We spent a week in July with a Canadian crew filming an episode of Rires du monde 2 (World Laughter 2) looking at what makes people laugh in different countries. Each one-hour episode examines a different country and is hosted by different popular Canadian comedians.
The Russian episode was led by François Bellefeuille, a well-known humorist in Quebec, Canada, who aimed to explore Russian humor on TV, radio, theatre and internet.
After a few weeks of pre-production we secured interviews with a number of different comedians and people in the comedy business. Including Comedy club, Comedy radio (102’5 FM), Comedy Women show and their two main comedians, Natalia Andreevna and Ekaterina Varnava. Also Bonya and Kuzmich who became famous for their music video parodies on youtube, and a fantastic clown family called SEMIANYKI.
Interestingly, the crew came with the preconception that Russians are very serious. This was proved immediately wrong as soon as they got to Gorky park and Museon to ask the main question of the show: What makes you laugh?
Here they found that actually Russians are very happy, relaxed and like to have fun. Moreover, they like to laugh at themselves, at politics and at life.
Comedy Radio was a highlight where François went live on air to discuss with the shows DJs comedy and humour in Russia.
We then headed to Saint-Petersburg to meet the clown family Semyanuki, who met the crew at the train station in costume, so our arrival turned into a huge public performance. After a fun drive to their theatre, they immediately dressed the host up as one of them. Here the host found that some Russian humor is sometimes laughter through tears.
It was a flying visit to Saint-Petersburg as we had to head back to Moscow to continue filming other planned interviews.
Another very fascinating interview was with the director of the political satire performance “BerlusPutin” which is performed only in one theatre in Moscow and is forbidden in other theatres and regions of Russia.
We look forward to seeing this show air on TV5 across all French speaking countries in 2017.
2015 has been another year of many varied and interesting projects. We traveled the road of bones, celebrated the pole of cold festival and visited IFA in Berlin, as well as got to know the Uzbekistan capital of Tashkent. With all the excitement of fighter jets, speed boats and Reindeer sledges, it was also a year of working with and meeting lots of new people and forming some close friendships.
This year we have continued to learn and develop and we had a few important lessons. How we face difficulties when they crop up in sometimes very difficult circumstances and in often harsh natural environments. We continue to enjoy the process of film production and remain passionate about film making.
Filming this year has seen us put a man into space, journey to the coldest inhabited place on earth, investigate Russian collective farming, Hair Harvesting in Russia and Media Propaganda. We also released our first in-house film “A City Like This” which we are very proud of.
We would like to thank the following companies for their co-operation in 2015: Cineflix, Pinewood Films Inc, Hoferichter & Jacobs Film, Victoria Melody, Sugar Rush Productions, ORF, Eureka Productions, Lenovo, Novation and DaCostaProduções.
So here is to more adventures in 2016 in Russia and welcoming more film crews from all corners of the world coming to film in this exciting, surprising and fascinating country.
September and October we worked on a project for Lenovo. We filmed two videos for YouTube to promote their new #Goodweird products.
One video was a music clip for EeOneguy – Russian vlogger with over 4 million subscribers to his channel. Having a dream to make a really cool music video, he wrote the lyrics to the music composed by our American colleagues.
It was decided that it will be represented in the style of a K-pop music video, so we used lots of cool and weird costumes and make up with the help of our costumer and make-up stylist. We also found a great choreographer and dancers to help bring the video to life.
We filmed in some really exciting locations for the various scenes in the clip: in a sauna and the famous Bunker 42 at Taganskaya. The Bunker is now a museum of the cold war which is 65 meters deep underground.
The second video was an international video of a “dance off” between 3 vloggers and was shoot in America, India and Russia. In Russia we filmed the dancing scene on the Central square of VDNH – The Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy. It is one of the most popular public places in the Russian capital and represents many different elements of Russia with its famous buildings.
The dance was a mixture of 3 different cultures, so we had the Russian gymnasts and guys in bear outfits as well as big Russian beardy men in American cheerleading costumes and our dancers in Indian sarees. Although it was snowing a lot on the day we shot at VDNH, it was really fun and our Green Truck was a busy but warm place to escape the cold.
There was a lot of equipment and crew involved in the filming of these two clips which we supplied, including: cameras, Steadicam, crane, lighting and sound. Editing was made in California by our American colleagues.
Tashkent and Chorsu Market
In November we flew to Tashkent for a week to assist a Canadian crew filming a program for their series about the Worlds Markets for TV5. The program in Uzbekistan was about the Chorsu bazaar – one of the largest markets in Central Asia and the oldest in the region.
In the past only men were allowed to be at the market (selling and buying), women were not allowed but were at home cooking. The man’s duty was to earn money and bring food home. As there were no fridges, they used to bring food only for the week and they kept the products in the ditch, dug near the river.
Nowadays thankfully you can see lots of women in the market, selling and buying cooked food, milk products, bread, fruits and vegetables.
The territory of the market is so huge that it is not easy to understand straight away how it is organised. There are 3 main sections which are located in different areas. The biggest section is the food section which is divided into different parts: under the big dome they sell milk products, meat and dried fruits. Around the dome they have market stalls with fresh fruits and vegetables, rice and spices and a section where they make bread. The second big section is the silk section where they sell textile, carpets, Suzanne as well as traditional wedding dresses. By crossing the street you can find the third section which is crafts. The development of folk art and crafts in Uzbekistan is very important. Ceramics, silk and cotton weaving, metal engraving are just some which have been passed down from ancient times.
In summer we were there to scout the locations and to find the characters for the show: merchants, producers, buyers and here we must say that they are a very welcoming people and genuinely interested in sharing their stories with us.
Fergana Valley and Silk Production
Uzbekistan is one of the world’s top three producers of silk cocoons, with the output for 2015 expected to exceed 26,000 tons. One important branch of the Silk Road transited in the Fergana Valley. Silkworm breeding and silk weaving was started in ancient times in Fergana Valley.
We drove to the Fergana Valley from Tashkent crossing a high mountain pass with a spectacular view which took us around 6 hours. You have to stop two times at check points where they check passports and the car goes much slower though the mountain pass.
We were welcomed by Yodgorlik Factory of Silk production in Margilan where we were lucky to see all the steps from getting threads out of cocoons right up to the final product. Silkworms grow in spring, so we could not see the full process but got a very good idea of how it works.
Rules and Accreditation
If you are coming as a film crew, you need to apply for accreditation to Ministry of foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan through a local touristic agency. There are a few touristic companies that can help with this. But all necessary documents should be sent to them 2-3 months before the crew intends to film.
5 Tips When You Travel to Uzbekistan
- There are some strict rules about what you can and cannot photograph so keep in mind that some administrative buildings as well as inside the metro are not allowed.
- Bring with you dollars, not euros. Due to 1USD being 2755 Uzbek sum (as of 29 December 2015) changing up a lot of money in one go, you will find you need a basket to carry it around in. Change 100 USD at a time – it can be enough for 3-4 days for food and drinks. There are exchange points in all big hotels. For example, in hotel Uzbekiston it works 24 hours.
- Uzbek food is very rich and oily, so when you eat their plov, it is good to have it with lots of green tea. If you are a vegetarian, make sure their vegetable pies like samsa with potatoes don’t contain lamb fat which is one of the main things they use for cooking in Uzbekistan.
- Uzbek people prefer tea to coffee so real coffee is often not easy to find. Coffee Bon on Chekhova Street is a place where you will be satisfied with a good cappuchino or latte; They also offer European food with lots of fresh salads and sandwiches.
- When you travel in summer make sure you have a hat, sunglasses and a bottle of water with you – the sun is very strong.
In October we helped a journalist from Austria’s main TV broadcaster with a project he was working on titled ‘Media and Propaganda’. How different news agencies tell the same story with a focus on international news coverage of events in Ukraine.
We got two interviews at RT (Russia Today). One with RT’s senior political correspondent, Anissa Naouai who has won a Silver World Medal in the Best News Anchor category for her nightly news magazine ‘In the Now’, and another with Ilya Petrenko about his reportage in Ukraine. We then headed to Sputnik, a relatively new agency aimed at foreign audiences to get another point of view.
We also had time to look into Putinversteher (a German word meaning a Putin sympathiser) which is a fashion brand with clothing featuring the face of the Russian president. Their best selling item is a silver ring with the presidents face.
In September we were asked by an American production company who specialise in creating and promoting youtube content, to take a trip with EeOneGuy to the German capital to visit the Lenovo Launch.
EeOneGuy is a youtube vlogger with over 4 million followers who was selected by Lenovo to attend the launch show and take a look at their new products, and then create one of his unique youtube videos.
While we were there we also attended IFA, the global trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances. IFA see’s 240,000 visitors over its 6 days at the Berlin Expo Centre with 1,600 exhibitors all there to show off their new products and innovations.
We spent time with a group of bloggers and journalists while we were in Berlin and Lenovo invited us on a street art tour of Berlin. Here EeOneGuy got the chance to try his hand at graffiti for the first time. Berlin seems to be the European capital of street art with not only what remains of the Berlin wall covered in murals but also much of the city covered in graffiti.
It was very interesting to spend time at IFA and check out the new tech that is a huge part of our industry. We came away with a lot of new ideas and a long wish list.
This was an interesting experience of working purely on content for youtube so having to use a different production style. Click Here to see the video he made of his experience in Berlin.
This is the kind of project we love. A phone call on a Monday, Tuesday to put a plan together and hire equipment, crew arrive in Moscow on Wednesday ready to start shooting on Thursday.
The team of three from the UK followed Pixelord, a Russian electro musician around for 3 days. Interviewed him in his studio, saw some of his favourite haunts and filmed him performing.
For the performance segments he was filmed at a music shop “All for DJ”, as well as the Muzeon park of Arts (also known as Fallen Monument Park) and a gig aboard The Brusov Ship moored at Krymskaya embankment on the Moskva River.
It was interesting to hear how the city inspires him as a musician, the juxtaposition of old and new architecture of Moscow with giant traditional buildings from the Soviet era now positioned next to uber modern skyscrapers.
He took the team to Art-Play, a former tea factory now a hub of creative activity and home to the British Design School. He was also filmed in the Soviet Arcade Machine Museum, a place he says gives him a lot of inspiration for his creative output.
This was a commercial shoot for Novation, the maker of the LaunchPad used by Pixelord to make his music.
Click Here to see the film.
In the beginning of July we had the pleasure of working with a Brazilian production company filming a special TV show called “City of Dance” for RBS to broadcast across Santa Catarina.
For 33 years Joinville in Brazil has held a Dance festival and is included in the Guinness World Records for the largest student dance festival with around 6 thousand participants.
This program focusses on the special relationship the Bolshoi Theatre has with Joinville. Here there is the only Bolshoi Theatre School outside of Russia and they are celebrating their 15 year anniversary of starting the School there after a tour of Brazil in the early 90s.
“Even if my participation in launching the Joinville School of Bolshoi would be my only achievement as a dancer, an artist and a poet – I would be able to say that my life is not in vain”
We took care of the pre-production and setting up permits for filming on the streets of Moscow as well as providing an assistant producer to accompany the crew while filming in the Bolshoi Theatre and around the city.
Rafael Custodio, the presenter interviewed two famous ballet dancers Aleksandr Vetrov and Vladimir “God of Dance” Vasiliev as well as other key members of the Bolshoi team.
City of Dance will be broadcast on the 25th Aug on RBS.
On the 22nd of June 2015 we launched our short film “A City Like This”. We have always been motivated to show Russia as the modern and creative country it is and its people are as the diverse, complicated and joyful as you would find anywhere.
We first got involved with Dance Walking as participants when it first found its way to Russia via Alexander Girshon, a psychologist and dance therapist, and from the very beginning we realised that there is a great film to be made.
A very nice film to watch and story to hear, with a certain amount of pleasure in seeing Russians in a way we do not often get to see in the West.
Short of the Week
In 2012 Ben Aaron, a reporter from New York City brought Dance Walking to a wider audience when he spotted a guy on 5th avenue with headphones dancing on his own and joined him. He discovered that this form of dance walking combines three of his favorite things: Interacting with people, seeing the city and dancing.
Very quickly the idea spread to other countries as the world’s newest fitness craze and in 2014 it reached Moscow as well as the other cities of Russia.
2014 was full of complicated events in Russia and in all corners of the world, and many people seemed to be looking for something positive, something inspiring that could be a distraction if just for a short time.
So when Alexander Girshon announced Dance Walking on social media, it was the perfect time for people to go out into the streets, get involved and share something new. He didn’t expect so many people would come straight away and that it would grow into what it has now become. People of different backgrounds and ages all united by their passion for dance.
Filming Dance Walking Moscow
Our Producer Alyona Pimanova attended the very first Dance Walking in Moscow as she has her own love of dance. She shot some beautiful footage on her phone and when we saw it in the office, we all agreed straight away that this would make a lovely short film.
We met with Alexander Girshon and made preparations to shoot the next Dance Walking. We shot it with 3 cameras and all of the team had the same music play list in their headphones as the dancers had.
For me this was very important to the shoot, this almost Gonzo treatment would mean the camera team would capture the joy of the dancing with the subjects they were filming.
Dan Smith, Creative Director
As music is such an important part of this film and for copyright reasons we couldn’t use music from the original playlist, we called upon a good friend of ours Alex Beharrell and his wonderful band The Reckostacks. They kindly agreed to let us use their music and it became apparent in post-production that their music gave the film the perfect emotion to accompany the footage.
So we want to say a huge thank you to The Reckostacks. Go buy their music, it is truly moving and beautiful – www.thereckostacks.com
We shared ‘A City Like This’ on social media with the Dance Walking Moscow group as well as Ben Aaron and other people and have been overwhelmed with the positive feedback.
So why not find a Dance Walking event near where you live, join in this wonderful experience as it will truly inspire, you will meet a lot of great people and it will open your eyes to the place you live.
We can now reveal more details about the Russian episode of Laish La. We didn’t quite put a man on the moon but we did put one into space. The 4 hosts came wanting to explore the possibility of getting closer to the stars and Russia having a great heritage of space travel, it was the perfect place to do this.
Moayed got the chance to fly in a MIG-29 twenty two km above sea level where he witnessed the curvature of the earth.
The very first man in space Yuri Gagarin said when he returned that earth was a wonderful place and we all must unite to take care of it. We believe that this is the essence of Laish La that if we all unite anything is possible.
In each episode of Laish La the 4 hosts stop people in the street to ask “What do you want to do before you die?” They then decide to help one of these people fulfil their dream. For the Russian episode the team decide that the person they would surprise would be none other than our very own Alyona Pimanova. When she was young she used to ice skate to a high level and dreamed of making it her career. As she got older, for different reasons she had to put skating aside to focus on other areas in her life, so her dream was to ice skate again as she had when she was young.
As she was part of the production team this meant a lot of white lies and misinformation to keep her from finding out what we were planning. This was made easier when she accompanied most of the team to Nizhny Novgorod for the MIG flight.
Back in Moscow the rest of the team were hard at work setting up the surprise. We visited nearly every ice rink in Moscow and we found one that would allow us to have it empty and all to ourselves on the Saturday evening.
We also spoke to a large number of agents of professional ice skaters to find an Olympic champion to give her a figure skating master class. Through a contact at the Moscow Sports University we managed to get a brilliant up and coming young skater who was happy to come and be part of the show.
We also tracked down Alyona’s ice skating teacher Tatiana Vitalievna she had not seen since she was very young.
The last part of the puzzle was to get her to the right place at the right time. We told her that the 4 hosts wanted her to show them how to skate and invited her to the rink. At this point she still had no idea what was about to happen and was thinking she would just help them to get skates and it would be the sign off.
She arrived helped them all hire ice skates and took them out on to the rink, then they told her that it was actually not about them, but was all for her. They emptied the rink and introduced the star who gave her some skating tips, then presenting her with a new ice skating outfit, let her have the whole rink to herself to remember how she used to skate which was her dream.
Last surprise was presenting her with flowers and the finally of reuniting her with Tatiana. They danced the same routine as they used to nearly 15 years ago.
We are pleased to say that she has since continued to skate and this show has relighted the love she once had for ice skating. Dreams do come true it seems with a lot of work and the single minded ambition to make someone else life better is a great motivator.
This production will be one of the most interesting and fun shows we have worked on and we will remember that week for a long time to come. We are also pleased to have gained some wonderful friends among the team.