Los Angeles: Employees of Ukraine’s top studio Film UA did not think much of the bomb shelters left at the site.

A mark from past struggles, the sealed shelter lay unused next to the company’s extensive wardrobe department for years. But at the start of the war, the space was quickly reopened so that at least 90 Ukrainians could take cover from Russian air strikes, ‘Variety’ reports.

Based on the outskirts of Kyiv, Film.UA, one of Eastern Europe’s biggest production players, premiered one of its major film projects, ‘The Big Picnic’, on 24 February, the night before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. was celebrating. ,

“Some people got hangovers in the morning, and they woke up to the news of the war,” says Katrina Vaishnavska, head of development and co-production for Film.UA.

“Some of our coworkers went to work as normal, but then that was weird too because you come to work and realize, ‘It’s war’.”

Everything came to a halt that day. Projects to film Film.UA’s soundstage were put on hold, and work grounds were put on hold as the cold reality of the long-feared Russian invasion sank.

According to Variety, initially, the plan was for the studio to remodel an old, factory building to become a haven for Film.UA employees.

“But then it became bigger than that because in Ukraine we now have a saying: every Ukrainian is either a warrior or a volunteer. you can do it”

Almost immediately, the studio opened its doors to the people of the surrounding Troyshchina district, many of whom were aged, frail and unable to easily move to safe places.

The bomb shelter was quickly withdrawn as a refuge during air raids, and some of the Wardrobe Department’s thousands of costumes were used to aid. The company’s catering company set up kiosks and worked non-stop to feed everyone and deliver food parcels to people with limited mobility.

At one time about 100 people, including a woman and her newborn baby, were taking shelter in Film.UA.

Vyshnevska recalls a “scary moment” when the team realized that the Ukrainian Army’s air defense unit, used to shoot down Russian missiles, was positioned from behind the studio to the next street.

An old World War II bomber aircraft stationed in front of the studio as decoration during the peace period was also of concern.

“This meant that, potentially, the area could become a target for the Russians,” Vaishnavska explains. But, fortunately, this never happened, and the Russian army is now retreating from Kyiv and the surrounding areas.

Vyshnevska himself had escaped from the city.

The executive, which splits her time between London and the Ukrainian capital, fled south on 7 March, and then to Moldova and eventually Romania.

She has since traveled to Europe, speaking to industry in markets such as Series Mania and MIPTV, and encouraging the film and TV community to continue working with Ukraine to help the local industry avoid war.

At all times, she was doing her best to confirm the safety of her Mariupol-based mother. For 17 days, without any form of communication, she did not know whether she was dead or alive.

Part of his building, and Vaishnavska’s childhood home, no longer exists, after falling down after three hits during intense fighting in the eastern Ukrainian town. But somehow, Vyshnevska’s mother is evacuated, and is now in Lviv, waiting to cross the border into Poland.

With the support of London MP Tulip Siddiq, who played an integral role in securing the recent release of Iranian-British dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from Iran, Vaishnavska was able to get her mother a visa to visit the UK. She will fly to Warsaw on Monday and help him travel to London.

The rest of his time is spent rallying the industry for support, for assurance that it will not overtake Ukraine. Although Russian troops are withdrawing from cities such as Kyiv, the war continues.

As Film.UA Group CEO Victoria Yarmoshchuk told MipTV representatives earlier this week, Ukraine does not need pity, pity or condolences. It needs new projects, international collaboration and employment for people in the creative sector.

“On the first day of the war, we realized that material is our weapon,” said Ermoshchuk. “Ukrainian stories are not local stories; They can be understood everywhere. The best thing the world can do right now is to cooperate with us.”

Representatives from Film.UA Group, Media Group Ukraine, 1+1 Media and StarLightMedia, once rivals of content and audience, came together in Cannes during a “Stand with the Ukrainian Content Industry” session, from international players to their audiences, Urged the producers and the audience to take notice. Writers, now ready to work.

A key objective is to organize an industry fund, which would ideally receive contributions from large companies such as Disney and Netflix.

“It’s to create jobs so that we can help ourselves, and so (displaced Ukrainians) can go home to Europe and all over the world,” says Vaishnavska.

The fund is still in its early stages, but “we expect streamers to contribute, as they have the responsibility of most international players”.

Vyshnevska adds that although filming in Ukraine has now been halted, other works such as dubbing and localization are still possible. Employees of Film.UA were initially working from home, but are now doing voiceover and dubbing work in the studio for all channels as well as news outlets.

A 20-person team stationed across Ukraine is also producing an animated series chronicling the history of the Ukrainian resistance.

“We have no choice: We have to go back and do what we do,” says Vaishnavska. “If channels start buying more Ukrainian content, it helps immediately. It would help if they started doing animation or post-production work with Ukrainians. We have a plan for how we can go back to production, and the industry has to help. ,