Crew shot from 1st Ave Machine’s shoot in Poland last week
Ivo, you’re just back from Poland, how was that…
It’s been very intense the last few weeks. It comes very close to us, this whole war, because of our Ukrainian partners and it’s a terrible situation to be in. On the other hand, I’m very grateful that I’m able to do something to help alleviate it in some way. A lot of people in the UK are wanting to help, which is lovely, and there’s at least something they can do remotely through the APA, AICP and Radioaktive appeals and we’ve really felt a lot of love and support from everyone in the film community.
What sort of help is coming in?
With funding from the APA, AICP and independently generated campaigns, Radioaktive Film has set up an operation sending medical and protective supplies to Ukraine from three central warehouses in Warsaw. They are supporting the production community fleeing the country with shelter, food, work permits, bank cards and setting up key child services – including schools, therapy, babysitting for single parents – for the longer term.
At the same time, there have been a lot of private donations from other production companies worldwide – service companies like The Lift and LS Productions, and other people that we have close contact with. So basically, now, that money is also going towards the Ukrainians who are arriving in Poland and other countries in Europe. First, we want to stabilise them, make sure they’re all healthy, in good care and have a home. Obviously, they are mostly female employees because the men are staying back in Ukraine to fight the war.
We’re just very busy finding accommodation and getting them on their feet. The next step is organising a plan with Darko and his (Radioaktive) team to see what the immediate future holds. Obviously, we have no idea what’s going to happen in Ukraine within the next six to 12 months. So all we can forecast is what we’re going to do for these people who are actually outside Ukraine. Healthy human beings, ready to work. So we came up with a plan where we want to expand our capacity of production in Poland, which we’re already busy doing, where we can double up the number of teams we have so we can host more work.
How will that work?
We’d mix and match the crews between Polish and Ukrainian teams so you get the best of both worlds. You have the local knowledge of the Polish, and the skill, expertise and familiarity of the Ukrainian crew who have worked with the most important film directors in advertising in the past decade.
What’s the response been like so far?
Everyone seems very keen to support Radioaktive and to send work to Poland, especially because a lot of these crew members they’ve already worked with through the years. They also feel secure that there are people who have built the reels of directors such as Daniel Wolfe and Ian Pons Jewell, and they’re very comfortable working with those teams. The next step is also to encourage agencies wanting to send work our way, and we’ve already had a few agencies saying to the production company, please also bid in Poland.
On the other hand, on a not so positive note, we have had a bit of pushback from brands. Brands feel very insecure shooting not only in Poland, but anywhere in the eastern European area, which is understandable. Everyone wants risk mitigation. But we are talking about countries that are NATO protected, countries that belong to the European Union, and that has a big bearing. It’s like saying we don’t want to send anyone to shoot in Germany because it’s close to Poland, too.
Can you give me some examples?
We were pitching on a big car job with a German production company and the client said he doesn’t want to shoot in eastern Europe. There are companies like Arts & Sciences, MJZ UK and Biscuit UK; once we made the pledge for Poland, they sent us scripts immediately. Of which one client, three days later, decided he didn’t want to work in eastern Europe either. So this is the issue; we’re getting a lot of support but then we get pushback from clients.
Can you find ways around that?
Well, we had an IKEA job, which we just finished shooting last week. It was out of the US with the production company 1st Ave Machine and the client decided not to come to Poland. But obviously the director and the producer were all out there and we did it remotely with the client. It was a fantastic job. Everyone was really happy. Connecting remotely is a perfectly doable solution.
However, last week, the agency and client were present on the shoot with Fredrik Bond and Stink Paris and that was a very successful experience.
EP partners Darko Skulsky and Ivo van Vollenhoven, MD Monika Urbanska and EP partner Gordon Mackinnon
What would you say to those brands which are nervous?
Poland is an EU country. It’s perfectly safe. And I really want to urge brands, marketing directors to reconsider and make sure that they are well informed about their decisions. To not just take a decision based on intuition, but based on facts, based on insurance companies, based on what is possible. I really feel that they have to rethink their strategy when it comes to filming in the east, not only in Poland. I mean, obviously I’m calling out for Poland because that’s the territory we operate in, but I’ve been talking to my colleagues in other eastern European countries, like Slovenia, and everyone’s noticed a hit because of it. A lot of scripts have just disappeared because of the clients being fearful.
Do you have any plans to help Ukrainian professionals in other parts of Europe?
I’m very much also going to place people all around the territories that we operate in Spain and Portugal, because we’ve got great production designers, stylists, producers… We’re going to try and put them in as many projects as we can and mix them up with all the other jobs that we do in these countries. And that’s already been agreed. Obviously, Poland is the main focus, but that doesn’t mean we are not doing other territories too.
To support the Ukrainian film community:
APA: details here
AICP: details here