Ukrainian media companies have launched a $20M fund to help sustain the embattled nation’s ailing TV industry and are seeking investment from the biggest global networks and streamers.
Kateryna Vyshnevska, a leading industry exec who oversees co-productions for FILM.UA, told Deadline she has briefed major content associations with plans including NATPE, Mip TV and the European Broadcasting Union, and she is now heading out on a funding drive.
The plan is to have global behemoths such a the BBC, Netflix and Disney put money into the fund, for which Vyshnevska has set a $20M target, which will be used to pre-buy or co-produce Ukrainian content early in the production process so that these shows can be sustained and make it to greenlight and beyond before being sold around the world, showcasing the best of Ukrainian TV.
Factual, animation and scripted are the genres being targeted and Ukrainian production companies will have to apply to the as-yet unnamed fund in order to receive investment.
Vyshnevska said the fund could hand a “lifeline” to some of the 10M Ukrainian refugees who are struggling for work.
“We want to rally the industry around the globe” she added. “We’re not asking for charity but this is a win-win situation as the world can help themselves by helping us. By asking people to give money upfront we take on the responsibility of delivering quality content.”
A similar U.S. aid program has been active in the nation since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
The fund will be registered as a charity outside Ukraine and be independently managed, with board members from a cross-section of the industry overseeing it and deciding on its beneficiaries.
“This will create an ecosystem and deeper integration between Ukraine, Europe and the wider world,” added Vyshnevska, highlighting several Ukrainian TV success stories including President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Servant of the People, which has sold around the world since the start of the war, Walter Presents’ Hide and Seek and The Sniffer, which was picked up by Netflix.
Shows directly about the war may also make it to greenlight, added Vyshnevska, who cited Sky/HBO’s Chernobyl as a “great example of a Soviet story sold by someone else in a different language that works.”
Vyshnevska acknowledged the $20M target is “ambitious” and said global players will need time to work out their approach.
Her team is finding it difficult to work as normal and FILM.UA’s Ukrainian studio has recently been doubling up as a bomb shelter, helping hundreds of people escape Russian bombing.
“We’re on day 48 of the war and wake up every day not knowing if we’ll have internet connection so are finding it hard to be productive,” she said. “We are in survival mode, in a constant state of shock.”
To illustrate her point, Vyshnevska, who has been splitting her time between London and Ukraine for the past decade, was speaking to Deadline from Warsaw as she prepared to head over the border to Lviv to bring her mother back to England.
She had spent days being unable to communicate with her mother, who has lost 12 kilos since the war started, and was fearing for her life.
“And I’m one of the lucky ones,” she added. “I’m acutely aware of how privileged I am that I have somewhere to take my mum and our small family story can have a happy ending.”
Ukrainian media companies have banded together since Russia invaded, broadcasting a 24/7 joint newscast in order to keep the nation informed.
“We have great quality of production and storytelling and just need to get past the gatekeepers,” Vyshnevska concluded. “Ukraine has such a strong industry that I know will survive.”
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.