As the war between Russia and Ukraine draws to a close in its fourth month, displaced Ukrainians continue to head for countries of refuge, most with no prospect of guaranteed work.
Diana Olifirova – a Kyiv-born, London-based cinematographer – saw the growing gap between refugees and the need for work and set about organizing a networking event in London that connected recently relocated Ukrainian film and television professionals with established people in the London industry.
On Monday, before the doors of the CVP & ARRI Creative Space even opened, a dozen Ukrainian film industry professionals were already waiting outside, seemingly eager for the evening to begin.
“It’s important to connect people and not neglect presentations,” said Olifirova whose recent credits include Netflix’s ‘Heartstopper’ and Channel 4/Peacock’s BAFTA-winning ‘We Are Lady Parts’. Olifirova was shrewdly aware of the influx of fellow Ukrainians as they reached out to her for connections and possible work.
“Through a few simple conversations, people find out that someone might need this or that professional, and it’s so important to make [your] bit. Ukrainian filmmakers are very skilled, work very hard and are very capable, so they will do well in the industry here,” she said.
Olifirova expected around 30 Ukrainians to attend, along with a handful of Londoners, but Creative Space’s posh basement was overflowing with more than 60 refugees and 30 potential recruiters. Participants included cinematographer Gary Young; Cheat post-production house director Toby Tomkins; and production designer Kave Quinn and her husband, first assistant director Aiden Quinn.
“If there is anything we can do to help, [we will]said Quinn, who has sponsored and housed budding opera singer Oryna Veselovska since the start of the war.
Veselovska’s father is special effects supervisor, mechanical SFX, editing master, and product master Timur “Jim” Veselovsky. He worked with production company Radioaktiv Films (“Chernobyl” from HBO) and production designer Volodymyr Radlinskiy, who is Quinn’s colleague.
“[Volodymyr] emailed asking if anyone can do things remotely — mood boards, art department concepts or something,” Quinn said. “So if you can’t help people here, now, physically, you can help them by [linking them up to remote work]. I would like to encourage fellow PDs and production companies to try to remotely employ some of these talented Film Art Department teams who have remained in Ukraine.
One participant, Maria Basyk, traveled a long way before settling in London. After volunteering as a translator and collecting and organizing commodities in her hometown in Ukraine, she traveled to Poland where model and actress friends told her she might be doing just fine at London.
“When I realized that I [might] having long-term psychological damage, I decided to pull myself together and walk to the [Polish] border,” Basyk said. “I thank the British for their help, starting with the [U.K.] border guard who asked, “How are you? and welcomed me to this country. I’ve met people and no matter who they are, in this industry or anyone else, they’ve opened their homes and their hearts to strangers. And now have a [event] like this which I hope will help me find a job [is a huge help].”
Basyk has worked for various international productions in the fields of communication and organization, as a translator, assistant director and actor, and third assistant director. She also likes to play when given the opportunity. Before the evening was over, she and the first AD Quinn exchanged information.
Oleh Teteriatnyk, a director who recently moved to London from Kyiv and a friend of Olifirova, invited Steve Davies, chief executive of the Advertising Producers Association, to the event. The membership-based trade body for commercial production companies is now working in direct partnership with Olifirova and Teteriatnyk to expand matchmaking opportunities with a database of Ukrainian professionals.
“The whole industry is very committed to helping Ukraine for a variety of reasons,” Davies says. “First of all, it’s a real community. I know it’s almost trivial, but most production companies really care about the people they’ve worked with, and Ukraine has been very important to the British commercial production in recent years because it is cost effective and of exceptional quality, so some companies here feel very indebted to Ukrainian filmmakers for their role in their business.
At the start of the war, the APA asked its members to contribute money to support Ukraine, and they raised around £400,000 ($487,000). Considering these are mostly small businesses and the money is coming out of their pocket, Davies points out, this is a generous sum.
“Now they want to help by trying to employ [Ukrainians]Davies concludes.
To be added to the database of Ukrainian filmmakers, check back here for a link.