Producer Egor Olesov: The film “Nezlamna” will probably pay for itself even before release

On April 2, the most expensive Ukrainian film since independence, “Nezlamna,” will be released. Its budget is $5 million. Considering that all the Ukrainian films that returned the funds invested in them can be counted on the fingers of one hand, this amount seems disastrous.

However, the producer of the film, Yegor Olesov, is confident that even such a large budget can be returned.

The film tells about the World War II sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko. At the age of 25, she had already become a legend, having killed 309 enemies. The generals admired her courage and endurance. She was friends with the wife of the US President, lived for some time in the White House, and her speech to the American command forced the latter to open a Second Front.

Egor Olesov talks about what it was like to shoot such a major Ukrainian-Russian film in parallel with the events in the country over the last year, how to deal with information propaganda and what awaits the Ukrainian film industry in the coming years.

When did work on the film begin?

In mid-2012, the idea for the film appeared, after which it took about a year to write the script. And filming itself began in the fall of 2013. Filmed in Kyiv and the region, as well as in Odessa, Kamenets-Podolsky and the outskirts of Sevastopol.

The film’s crew consisted of Russians and Ukrainians, and filming began shortly before the Maidan and took place in parallel with all the events of the last year and a half. In this regard, were there any difficulties in the creative team?

We managed to finish almost all the Crimean filming before the annexation. True, then it was necessary to finish filming a few more Crimean scenes, so we did it in Kamenets-Podolsky. There were no conflicts within the film crew due to politics. About a fifth of those who worked on the film are Russians. But they did not show any political aggression. Many even set us as an example of how one can be able to maintain normal relationships, unlike our politicians.

The film will be released in Russian under the title “Battle for Sevastopol”, and in Ukrainian – “Nezlamna”. Considering that its plot takes place in the period from 1937 to 1957 and the main emphasis in it is not on the liberation of Sevastopol, but on the story of the main character – is the Ukrainian name more accurate?

Yes, sure. “Battle for Sevastopol” was originally a working title that appeared two and a half years ago. Then no one could have imagined what would happen to Crimea. After that, we decided to change the name so that there would be no ambiguity in it. The final decision on what the film will be called in various territories was made by 20th Century Fox, which is distributing it.

In terms of editing, rental versions of films will be no different. The only difference will be in the soundtrack. In Ukraine, all dialogues will be in Ukrainian and English, and in Russia – in Russian and English. At the same time, Ukrainian folk songs and compositions by Okean Elzy will remain unchanged at the Russian box office. Considering that sometimes questions arise regarding the presence of Russian political propaganda in the film, we can safely answer – it is not there, not even close.

But when they write about your film in Russian publications, they often hear a phrase like “Ukrainians and Russians made one big film, because we are, essentially, one people.”

Ukraine and Russia used to have one common history, but now everyone has gone their own way. But this does not mean that we should cross out the entire past that happened.

Given the current situation, speculation and manipulation are unfortunately inevitable. In Russia, someone can distort the meaning in their own favor. And our position is very simple – in the film and next to it, we do not want to touch on politics. We tell, first of all, the personal story of the best female sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko.

When filming took place in Odessa, there was a concert by Ocean Elsa. And the actors included it – Yulia Peresild and Evgeny Tsyganov. They listened to the entire concert with great pleasure, and after that they said that they had never felt such energy before. I think that combating information propaganda on such a cultural and emotional level is much more effective. We ourselves just need to learn how to make good and high-quality things that would be liked by many and touch the emotions of people in different countries.

How was the film’s funding distributed? Who from Ukraine took part in the project?

Ukraine provided 79%, and Russia – 21% of the film’s budget. About 80% of the team, the entire technical base, as well as post-production are Ukrainian. The maximum number of our best specialists is involved. Even the composer was the Frenchman Evgeniy Galperin, who has Kyiv roots. He wrote music for The Hunger Games and Luc Besson’s films.

Our film contains very serious scenes with computer graphics, which are created in Ukraine by Postmodern, three times nominated for the Hollywood VES Awards. Despite the fact that the film contains large-scale scenes, the emphasis is still placed on the fate of the main character. So that everyone knows that Ukrainian girls

and not only the most beautiful, but also the bravest and strongest in spirit.

In which countries will it be released?

In the CIS, Baltic States, Germany, France, Japan, China and Latin America. The film’s release in North America is currently being discussed.

If the film had not been distributed by 20th Century Fox, would it have had such a wide distribution?

The participation of this major, of course, provides a number of advantages. But it also entails a huge amount of additional preparatory work. But this is a very useful experience for us.

“Nezlamna” is the first Ukrainian film to be released by a major American distributor. After this, it may become easier to promote our films in foreign distribution.

This is the most expensive film in the creation of which Ukraine took part. Are there any guarantees that he will return the invested funds?

It is always very difficult to obtain iron-clad guarantees, but we always try to consider everything from the point of view of business processes. It is very important to make money not from production, but from distribution. And this model justifies itself. We have already made several pre-sales within the framework of television rights. Distribution continues to work actively. So we hope that the film will be close to breaking even before release.

Over the past year, Russian producers have been actively leaving Ukraine. Due to this, many television and film projects are being closed. What will happen to the Ukrainian television industry in the next year or two?

On the one hand, the market has dropped significantly. There is significantly less work, because previously Ukrainian professionals also made money on these projects. But on the other hand, now this is a very good incentive to actively develop our domestic production and shoot more local films and TV series. There is enough capacity for this in Ukraine. Now in this segment there is no need to chase high budgets – and, unfortunately, they don’t exist yet. You need to “take” with ideas, creativity, combining common efforts and competent management. Due to the ban on many Russian TV series on our channels, the demand for local product will only grow. I think this will become especially acute in the spring.

We are also now more actively developing co-production options with European, American and Asian partners. The main thing is not to lose heart in difficult times of change, but to look for new opportunities.

 

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