Ekaterina Efanova, drama producer at Russia Television
Ekaterina Efanova is a highlighted drama producer at Russia Television and Radio that participated in the production of two Russian strong stories "Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes" and "The Blood Widow" and analyzed the huge success of the stories based on real events in the current times.
Why do you think drama series rooted in real-life/true events are enjoying a nice moment in the spotlight at present?
"First of all, people’s hallmark is curiosity they want to know how it happened, who is to blame, and what was really going on. Secondly, true stories give the audience a chance to live through happy and tragic events along with the character – it is an opportunity for them to gain experience and skills. They can dive into the story and find it very exciting. Thirdly, if we talk about historical context, these kinds of stories help viewers not only identify themselves with a historical character, but they provide education as well. And lastly, the timeless truth – the life itself is an incredible scriptwriter. No one has succeeded in topping the real-life stories plots twists."
What are some of the company’s most successful or newest dramas that are based on real people or real events?
"The world cinema of this season was filled with interesting titles. I would like to highlight two projects -the series 'Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes' and 'The Blood Widow'. They are very relevant to the current situation when the world is filled with fear and pressure of circumstances".
How closely do these stick to the “facts” and what were some of the liberties taken? Were there any consultants used or permissions needed?
"Films are always a creative reinterpretation of a real story. Of course, we were striving to recreate the period as accurately as possible, relying on scientifically proved historical facts. We examined archive documents, diaries, and letters while working on both titles. We had historians, archives and museum professionals, costumes,s, and household advisers to consult us during our work. Some of the episodes were shot on the historical sites protected by the government so we needed to get special permission for shooting there".
In general, what’s your view on the balance of historical/factual accuracy against the artistic license for this type of drama?
"Film authors are always faced with a choice on the amount of fiction they are willing to put into the movie. There are no concrete standards. But there is a responsibility to an audience because for many people the cinema replaces a history textbook, and events will be interpreted as they were seen in the movie. For example, the release of the series "Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes' triggered a controversial reaction among members of the Communist party. In the press, the film authors were blamed for a distortion of the historical facts. The director has to make a film as real, interesting, and as fascinating as possible".
Does a person or event need global notoriety for the series to travel internationally? Or what does it take for a local true story/person to catch the attention of audiences outside the home territory?
"A character has to be striking, original, sharply different from other people in a positive or a negative sort of way. The story has to be realistic and universal, but, however, peculiarities of the other world spark the international audience’s interest as well. Oscar nominations prove that national stories based on real events are getting more popular".
Do these types of true-life dramas lend themselves well to co-productions?. What are the challenges in a cross-border co-pro for a story rooted in real life?
"The potential and interest for the cooperation are quite strong, but legal complexity (the amount of investment, rights, territories) and creative challenges (who and how many actors, directors, cameramen, costume designers, etc. will provide) involved in the process stop us from developing this area. So far, the best option is when one company produces the movie and the other one provides services".
What do you think will drive the next wave of interest in “inspired by a true story” dramas?. Any ideas on future trends in terms of stories or overall popularity of the genre?
"Humanity relies on the life and experience of every human being. That’s why it is so important and endlessly interesting for society and each and every person to examine the beautiful gemstone mosaic of real human stories. And the interest will only grow stronger".
Films are always a creative reinterpretation of a real story. Of course, we were striving to recreate the period as accurately as possible, relying on scientifically proved historical facts” Ekaterina Efanova Drama producer at Russia Television and Radio