Kvartal 95 remains focused on creativity. Exclusive interview with Vladimir Zelensky
One of Ukraine’s biggest content producers Kvartal 95 ended 2017 with mixed feelings as the second season of comedy series Servant of the People was once again a hit on 1+1 but another production, In-Laws, was banned by the Ukrainian authorities. Georgi R. Chakarov met in Kyiv with Co-founder and Creative Producer Vladimir Zelensky who commented on the good and bad news for the prodco as well as its plans for new projects and an upcoming launch of a digital platform with Kvartal 95 content.
Let’s start with the good news – the second season of Servant of the People. Are you happy with the results?
Overall, I am very happy. We have made an interesting product, which generated good ratings, even better than the average for the channel. On top of that, we were very satisfied with the results it showed on YouTube. This is the way the society is changing. Of course, there is still conservative audience that watches only TV. But when people have an opportunity to watch anything they want anywhere they are, the internet starts winning. Because it gives people comfort.
What is the balance between the TV and the internet?
The internet wins by several times. It is outstanding, and I have not expected such results. On TV, Servant of the People generated a 15-16% share, on average, compared to the 9-10% average share of the channel (in the commercial demo). At the same time, every episode generated over 1 million views on YouTube right away. This is what makes this resource unique. Even though Servant of the People is quite a universal product, it targets a more progressive audience.
Will there be a third season?
I don’t know. There is high concept, but such decisions are always difficult. There are many people involved. We come up with the idea, authors then write the screenplay. For us it is not easy. Contrary to the USA or even Europe, where specific teams do only a couple of projects a year, we cannot afford such practices. It is economically impossible. We make several projects at once. So, there is a dilemma – to make or not to make, and if we decide to make the third season, when
do we do it.
Now to the bad news – the ban of In-Laws. What happens now?
In any case, we are law-abiding citizens, even if we do not agree with the decision that’s been taken. We are not an ethics organization that evaluates people’s behavior. We do not agree with his [one of the main actors] actions, but what should we do with it? Let’s shut down studios? Let’s close down Netflix because they made and showed House of Cards. Of course, I am not comparing because the scale is different. This is criminal or administrative liability, depending on what exactly they did. But we, as producers, cannot be held responsible for various courses of action. With Servant of the People, we have to think whether we would be able to show the product. Other companies have to do the same. And at this point, we do not understand where this could lead to.
We are done with In-Laws for now. We have been talking about letting Eccho Rights take care of distribution of the format for a long time, and maybe this time we will actually proceed with this decision. I do not personally deal with what happened with In-Laws legally, there are special people who take care of that. [Note: This week 1+1 filed a lawsuit against the Broadcasting Council over the ban of the popular comedy series].
What about your other creative plans? What are you working on?
We have a big team and we continue working. There are five serial stories in development. Up until now, we have been working on Servant of the People (there is a full feature and a series). On top of that, we are making two feature films. Of course, it all depends on the legal framework in the country, because we can be making one movie, and in order for it to come out, it will have to be something totally different. We hope that Ukraine is the country of smart people, and that they will show themselves in the legislative bodies. It is bad that we suffered, but being a large company, we can survive when some of our projects get shut down. For many smaller companies, however, such decisions can become terminal.
Has your relationship with 1+1 changed?
They have problems as well. I cannot say that our relationship has changed after the events that took place. They are for sure on our side in this situation. With the series being banned, most of the TV market is on our side. If hope it’s not just in words. Managers of TV channels are gathering to write the roadmap and come up with the list of future actions.
Are there any new international projects or deals happening for you?
When the project is completed, I am not interested in it anymore. Sometimes, when we come up with something and it is being filmed and looks good to me, my emotions for the product end and it does not matter for me where it will be broadcast and further sold to.
You are the largest exporters from Ukraine. When creating formats, do you think about the idea working somewhere else?
Being involved in the problem with In-Laws, it was difficult for me to focus on creativity. But right now, we are thinking about creating a separate platform, for which we develop series and projects. It will broadcast to the entire world (I hope). But it is hard for me to tell, because the project is still in the initial stage.