On November 15, French rapper OrelSan released a music video for his song “Tout va bien,” which has since racked up over 11 million views. But instead of the cozy Parisian streets or Marseillean shores, the video features… the less mainstream residential Poznyaky area in Kyiv.
It’s not just OrealSan. British bands Years & Years and Nothing But Thieves and British singer Paloma Faith have all recently shot their videos in Kyiv. The Ukrainian capital is quickly gaining recognition within the video industry as a new prime location. Only recently it appeared in Apple, Diesel, and Lacoste adverts and has been featured in a handful of music videos.
The most popular Kyivan locations are the unfinished Podilsko-Voskresenskiy Bridge, the rough residential Troyeshchyna district, various metro stations such as Zoloti Vorota (which has been recognized as one of the most beautiful metro stations in the world), and Kyiv airports, as well as the more central Vozdvyzhenka, Kreshchatyk, Yevropeyska and Poshtova squares.
“[Kyiv] is just a cool town,” says Irish director Brian Durnin who came to Kyiv to work on a new McDonalds advert. “It’s fun to be [here.] The people are nice and friendly, the atmosphere is good.”
According to architecture researcher Lev Shevchenko, it is the gloomy Soviet-era buildings that appeal to foreigners. He says that while countries like Russia, Belarus, and the Central Asian states also have such artifacts, in Ukraine, it is much easier to gain access to film them.
“In Russia and Belarus, it can be hard to access such objects, not to mention Central Asia. In the Baltic States, the Soviet buildings were renovated and now they look neat and cozy… But in Kyiv, it’s [still] big enough to show the whole monstrosity of Eastern European life,” he said.
Troyeshchyna is one strong example of the Soviet-era appeal. The remote and densely-populated area, infamous for its high crime levels, has attracted Danish singer MØ, Scottish singer Paolo Nutini and British indie rock band The Foals to name a few.
“Why do we love [your post-Soviet buildings]? Because we don’t have it, we don’t have anything like that in Ireland,” Durnin explains. “We only have one or two buildings that have that scale or that kind of design.”
“Soviet architecture, its grandiosity, scale, and remoteness are visually appealing,” Soviet modernist architecture researcher Oleksiy Bykov agrees. “Maybe music videos are the last chance to capture them before they get morphed or disappear entirely.”
But apart from being visually appealing, the locations are also easy to gain access to. According to Volodymyr Yatsenko, the general producer of the Limelite film production house, Kyiv allows filming inside the metro and train stations, at the airports and even at military terminals, which are all much less accessible in central Europe.
What’s more, many directors even come to Pripyat, a ghost town and the home of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant, which suffered a nuclear disaster in April 1986. Legendary English rock band Pink Floyd chose Pripyat for their Marooned music video in 2014. The video first shows a space station from which the whole Earth can be seen, the second half shows the abandoned Chernobyl after the accident.
Apart from locations and easy access, Kyiv also offers affordable prices. According to renowned Ukrainian director Andriy Boyar, it costs around $4-5,000 to make a quality music video in Ukraine. Yatsenko says that to shoot an advertisement video for up to a minute in length, prices start from 30,000 euros (around $35,200), while in Germany or France it would cost twice as much, around 50,000-60,000 euros ($58,000-70,000). To book a venue for filming — such as the Ukrainian house, where DJ Shadow’s “Nobody Speak” was filmed — it costs 39,600 hryvnias (around $1,400) for 8-9 hours.
It’s not only the venues. Hiring mass scene actors in Kyiv is also much more affordable. Anastasia Bukovska, the general producer of Family Production that worked on adverts for brands like Diesel and Dior, says that mass scene actors are paid around 10 euros ($12) a day in Ukraine, while in Europe it’s around 100 euros ($120).
“You can actually do things here which in Ireland, where I come from, would be very expensive,” Durnin explains. “They’re a little bit more affordable here with the same kind of skill level. You get a lot more for the budget you are spending. You can work slightly longer hours than you usually work in Ireland. But that’s a good thing because if you have a lot to do, you can make sure that you actually do it on your budget.“
But according to Bukovska, it’s not just about the cost.
“I don’t like it when people say ‘it’s because it’s so cheap here,’” she said. “I don’t think cheap is the right word. It’s cost-effective, the right ratio between the price and quality, there are very nice locations, and there is great equipment. Because Ukraine has the best equipment: cameras, lights, optics, lenses.”
“I don’t think that foreign bands come to Ukraine to save money,” Boyar agrees. “I just think it’s something new for them. Maybe we can call it a trend.”
/By Maria Romanenko and Oleksandra Chernova