Location Spotlight in association withLBB

Why Ukraine is Booming as a Production Hub

London, UK
The teams from Radioaktive Film, Limelite and Color Film share their insight with LBB

“It all started in the early 20th century, with experiments with film cameras and production. First there was documentary filmmaking and later features.” Evgeniy Mikhailyuk from Radioaktive Film is looking back on the history of film in Ukraine. They’re just coming down from the high of winning Production Service Company of the Year at the 2018 Shots Awards. And while the success is shining a light on Ukraine as a film location for that’s growing in popularity for shooting commercials now, the country has a rich cinematic heritage. It’s the home to the director, producer and author Oleksander Dovzhenko, regarded as one of the pioneers of Soviet montage theory.

The modern incarnation of the Ukrainian film industry really kicked off following independence in the 1990s and these days the country is home to a plethora of production companies and film festival – not to mention talented creatives and skilled crews. And the advertising world has started to take note. This year alone, brands like Audi, Guinness, Burger King, and Canal+ have headed to Ukraine. Wieden+Kennedy turned to Radioaktive Film to service their latest work for Three 'Phones Are Good'. Skipping through human history, the spot showcases the diversity the country has to offer.

Three 'Phones Are Good' from Radioaktive Film. on Vimeo.

“Ukraine now is the most popular shooting destination among production companies, agencies and brands from all around the world. Production value, set design, a great variety of locations and the most cost-effective budgets in Europe make Ukraine the first choice on the market for the last few years,” says Karina Kostyna of service production house Limelite.

Ukraine doubles as France in this zippy commercial for mobile payment app Paylib, production service by Limelite.

Indeed, over the past three or four years, the country has become so popular with international agencies and production companies that producers are really getting to forge close relationships with the talent. “Most of our crews are already known by half of our production company clients and they are asking for certain names specifically,” says Evgeniy. “People here are interested and eager to work in the film business – that’s something that motivates them creatively.”

Radioaktive Film helped dream up a sci-fi dystopia for this Woolmark spot

And that creativity and expertise is something that Yana Kartun at Colorfilm thinks people looking to shoot in the country should take advantage of. “Ask for location references in advance. Some locations that we have can influence the idea itself and even enrich the script,” she says. 

Limelite worked on this colourful Axe-branded music video for Caviar London

So, what is underpinning Ukraine’s rise in popularity? “First of all, Ukraine is a beautiful country with various landscapes and different styles of locations. Second of all, we have very experienced and talented crew. And one of the biggest advantages: it is cheap. So in the end you are getting high quality service for very reasonable money.”

Crisp modern architecture in this Color Film-serviced spot for soft drink Pixie.

With historical palaces and modern cityscapes, as well as dramatic countryside that encompasses the Carpathian Mountains, rugged coastlines and lush plains, there's also a lot of options.

This Israeli spot for Roladin Bread was serviced by Color Film, who took advantage of the country's palaces to recreate Versailles.

Audi 'Big Entrance' from Radioaktive Film turns the docks into a dramatic concert venue.

One concern that people from outside the country might have is the current situation with Russia. Since 2014, there have been several Russian military incursions into the east of the country, but the conflict zone is limited to that area. But according to the experts, there’s no cause for concern. Plenty of commercials, and movies like 2016’s ‘Girl with all the Gifts’ have been shot in the country in recent years.
“It’s peaceful and has been totally safe for three years already,” says the team at Radioaktive Film. “The conflict zine was 800km from our home base and even further from any locations we would propose.”

Karina agrees. “The biggest companies and top celebrities have continued to visit Ukraine to shoot which speaks for itself.”

Ukraine doubles as Nevada in this grungy grindhouse-inspired Burger King spot for agency Buzzman and production company BIG Paris - withservice production from Limelite.

Ultimately, the country is proving increasingly popular not only with those looking to shoot there but with tourists too. Though visitor numbers plunged from a high of 24.7million in 2013 to 12.7million in 2014, but in recent years there have been signs of recovery. 2017 saw 14.2 million visitors head to the country. Authorities in Kiev are also preparing for an expected surge in visitors from Asia this year. From historic palaces, ancient sites that date back to the Ottoman period, traditional villages and the eerie ghost town of Chernobyl, there’s lots to explore.

“When you plan to come here, take one additional day for rest. There are a lot of places to visit and to have a great, quality time,” says Yana. “Ukrainian people are very hospitable and kind.”

Work from LBB Editorial
The Missing Review
Google and Yelp
Fuck the Poor Case Study
The Pilion Trust