We used to be glued to telenovellas: Ukrainian coproducer of a Nollywood flick thinks there is no way African films will be popular with the Post-Soviet viewer

Nikolai Bazanov, associate producer at Highlight Pictures,  asked Steppes in Sync for ideas on how they can promote in Africa Feathered Dreams, Europe’s allegedly first co-production with a Nollywood film company. (See Multikulti Ukraine and The first Nigerian film production in Europe. It turns Ukrainian phones red and challenges Half of A Yellow Sun in authenticity) Given the unique experience of Highlight Pictures, we seized the opportunity and asked Mr Bazanov about the future of African video content in the Ukrainian market. Here is what he had to say.

Kyiv-based Highlight Pictures is the first known company in Eastern Europe to co-produce a Nollywood film

The prospects of a theatrical release of African films in the CIS region are dim. (See Afriwood to participate in 2012 Ukrainian Content Market) The market here is dominated by American mainstream movies. In Russia, their local productions are doing so-so. Whereas, in Ukraine the situation is even more challenging. The features like In Love with Kyiv/Влюбленные в Киев (produced by Highlight Pictures), Mykhailo Illyenko’s Fire Crosser/ТойЩоПройшовКрізьВогоньSappho/Сафо and Chernobyl-themed Innocent Saturday/В субботу are co-produced with German Bavaria Film as well as Swedish, Swiss, Russian and British companies. (See For Chornobyl with Love: strumming Ukrainian pain in Japan and relieving the one in Japan)

One episode of the Ukrainian film “Fire Crosser” was shot in the mountains on the border of Argentina and Chile. The film tells a real-life story of a WWII pilot from Poltava who went through Nazi and Soviet concentration camps to end up in Canada where he became a chief of an Iroquois tribe

Russian company Volga Film/Вольга back in April released a highly acclaimed international award-winning Indonesian action feature The Raid set in Jakarta’s slums. The release in Russia did not even pay back the ad campaign expenses. [Googling did not bring any results to confirm this fact, though.]

Ukrainian channels were trying to focus on American TV series of quality. The result was poor ratings, despite all the forecasts. Ukrainian TV audience prefers reality shows, Hollywood features by the Majors, Russian TV series and Ukrainian stcoms (in the order of popularity).

In the 1990s, Latin American soap operas were big with the Ukrainian viewer, but these times are gone to never be seen again. (See Turkey’s ‘soap power’) Probably because of the difference in mentalities and the different expectations of quality (that for African product is mostly way below the Hollywood-established standards), African-produced content will have an extremely hard time in getting the slightest chunk of the CIS TV market.

 

But Mr Bazanov is more optimistic about the co-production of films in Ukraine for subsequent distribution in Africa. Ukrainian TV context can prove to be a lucrative one in terms of price/quality ratio. In Russia, the cost of film production is already high, while in Belarus they need to improve on quality. Romania and the Czech republic are way too close to the Hollywood: this is where the Majors filmed Cold Mountain, Mission Impossible and Bourne Identification. (See Destination branding for Romania, anyone?)

Filmotechnik camera equipment was used to film a lot of Hollywood blockbusters

Ukrainians are ready to provide African film companies with experienced crew, including film
directors, camera people, gaffers and producers. Another appealing side of filming in Ukraine is locally produced equipment by Filmotechnik  that includes gyro-stabilized remote systems (Flight Head), gyro stabilized camera cranes (Russian Arm), lightweight modular 30m camera cranes (Cascade and Traveling Cascade), and the mechanical vibration dampener (Shock Absorber).

Filmotechnic’s equipment holds numerous international patents and inventor’s certificates. The company was founded in 1990 by Sci-tech Academy Awards winner of Ukrainian origin Anatoliy Kokush. Filmotechnik camera equipment was used to film such movies as Transformers, Thor, The Fast And Furious 3 Tokyo Drift, Titanic, War of the Worlds, Kingdom of Heaven, Mission Impossible 3, Torque,  Ocean’s 12, Fantastic Four, V for Vendetta, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire  and the Da Vinci Code.

Nikolai Bazanov, “We in Ukraine are ready to provide African film companies with experienced crew and world-renowned equipment by Filmotechnik.”

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