within the market. Finally, we are looking for partners to co-produce brand-new projects currently in development.

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