Kateryna, Hide and Seek is one of the latest additions to ZDF Enterprises’ vast catalog of drama series. What makes this series stand out from other Ukrainian crime dramas?
Crime drama in general and noir in particular is a rarity in the Ukrainian television landscape. Ukrainian viewers have not yet had a chance to be exposed to local stories of such complexity. In many regards, Hide and Seek is a bold project for Ukraine. It is also an atmospheric project. Compelling story lines and engaging visuals both work to build up tension. Unprecedented attention was paid to the visual language, music and sound design. We approached the series the same way one would a theatrical feature. The series starts as a detective story, when a 7-year-old girl disappears from a locked apartment, and gradually develops into a drama that touches upon social and psychological issues.
Tell us a little bit more about the series’ plot; is it based on real events?
The first episode opens with a father and daughter playing hide and seek. The father closes his eyes, counts to five, open his eyes… and fails to find his girl. The child disappeared from inside a locked apartment! More kids go missing in the same town. Later, a video surfaces on the internet portraying the missing children, each holding a sign with a mysterious combination of numbers.
This is fiction. However, when researching for the series we were shocked to learn the stats. It turns out around 5.000 children go missing in Ukraine every year. Surprisingly, these stats are not much lower in EU countries. We tried to discuss the issue of missing children and figure out why this is happening. One of the plot lines, for instance, deals with the issue of illegal adoption.
Who are the main characters in the series?
Our main characters are Varta Naumova and Maxim Shumov. These are police investigators in charge of the missing children case. Varta is new to the police department, we see her arrive at the town in the beginning of the first episode. Maxim is an experienced investigator, whose partner was relieved of duty and Maxim, himself, has been demoted to operative. Each of the characters bears the cross of past trauma. The deeper we delve into the investigation, the more we learn about their gushing wounds.
How many episodes are there in season 1 and have you planned an open ending for further seasons?
It’s an 8-episode drama. Even though the crime investigation storyline is resolved, our characters’ personal dramas are not. We deliberately planned it this way to be able to return to our characters again in season 2.
Olesya, the series integrates elements of the noir and thriller genres, intertwined with intimate personal stories. What was the most-difficult part when writing and shooting the series?
The structure of the series is complex and multi-layered. We have a lot of supporting characters, and their storylines are essential to the general plot. We pay a lot of attention to our main characters’ personal dramas and the viewer relives their memories and flashbacks along with them. This was the most challenging part - integrating all these plot lines without sacrificing the integrity of the main mystery.
How long did it take you to make this production?
We started filming late September last year. It took up 62 shooting days to wrap up. However, due to difficult weather conditions, these 62 days were spread out across 5 months. We are now in post-production. The series will be ready for delivery by the end of summer.
Can we call Hide and Seek a “Ukrainian Noir” and to what extent does it depict the reality of living in rural Ukraine?
It would be an honor for us if Hide and Seek succeeds in establishing Ukrainian Noir as a genre. We put particular effort into making sure we are true to the realities of living in small town Ukraine. But the issues our characters face are reflective of the flaws in our institutions at large and not just in Ukraine. Just watch the news anywhere! The collapse of the existing systems in general and police force in particular enable the dark side of human nature to flourish leading to the phenomenon known as misplaced retribution. When people don’t know who to turn for help to and where to direct their rage, they direct it at society at large. We see this happening all over the world these days.
Mirela, what has been the feedback following the series’ presentation at MIPTV?
The feedback has been phenomenal! Being selected among the 10 most anticipated series by the Buyers Summit in Cannes was a celebration in itself. After showing the 15-minute teaser that was edited especially for MipDrama, the reactions have been strong and very much in awe of the production quality, casting and cinematography of the series. Major broadcasters in UK, Italy, Germany, France, Australia and Japan have been asking to screen more on the day of the event. We have already received multiple requests to screen the first available episodes (the series is in postproduction now) and to present the series at multiple festivals and trade events. We are told how surprised everyone is by the level of craftsmanship that went into creating the series. And it’s true - there was no detail too small. Both we and the buyers feel that Hide and Seek, thanks to its unique visual identity, authenticity and clarity of vision signals a new breed of drama not only from Ukraine, but Eastern Europe in general.
You are also holding a screening during NATPE Budapest International. Is this a show that could appeal to audiences in CEE?
The screening is actually an exclusive B2B world premiere of the first two episodes of the series. We have chosen this market in particular because of its focus on CEE. We would like to emphasize the fact that premium drama can originate anywhere, including Eastern Europe and pride ourselves with a series 100% shot and financed in Ukraine. While all broadcasters in CEE produce their own local shows, only rarely they acquire dramas from the neighboring countries. But beyond cultural and historical bonds all these countries share, we hope that the series will touch upon human universal themes and a genuine curiosity for excellent drama. We are confident that the show will appeal to audiences in CEE as its setting will look uniquely familiar to audiences in all the countries of the former Eastern Bloc. On top of that familiarity, however, the series tackles themes that apply to a wide range of societies and circumstances. It stays with you and causes reflection.