‘Anna K’ Producers on Ukraine War’s Impact on Russia’s Booming TV Biz

Powerhouse producers Valeriy Fedorovich and Evgeniy Nikishov, the creative duo behind Netflix’s original series, “Anna K,” quietly left 1-2-3 Production in early March and look now their shingle MC2 in Moscow.

Although the announcement was first made in the days removed from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Fedorovich said the plan to leave the Gazprom-Media support outfit was organized in the past.

“When we formed our own company, we were clear [would] must say good bye to 1-2-3 Production,” said Fedorovich different. “We worked for others; now we want to do it for ourselves.

As the head of the Moscow-based outfit they founded in 2018, Fedorovich and Nikishov are the creators behind the sick thriller “To the Lake,” a story that made the top 10 list in the world after being acquired by Netflix. , and signed on last year for the streamer’s first Russian drama, “Anna K,” a retelling of Leo Tolstoy’s classic “Anna Karenina.” They were tapped to create the Netflix original series “Nothing Special.”

But the war in Ukraine, which entered its fourth month this week, has left high-profile movies and TV shows in limbo, as international broadcasters, broadcasters, international and many business partners. activities.

Neither Fedorovich nor Nikishov could comment on the status of either of the two Netflix series currently in the pipeline. The fate of “Dreams of Alice,” a youth drama the pair created at this year’s Berlinale Series Market Selects, is uncertain.

Last year, the duo launched their new venture focusing on films and TV series with international appeal. Their first feature, “Captain Volkonogov Escaped,” premiered in competition at the Venice Film Festival.

They are developing the second feature from director Vladimir Munkuev, whose “Nuuccha” took top prize at Karlovy Vary’s East of the West competition last year. “The Fog” stars hot Russian Yuriy Borisov (“Compartment No. 6”) and is produced by Fedorovich and Nikishov, along with Aleksandr Plotnikov and Boris Khlebnikov.

Although Russia is being shut out of the film and TV industry, some programs that hit the market before the start of the war in Ukraine have still managed to transfer to the world in of previous works: “Six Empty Seats” (pictured), produced by Fedorovich and Nikishov and sold internationally by Beta Film, released on Topic, the US streaming service from First Look Media .

However, the Russian industry is in a state of limbo when it comes to its foreign partnerships. “The world team will be put on ice by 95%,” said Fedorovich. “[But] International organizations do not want to end those relationships; they have recorded them.

Advertising spending in Russia has fallen since the invasion of Ukraine, driving Western companies out of the Russian market. Fedorovich estimates that local advertisers and media outlets have seen their advertising revenue drop 50-60% since the start of the war.

However, the pull of Google, Netflix and other technology and streaming giants is a boon to their Russian competitors. “The money is small, but there are few places where you can spend this money,” he said. “[Russian search giant] Yandex looks good today.

Competition between new Russian streaming services in recent years has fueled a boom in local content, while deep-rooted platforms are fighting for subscribers by attracting top talent. in their service. Yandex launched the KinoPoisk streaming platform in 2018, joining a competitive market that includes Gazprom-backed streamer Premier; KION, which owns Russia’s largest mobile operator, MTS; Okko, which was acquired by the financial giant Sber (formerly known as Sberbank); and a host of fast-growing services including More.tv, Wink and Ivi.

Most of those sites, as well as Russia’s top media houses, have ties to sanctioned organizations and oligarchs. (Gazprom-Media owned by Gazprombank is among the public and private companies on the sanctions list.)

Fedorovich and Nikishov insisted that the sanctions had no effect on the labor market. On the other hand, Russian streaming services are expected to increase production, as the government is “promising to put more money into the industry than before,” said Fedorovich.

It remains to be seen if there is an international market for such information. When Ukrainian filmmakers at the Cannes Film Festival renewed their call for a complete eradication of Russian culture, Nikishov admitted that “it might be a good idea” as he believes that now is not the time. record Russian voices.

“The real job of culture is to build bridges,” he said. “We want, as filmmakers, to tell stories from Russia and Russia, not only for Russian speakers, but for the whole world.”

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