As the war between Russia and Ukraine closes out its fourth month, displaced Ukrainians continue to make their way to safe-haven countries, most without any guaranteed prospects of work.
Diana Olifirova — a Kyiv-born and London-based cinematographer — saw the gap that was widening between refugees and the need for work and set about organizing a London networking event that connected recently relocated Ukrainian film and TV professionals with established London industry folk.
On Monday, before the doors even opened at the CVP & ARRI Creative Space, 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 introductions,” said Olifirova whose recent credits include Netflix’s “Heartstopper” and Channel 4/Peacock’s BAFTA-winning “We Are Lady Parts.” Olifirova was astutely aware of the influx of fellow Ukrainians as they reached out to her for connections and possible work.
“Through some simple conversations, people discover that somebody might need this or that professional, and it’s so important to do [your] bit. Ukrainian filmmakers are very knowledgeable and very hard working and very skilled, so they will do well in the industry here,” she said.
Olifirova expected about 30 Ukrainians to attend along with a handful of Londoners, but Creative Space’s chic basement room overflowed with more than 60 refugees and 30 potential recruiters. Attendees included the cinematographer Gary Young; head of Cheat post-production house Toby Tomkins; and production designer Kave Quinn and her husband, first assistant director Aiden Quinn.
“If there’s anything we can do to help, [we will],” said Quinn, who has sponsored and homed aspiring opera singer Oryna Veselovska since the beginning of the war.
Veselovska’s father is the special effects supervisor, mechanical SFX and rig master and product master Timur “Jim” Veselovsky. He has worked with the production company Radioaktiv Films (HBO’s “Chernobyl”) and production designer Volodymyr Radlinskiy, who is Quinn’s colleague.
“[Volodymyr] emailed to ask if anyone can do things remotely — mood boards, art department concepts, or anything like that,” said Quinn. “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 employ remotely some of these talented film art department crew left in Ukraine.”
One attendee, Maria Basyk, had a long journey before settling in London. After volunteering as a translator and collecting and organizing basic goods in her hometown in Ukraine, she made it to Poland where some model and actress friends told her that she might fare well in London.
“When I understood that I [might] have 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 from the [U.K.] border guard who asked, ‘Are you okay?’ and welcomed me to this country. I’ve met some people and no matter who they are, in this industry or anyone else, they have opened their homes and hearts to strangers. And now to have an [event] like this which hopefully will help me find some work [is a huge help].”
Basyk has worked for a variety of international productions in communications and organization, as a translator, a director’s and actor’s assistant, and a third assistant director. She also likes to act when given the chance. Before the evening was over, she and first AD Quinn exchanged information.
Oleh Teteriatnyk, a film director recently relocated to London from Kyiv and a friend of Olifirova’s, 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 further matchmaking opportunities with a database of Ukrainian professionals.
“The whole industry is very committed to help Ukraine for various reasons,” says Davies, “First of all, it is a real community. I know that’s almost trite, but most production companies really care about people they’ve worked with, and Ukraine has been very important to U.K. commercial production over the last few years, because it’s cost-effective and brilliant quality. So, some companies here feel very indebted to Ukrainian filmmakers for their part in their business.”
At the start of the war, APA asked their members to contribute money to support Ukraine, and they raised about £400,000 ($487,000). Considering these are mostly small companies and the money is coming out of their pocket, Davies points out, it is a generous sum.
“Now they want to help by trying to employ [Ukrainians],” Davies concludes.
To be added to the Ukrainian filmmaker database, head to this link.