Filming in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

There are several areas of the international audience’s interest in Ukraine. According to my journalistic intuition in order of significance, they are as follows: Ukraine as a spot of the geopolitical clash, Russian proxy and cyberwar carried out in Ukraine, US government involvement in Ukrainian geopolitical game, Ukrainian Maidan revolution, mail-order bride international marriages, Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine as one of the centers of the ultra-right movements, surrogate parenthood, and medical tourism.

Why then if the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is a significant but still not the most important media theme I still devote filming there a separate part of the website?

I realize that self-advertisement is a bit shameful activity but I’d try to deliver essential points as to what are the advantages of working with my agency.

It’s all about experience and knowledge at how things should be handled filming in the Zone. As in Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker (1979),‘ Zone never stays the same. Rules and requirements about the visit constantly change. And usually, it’s about personal connections and people who are able to explain those rules. I’ve accumulated quite a lot since 2009 working with the local and international media. That’s the first reason. And the second reason is simple. I just know where to go. Through those 10 years of filming with various crews in the Zone, I’ve accumulated quite enough knowledge as to where to hit in order to achieve the result. Obviously there are instances when crews are attempting to use the services of the non-specialized tourist agencies but I am there to arrange shots rather than touristic visits… and I don’t think I need to explain the difference in terms of story, interviewing, locations, etc.

Here are some projects.

Channel 4’s ‘Our Guy Abroad With Guy Martin’. Huge British show which unfortunately was claimed by Channel 4 as part of the Russia series, but… I’ve done my part of the job in a proper way.

Abandoned Engineering — Pripyat episode from Like A Shot UK based production company. Some really great areal shots. The show doesn’t have an online version though.

An amazing engineering follow-up documentary Building Chernobyl Megatomb for BBC4 and PBS. A production team has been following up construction of the Arch for quite a long time.

VICE’s one of the few visits to the Zone aired at ‘VICE for HBO’ originally pitched by me to brilliant Jake Hanrahan.

There was a project with the UK super-star Chris Tarrant and it involved some pretty long prep period and extreme, condensed shoot.

There were several instances when I had to perform on-camera guiding. I’ve enjoyed them as I always do working on the camera. The first time I’ve visited Chernobyl was with the Ukrainian television show of the New Channel that I’ve been both hosting and directing. Here it goes. Video in the Zone starts at 34-38. It’s both inside some of the iconic buildings and getting acquainted with the locals.

I enjoy Flammish Late Medieval and Renaissance art and it turned out to be that Belgian crews also have amazing style and manner. I am still really proud to have worked with an amazing Tom Waes and his team at the VRT ‘Reizen Waes’ show. not only we managed to eat some Chornobyl produced pickles Tom has been able to grasp emotionally what’s the sense of the Zone.

Another on-camera work I’ve done was for big Chines international conglomerate Tencent. I’ve pitched and self-produced three stories in total.

Fixer Ukraine — Academician A. Nosovsky Recollects Fighting Chernobyl Catastrophy and reads Chernobyl poetry.

Fixer Ukraine — Chernobyl Inhabitant

Fixer Ukraine — Video Guide through the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

One of the most recent unique stories pitched and filmed the local crew for Bloomberg’s Quick Take. There aren’t that many people who had been inside the 4th Block at the moment of the explosion. Viktor Ivkin is one of them. We’ve been able to arrange his visit inside what used to be his working place to recollect memories of the fatal night in 1986.

Surviving Chernobyl: A Former Liquidator Tells His Story

There are several printed pieces including one book that I’ve been happy to help with. E.g. Andrew Blackwell’s Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places, RFERL’s photo reports which brought me in as a character of one of the segments when a big Geiger counter started signaling at my exit from the Zone. British daily The Sun reporting at the increase of the number of visits due to HBO’s Chernobyl series.

Another story produced at Chernobyl was with Dutch RTL4’s great Jeroen Akkerman’s.

Tom Webb’s from SAR ‘Carte Blanche’ investigative series also used local crew fro filming his story. And I also was involved in commenting at the increase in the number of visitors. First story — Lessons from Chernobyl for Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction.

Second — Chernobyl Babushka. Beloved grandma Mariya who has been able to return to the Exclusion Zone after it has been closed.

Good friend Henry Ridgwell of the VOA has produced several stories inside the Zone. We used some unique locations for several standups and again the Chernobyl job was all about letting others know what’s the essence of that human-created catastrophe. Way before HBO has done its marvelous job.


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