In the 15 years since its founding, Star Media has grown into an international media group and distribution powerhouse, with a catalog boasting more than 7,500 hours of content available in more than 60 countries worldwide. But the company remains true to its roots as a production house, and its focus is still on the production of high-end content with an emphasis on series that boast both local and international appeal, according to Star Media president Vlad Riashyn.
The company’s portfolio of local content includes more than 65 series and feature films. Currently in production is a Russian-language adaptation of the hit Israeli crime drama “Kvodo,” whose American remake, “Your Honor,” starring Bryan Cranston, aired on Showtime. The series follows a powerful judge whose son kills a motorcyclist in a hit-and-run accident. When the victim turns out to be the son of a local mafia kingpin, the judge and his son find themselves at the center of a dangerous game. The show stars acclaimed Russian actor Oleg Menshikov.
Another buzz title is the feature film and six-episode drama series “Land of Legends” (pictured), an ambitious, large-scale production based on Alexei Ivanov’s best-selling novel “Heart of Parma,” with an international distributor attached. Set to premiere in 2022, the epic drama centers on a historic rivalry between the Grand Duchy of Moscow and the Principality of Great Perm, an ancient land inhabited by pagan tribes. “I believe it will be an example of Russian cinema at its best,” says Riashyn.
The diverse arms of the Star Media group allow it to produce a broad range of content. One of its companies, Kristi Films, focuses on contemporary Ukrainian films with strong festival appeal; last year its feature “Bad Roads,” a multi-stranded narrative set against the war in Donbass, from Ukrainian director Natalya Vorozhbit, was awarded at Venice Critics’ Week.
Another Star Media company, Babich Film, specializes in the production of docudramas. Among its top titles are the eight-part historical drama series “The Romanovs,” which was bought by Amazon Prime, and “Soviet Storm: World War II in the East,” which was bought and dubbed into English for international distribution by The History Channel, as well as by distributors in 14 countries worldwide.
Star Media has also ramped up its efforts to broaden its reach in the global marketplace through key collaborations with foreign co-producers. “This is a very important direction for us, to make projects with different international partners for different international markets,” says Riashyn.
Its first co-production was a 10-episode thriller “The Pleasure Principle,” created in collaboration with Poland’s Apple Film Productions, Canal Plus Poland and the Czech public broadcaster Czech Television. A dark detective drama that begins with the naked body of a young girl washing up on a beach in Odessa, the series was a hit in all three territories with its 2019 release.
Another cross-border collaboration, the six-episode thriller “Silence,” is currently being filmed with Croatia’s Drugi Plan, the producers of Netflix pick-up “The Paper” and the HBO Adria original “Success,” Germany’s Beta Film, and the Ukrainian VOD player Oll.tv. Based on the work of the bestselling investigative journalist Drago Hedl, the series is set in present-day Croatia and Ukraine and focuses on the horrors of human trafficking and the weapons trade in Eastern Europe. The series is slated to premiere at the end of 2021.
Also in the works is “Bolshoi,” a feature documentary that follows one season in the life of the world-renowned Russian theater. Created in partnership with Germany’s Kinescope Film, Arte, and Salzgeber, the film is set to premiere in 2022. Another project in development is the feature film “Shtetl,” which will be produced in collaboration with French and Belgian partners. Director Adi Walter tells a story of true love and unlikely friendship set in a shtetl, a small Jewish town in Western Ukraine.
Early last year, Star Media joined forces with the British media company OLLEV to launch the joint venture Apple Tree Vision, which is focused on international co-productions and production services. After a brief lockdown in the spring, cameras rolled during the summer on the company’s first production, the Kiev-set actioner “The Last Mercenary,” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, which will launch on Netflix in July.
Other titles in the company’s portfolio include the sci-fi mystery series “Infinity,” created with Federation Entertainment for Canal Plus, and “The Shiny Shrimps 2,” the sequel to the popular French comedy, which Apple Tree Vision serviced.