Twelve months since the Russian invasion, TBI talks to Ukrainian media organisations about how they have kept cameras rolling in a country in the midst of conflict.
Running all through this week, we’ll be publishing extended interviews from our recent article on Ukrainain production (which you can read here).
Here, Volodymyr Zavadiuk, head of big shows at broadcast group 1+1 Media, reveals how he and his team brought The Voice Of The Country, the Ukrainian version of ITV Studios music competition format The Voice, back to screens.
With the season 12 finale interrupted in spring because of the invasion and having received “an incredible number of requests from viewers [for its] return”, Zavadiuk and his team set out to complete the season, ultimately bringing the show back for a live performance in November, broadcast on 1+1 Media’s TET channel.
What were the main challenges that you faced in bringing The Voice Of The Country back to the screen for the finale?
In fact, the biggest challenge we faced while working on the 12th season of The Voice was getting the whole team together. Due to the full-scale war in Ukraine, many of the team, mostly women with children, fled abroad in order to find temporary shelter outside of Ukraine. However, this did not stop us, because every project implemented by the big shows team over the past 10 years is more than just a project. For us, this is a certain mission.
Moreover, we received an incredible number of requests from viewers to return The Voice to the screens. This show gives inspiration, faith in tomorrow and strength to move on. So we decided that we would do it. Our coaches Nadia Dorofeeva and Olya Polyakova also supported us. Katya Osadcha, the presenter, was abroad but returned to Ukraine, despite all the risks, rocket fire and constant danger.
We encountered a new reality. We wanted to show the present day of participants in this season because life was divided by the war into before and after. It was a big challenge because many of them were also scattered across the globe. The war changed their lives, some lost their homes, which were destroyed by Russia. Therefore, together with the directors, we also looked for approaches to how to film their lives, and how to make the participants’ greetings more inspiring for Ukrainians. All this was done so that both the participants and the audience would not lose faith that light would definitely defeat darkness.
And last, but not the least serious challenge was to organize the shooting of such a big live show in a war. The live broadcast was from the Maidan Nezalezhnosti metro station – a symbolic place of the struggle for freedom of the whole country. Moreover, during the first days of the full-scale war, this station was used as a shelter for thousands of Kyiv natives who were hiding from Russian missile attacks. The big challenge was organizing a live broadcast there, obtaining all the permits, transporting a large amount of scenery, and setting up a real live broadcast from the underground.
Looking back, how do you feel about the resulting production?
Now we understand that it was the right decision, because it is very important to support Ukrainians who are both outside the country and in Ukraine. And we did it. We are pleased with the results of the TV viewing and all the comments from the viewers that we received during and after the show. We were also pleasantly surprised and inspired by the support of The Voice coaches from all over the world, who recorded special video messages for us.
Despite the war, Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities continue to live and develop. People work and donate to the Armed Forces. They do everything possible for themselves and for victory. But at the same time, they try to relax, fall in love, and start new businesses. New coffee shops are opening, where people come in between rocket attacks to drink coffee and chat with each other. It was very important for us to show by our own example that during the war we did not pack our bags and stop work, but continue to work in brave Kyiv and produce Ukrainian content.
What was the significance of holding the finale in the Maidan Nezalezhnosti metro station?
We started this season with the tagline “This is how your country sounds” when there was information in the media about a possible invasion of Ukraine. Even then, we understood that it was very important to keep morale high among our viewers. That’s what this season has become. This live broadcast proved to us that this is exactly how Ukraine sounds now – from the underground, but it sounds sincere, confident and bold. There are many videos on social media where people gather in the metro and sing songs during missile attacks. This inspired us to make a live broadcast from the underground and even more so from such a significant station for Ukrainians as Maidan Nezalezhnosti. The biggest achievement was that it became possible, despite the fact that the metro and neighboring stations were fully operational. I mean, at that time, trains were carrying passengers around the capital.
We filled the big final with inspiring, motivating, defensive stories of our time. During the show, the iconic songs of our time sounded, many were born during the war. The winner of this season was the authentic Ukrainian singer Maria Kvitka with a song that resonates with what is happening in the souls of millions of Ukrainians. Also, many talented participants took part in this season. One of them serves in the Armed Forces and defends the country on the battlefield. Especially for our show, he received a leave warrant for several days to come to us.
What do the next few months ahead look like for 1+1 Media?
Of course, we really want this war to end with our victory as soon as possible. At the same time, we try to find different opportunities for ourselves even in such dark times. Therefore, we pay a lot of attention to collaborations with foreign partners, which until recently seemed far away to us, but now they are very close. Because Ukrainians are brave, creative and ready for new challenges. I am very glad that we can introduce our experience to different audiences. As part of the Big Brave Events of 1+1 Media initiative, we are working on several major collaborations with other European countries, as well as projects within the country. Moreover, we hope for cooperation within the current Eurovision, which will be held in the UK.