2016 turned out to be quite an unusual year all in all, not only in world news but closer to home. We did though find out what makes Russians laugh with Canadian comedian François Bellefeuille and met the Russian YouTuber who turned his kitchen into a swimming pool. Also we got to travel more and discovered some new great places as well as visited some old favourites.
This year we worked closer with our friends at the Golden Apple Boutique Hotel in Moscow and produced videos for their website. We also met some wonderful new people and provided full production for their projects. One of which was a creative project for the Ministery of Finances to help educate people with their financial affairs including filming at the Golden Bee international graphic design exhibition.
It was a great pleasure to cooperate again with some old friends that we have previously worked with.
We wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year and we look forward to welcoming many more crews from around the world coming to film in Russia in 2017.
Russian Pool in Apartment Viral Video Interview
Some projects are weeks if not months of research and pre-production, but sometimes we get a call out of the blue and a few days later we are heading on another filming adventure.
For example we were contacted by the makers of the British TV show RudeTube, a fast paced count down of top 50 funny and bizarre viral videos on the net. It is hosted by Alex Zane and is shown on Channel 4/E4 in the UK.
Our task was to get an interview with the Russian youtuber Вечный (Vichnie) AKA Vladimir who turned his kitchen into a swimming pool, filmed it and put it on his youtube channel. A video that has almost 3 million views at the time of this post.
So we jumped in the car and headed to Tver, 162km from Moscow to film the story. In fact we filmed Вечный in the very kitchen where this viral video was originally shot. He spoke about how he got the idea and how they prepared the kitchen with plastic sheeting before flooding it.
It was a long but very enjoyable day, we shot what was needed and the next day the footage was on a hard drive heading to London by courier.
The episode of Rude Tube featuring Вечный will be shown on Channel 4/E4 sometime in 2017.
Here is Vladimir’s original video (Contains some strong language)
Building long term working relationships is at the heart of our business, so when we were contacted by a production company from the UK that we had already filmed an episode of Tough Trains with, we were over the moon.
This shoot would be a historical documentary series that would take us to St Petersburg to look into Tsar Nicholas I and the Russian Orthodox Church in the 19th century.
First day of filming was at the New Jerusalem Monastery, about 60 km from Moscow, also known as the Voskresensky (Resurrection) Monastery and identical to the Cathedral of the same name in Jerusalem. It is one of the most beautiful and unique cathedrals near Moscow and was built at the end of the 17th century.
Some parts of its territory were under reconstruction so we were unable to film the exterior in full. We applied to the Patriarchy and gained their support and permission to film inside the Monastery, which took more than a month but which was worth all the paperwork and waiting. We were guided by one of the monasteries custodians who had a great knowledge of the history of the Monastery and was interviewed by the host of the series – Julian Davison – an architect, writer and tv presenter.
That same day we headed to St Petersburg on the fast train from Leningradsky station. The shoot would then take us to the Hermitage and Winter Palace, Peter and Paul Fortress and Kronstadt. All are places in Saint-Petersburg that need filming permits and as with the Peter and Paul Fortress it was simple and quickly organised, with the Hermitage it took us quite a time to agree all the terms.
Filming in the Winter palace for TV can be challenging. You pay quite a lot of money but this doesn’t include closing the rooms you wish to film in. They are still open for the public and it is a struggle to stop them getting into shot. As this was a documentary shoot it had a small crew of just 4 of us. So knowing the distance through the many lavishly decorated halls and rooms we would have to carry a lot of equipment, we obtained the help of one of our trusted contacts in St Petersburg to be another pair of hands. He also became helpful with shepherding the tourists out of shot. But after three hours of filming in such an extraordinary place leaves you feeling more than a little awestruck.
In the Peter and Paul Fortress we filmed the cannon salute which happens every day in Saint-Petersburg at mid-day. They opened the fence for us so we could get close to the cannons just 15 minutes before it was fired, so it was an absolute shock when we heard the 3-ton cannon fire just 2 meters away.
In Kronstadt, which is about 1 -1,5 hours of drive from the city, we took a boat to the abandoned fort Alexander. They do some excursions inside the fort, but with a filming crew you need to agree with the administration in advance and pay a fee. The easiest way to get to fort Alexander by boat is to drive to Fort Konstantin.
- It is really important to find a hotel in Saint-Petersburg with a central location that have proper breakfast. The city is full of cosy bakeries but most cafes are opened from 10am. For a crew who normally have very early starts, it is almost impossible to find good breakfast en route unless you have it in your hotel.
- If you film the cannon salute at a close distance, make sure you have hearing protection with you.
- If you are going to film in Winter palace, avoid filming on Tuesday as it is considered to be one of the busiest days with tourists and groups. If possible don’t film in summer as this has the most tourists visiting.
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.