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Production in Ukraine’s Neighbour Countries Is Continuing Despite the War

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PSN surveyed its members in the region to understand how the Russian invasion is impacting production and how they're helping Ukrainians find work in safety

Production in Ukraine’s Neighbour Countries Is Continuing Despite the War

There is no undoing the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But the commercial film community is well positioned to fortify neighboring Central and East European countries by continuing to work in the region.

As their citizens open the doors to Ukrainian refugees - offering safe harbor under the protection of NATO - Central and East European production service companies are incorporating Ukraine’s professionals to execute shoots displaced by the war. The work they do together depends largely on the solidarity of western brands and agencies. To keep working in countries neighboring Ukraine is to demonstrate confidence in the face of Russian aggression.

PSN-Production Service Network has surveyed its Partners across the region to counter sensationalism and propaganda with informed perspective. To share the ground truth that can only be told from the production trenches. To enable production houses, agencies, and brands to make informed decisions that can help our industry stand tall against tyranny.  

We share these insights in this open letter addressed to all commercial film industry producers. And we encourage them to reach out to our PSN Partners for any additional information needed to maintain the long-established workflow from West to East.

Q> How has safety (or the perception of safety) changed in your country since the war began?

Raluca Mateescu-Dumitru, Producer, PSN Romania> As our country is a NATO member state there are no issues with safety in terms of shooting, so all projects move on as scheduled. Consider that most video shoots take place in the capital city, Bucharest, situated in Romania’s south and furthest away from our border with Ukraine.

Ramojus Petrauskas, Producer, PSN Lithuania> The only change was that on the 24th of February 2022, Lithuania has officially announced a State of Emergency in response to Russian military action in Ukraine. As a result, everyone traveling within Lithuania is required by law to carry photo identification at all times. However, there is currently no indication that ongoing events will affect international travel between the Baltic States and other destinations. The flights are coming and going as usual. And we are more prepared than ever. Lithuania is a part of NATO, the strongest military alliance on earth. If anything, the Russian Invasion of Ukraine only served to increase security in the Baltic states.

Iván Gerő, Producer, PSN Hungary> We are considered a safe country as members of NATO. But the war next door does stir some feeling of insecurity, particularly in relation to the management of nuclear power plants, economic impact, containment of the aggression. An area at the western border of Ukraine pertained to Hungary for a thousand years until the first world war, and there are still 150,000 Hungarians living there, so we feel very close to all that is happening.

Petr Keller, Producer, PSN Czech Republic> We feel absolutely safe. There was no invasion. If not for news media reports we wouldn’t know a war was underway.

Remik Bartos, PSN Poland> The beginning of the war in Ukraine has made us uneasy. The first hours and days brought a similar feeling of the unknown that we experienced in the early days of the COVID pandemic. But the deaths across our border are now caused by one nation's insane reasoning rather than a virus that was objectively beyond our control. 


Q> How have your day to day operations changed since the war began?

Romania> Nothing has changed.

Lithuania> Weirdly nothing has changed except for the emotional state. We are more applied than ever and thankful that we have the resolve to work during emotionally tough times.

Hungary> Not really changed!

Czech Republic> Did not change at all. Netflix, Amazon and other US studios are shooting non-stop here. If it was unsafe they would be the first to leave.

Poland> We're working double-time as we jump between bidding on projects and volunteer work. As time has shown, we also need to reassure our clients that we’re providing business as usual.  We’re acutely aware of the situation and our country’s surroundings. But we wouldn’t try to acquire projects if it were unsafe for them and us. We’re responsible partners, especially in the most challenging of times. 


Q> Provide details of any company initiatives specifically aimed at assisting Ukraine and its people.

Romania> We have reached out to the people we know, our colleagues and friends, and helped specific cases as well as providing different donations or private help needed. 

Lithuania> Our company is donating money as well as warehouse items which we used to store as props for our shoots. We've launched an open invitation to every industry professional who is seeking job opportunities as well as help with accommodation / transport to Lithuania or else. We're also working together with our colleagues, partners, and competitors on a database of Ukrainian professionals who fled Ukraine and are now in Lithuania. We will do the best we can to integrate them into the Lithuanian film industry.

Hungary> We help refugees as much as we can, not officially as a company. We don't use the tragedy of other people for marketing purposes in any form.

Czech Republic> Our government supports Ukraine and the Czech people help the refugees from Ukraine. We're donating to provide accommodations, food, drink, pocket money, and work.

Poland> We're investing our time and production skills to fill the gaps. The vast amount of refugees coming to Poland, and especially Warsaw as a final or transit destination, need quite a lot of help. They are burdened with pain and sorrow. From organising accommodation to fundraisers for everyday items like toothbrushes, hygenic pads, and even small toys to give children that come to an unknown train station a small reason to smile. Apart from that we aim to recruit Ukrainian film professionals to work with us on the projects.


Q> What are the most significant challenges your company faces now?

Romania> I think our geographical position and the perceived danger of war crossing our border is keeping people from travelling to Romania.

Lithuania> The main challenge we are facing since the very start of the invasion is to prove that Lithuania is as safe as ever to come and do business. Lithuania is a vibrant democracy where the rule of law is absolute, the economy is growing. It currently ranks 11th in the World Bank's Doing Business report. 

Hungary> We don't see it clearly yet. The local currency (HUF) has weakened, a potential advantage for foreign productions, but it is too early to pinpoint actual challenges.

Czech Republic> Nothing but foreign production partners' worries about coming to Prague. Actually it’s a very good time to shoot films in Czech Republic and it’s also quite cost effective.

Poland> The biggest challenge is to change the mindset of our past and future clients. Show them that Ukraine, even though it’s close, is not the same as Poland. It remains safe to work in this part of the World. The shift in mentality is essential if our business is to avoid becoming collateral damage. We can only help Ukranians with work if our clients continue to bring it.  It’s not going to be a short period of conflict, the situation won’t resolve in a matter of days or weeks (unfortunately!). We all need to help the displaced to sustain themselves and focus on something other than the war.


Q> Can you see any upsides to the emigration of Ukrainian production expertise into your country?

Romania> We see no borders when it comes to the creative process. We are actively engaging Ukraine help in our projects.

Lithuania> Lithuania’s film and advertisement industry has been growing and expanding a lot during the last decade. At peak times we have even faced a shortage of industry labor. The demand for our specialists abroad has continued despite rapid expansion at home. Ukrainians are great experts in the arena, known all around the world for their highly experienced and efficient teams. We welcome them. We are very happy to do everything in our power to integrate professionals from Ukraine into the Lithuanian film industry.

Hungary> Lots of Ukrainian industry professionals have already checked in for work. This is an upside, but the question remains if they will stay or they will go back when they can. Either way, they are a priority on our list when executing on suitable projects.

Czech Republic> There is a long working tradition between Czech Republic and Ukraine so many displaced professionals were already working here. Now we have more workers, nurses, and doctors. We help them, they help us.

Poland> We’re looking forward to working with Ukrainian professionals to exchange know-how and see their ways of working.


Q> Can you share examples of projects that have turned away from your country due to the war? Elaborate on what went wrong and how it can be prevented.

Romania> Only one client from Cambodia decided it’s safer to go to Thailand. It’s a matter of perception after all. When telling the clients that we are a NATO member state, they quickly understand that attacking any such country would mean a global war would start. And we are confident that people in the 21st century are not really willing to go through that. 

Lithuania> The main issue is lack of knowledge of Northeast Europe being in the EU as well as the NATO alliance meaning it is absolutely safe. Of course, as a nation, we are emotional and angry because we understand what kind of neighbour we have. Our governments are trying to fight the propaganda machine however it is an apparatus too large for our industry to be able to speak louder than the lies. Our clients take the Kremlin threats seriously even though they've been going on since the very start of our independence. Projects have turned away for what seems to us mystical 'safety reasons'. Just because we are close to Ukraine and Russia on the world map does not mean that our borders are somehow less safe than any other border in Western Europe. Russia is a threat to every single country that shows support right now, and we understand that. We are constantly working on spreading this message.

Hungary> No such experience.

Czech Republic> Nothing specific, but projects from the US, Germany and UK have halted for this reason. It’s a senseless shame.

Poland> We’ve been crossed off the list as a potential shooting destination. I’m not at liberty to say the exact project names but this is an unfortunate result of the war. The only way to prevent it is to inform clients and agencies about the conditions on the ground in Warsaw and Poland. Poland as a country should not be a victim of the fear and disinformation that unfortunately is being spread globally from one source.


Q> Can you share any examples of projects that have remained on course? How can they give others confidence?

Romania> All local clients have kept their productions on course. After all, this is the normal spring to summer campaign time. 

Lithuania> Unfortunately not, but we are still pitching successfully and we are very thankful to our long term partners who are still trying to bring their projects here to the Baltics.

Hungary> A shoot is already confirmed for the summer, but no questions or concerns came from the client-side regarding the war.

Czech Republic> As mentioned above Netflix, Amazon and other US studios are shooting non-stop here.

Poland> Recently we have worked for a UK-based advertising agency and a global client utilising the remote shoot workflow used so widely during the pandemic. This tool is quite handy for clients that cannot overcome an understandable fear of traveling to our region. In a way, Covid prepared us for continued work in these tragic times.


Q> How are you working with clients to keep and even boost the western workflow into Eastern Europe? 

Romania> We keep the conversation going and we’ve had quite a few projects in which Romania was a good shooting location. Clients in Western Europe as well as further west are still seeking Eastern Europe as a shooting location. 

Lithuania> Spreading the news that Baltic countries are as safe as ever, keeping the budgets attractive even though the economical situation is rapidly changing throughout Europe, and trying our best to do as much work as possible so that we can donate as much as possible.

Hungary> Our weakened local currency can be an advantage for foreign productions.

Czech Republic> Consistent messaging that there was no invasion. We still have a very positive filming environment and remain cost effective.

Poland> We’re focusing on sharing our perspective to accurately inform. The most even-handed of media coverage brings scary images into people's lives that make them afraid to go anywhere near the conflict. We listen to our client's concerns and provide them with a more comprehensive picture of the actual situation to diminish their fears. Hopefully the conflict will resolve sooner and we can all be peaceful once again.


Find out more below: 

Raluca Mateescu-Dumitru, Producer, PSN Romania - romania@productionservicenetwork.com

Ramojus Petrauskas, Producer, PSN Lithuania - lithuania@productionservicenetwork.com

Iván Gerő, Producer, PSN Hungary - hungary@productionservicenetwork.com

Petr Keller, Producer, PSN Czech Republic - czechrepublic@productionservicenetwork.com

Remik Bartos, Producer, PSN Poland - poland.remik@productionservicenetwork.com

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Production Service Network PSN, Tue, 22 Mar 2022 11:44:00 GMT