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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

Yellow, Black and White

Programming Profile

From Russia with action

29-05-2020

Moscow-based Yellow, Black & White has a show for any mood, bringing viewers eye-catching stories spanning multiple genres via its suite on C21’s Digital Screenings.

 

Promising global stories with a Russian accent and flavour to the international market, Yellow, Black & White (YBW) Studios prides itself on the high-end production values of its slate, whatever the genre.

 

“We don’t deliver hundreds of shows a year, we deliver around 10, depending on the year, and we really focus on the production value. For us it’s important to build our international reputation,” says Daria Bondarenko, executive VP of international sales and coproductions at YBW, one of Russia’s largest entertainment groups.

 

Bondarenko
Daria Bondarenko, YBW

The international recognition is coming as its originals are picked up by the likes of Amazon Prime and Netflix outside of Russia and events such as SeriesMania and CanneSeries recognise its titles in their selections.

 

Russian Affairs (16×52’), the espionage action of drama Hope (16×25’) or the epic historical storytelling of The Conquest of Siberia (8×52’), with its sweeping battle scenes, the production values are always there to be seen on screen.

 

Another great example is Sherlock: The Russian Chronicles (8×48′), a copro between YBW’s in-house production arm Start Studios, Russian production indie Sreda and the Start streaming platform where it will premiere this fall. Currently in post-production, the show puts a new spin on the famous detective who has been solving cases for over 100 years in literature, TV and film.

 

Sherlock: The Russian Chronicles
Sherlock: The Russian Chronicles

And whether it’s the glittering depravity of wealth in YBW’s version of Sherlock is arguably the most high-octane yet, as we follow the esteemed detective from London to St Petersburg on the trail of serial killer Jack the Ripper. Along the way he befriends a local Dr Watson character who becomes his assistant, while the city’s chief of police is the “Russian Moriarty” who is evil incarnate, master of people’s minds and souls and the unspoken ruler of the city.

 

Featuring some of the most renowned actors in Russia, including Maksim Matveev and Konstantin Bogomolov, this ambitious, glossy costume drama doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to action, as tends to be the case when it comes to Russian drama.

 

Hope
Hope

The series is set to debut in Russia on Start, YBW’s subscription-based streaming platform, before moving on to linear TV. This is the life cycle of numerous YBW series and means that they are suited to both styles of viewing, says Bondarenko: “We don’t just deliver for digital or for linear, it’s a combination.”

 

While Sherlock: The Russian Chronicles goes all out with its action scenes, 257 Reasons to Live (16×25′) is a comedy drama with plenty of emotional punch. It follows the life of a terminal cancer patient who unexpectedly goes into remission and receives the all clear, but is then dumped by her boyfriend and must contend with all sorts of challenges, including being run over. At a low point she finds her ‘cancer diary’ containing her list of 257 reasons to live, and decides to do them all.

257 Reasons to Live
257 Reasons to Live

 

Bondarenko describes the romantic comedy drama as “bright, inspirational and full of energy and positivity,” which are things audiences around the world are craving at the moment.

 

“It’s a great alternative to darker scripted dramatic content, which often dominates TV series. A second chance at life is a universal story, it appeals to everyone,” says Bondarenko. YBW has partnered with Beta Film to shop the show, with the German outfit holding distribution rights outside the US.

 

Arguably YBW’s most high-profile series is Russian Affairs (16×52′), Bondarenko describes season one as a “game changer” for the studio and the second season is the most-watched show in Russia at the moment. Launched last year and carried on Amazon Prime outside of Russia, this glamorous, complex drama dives deep into the relationships between power, money and sex – the unbreakable threads tying Russian society’s elite together.

 

Russian Affairs
Russian Affairs

The second season was directed by Darya Zhuk, a Russian director and NY Film School graduate who has a growing list of critically acclaimed credits, it offers a fascinating glimpse into wealthy Moscow elite society, with billionaires and oligarchs galore. Unashamedly glossy and raunchy, the edgy series is ideal for the anything-goes editorial of streaming services, says Bondarenko.

 

Another series from YBW’s 2020 slate with themes that will get viewers’ hearts beating is A Good Man (8×50′), from Konstantin Bogomolov, described as the agent provocateur of Russian cinema, and showrunner Irina Sosnovaya, who developed the story into a series. The thriller will debut on Start in Russia.

 

A Good Man
A Good Man

Based on a horrifying true story and inspired by the capture of Russia’s most prolific and brutal serial killer – the so-called ‘maniac of Angarsk’ – the series explores violence in quiet suburbia. Sosnovaya spent many hours interviewing the real protagonist in jail to gain greater insight, and give the show depth and authenticity.​

 

A Good Man portrays the Russian serial killer and rapist who sexually assaulted and murdered 78 women between 1992 and 2010 in Angarsk, Irkutsk, and was able to do so over such a long time because he was a police officer.

 

The Conquest of Siberia (8×48′), meanwhile, is set in the 17th Century, when Peter the Great expanded the Russian Empire all the way to Asia, to include Siberia, a region where vast riches and great misery were often intertwined.

 

The Conquest of Siberia
The Conquest of Siberia

The conquering army was made up of a motley crew of prisoners and volunteers, spanning Swedes, Bokharan merchants, convicts, Chinese smugglers, Shamans, missionaries, dissenters, outlanders and warlike Dzungars.

 

The epic drama shows the dramatic battles and sieges during the conquest of Siberia, as well as the passion and politics involved, marking a shift for YBW towards historical drama. Featuring incredible cinematography of the vast, sweeping Russian landscape, the series will launch on Channel One in Russia following the theatrical release of a feature film version also produced by YBW, highlighting its ambitious scale and production values.

 

Games People Play
Games People Play

In contrast, Games People Play (8×25′), coming from YBW’s in-house production arm Start Studios, is YBW’s most stripped down production to date, an anthology-style drama series that looks at relationships during lockdown. Each episode looks at a different relationship with a different story, with some more positive than others.

 

“We wanted to send out the message that during the pandemic you can still create and produce some great stories,” says Bondarenko of the series that was self-shot by the actors and was released on Start in Russia from the end of April.

 

“Lockdown is a dramatic, tense situation where emotions are heightened, with people stuck in a closed space, meaning there is no escape for tension – meaning there’s plenty of unreleased emotion, making it perfect for TV drama,” says Bondarenko.

 

One story in particular, has resonated so much with audiences that it could form the basis of an extended piece, maybe even a feature film in future, says Bondarenko. “This is a series everyone can now relate to,” adds the exec.

 

Last but not least, YBW is shopping Hope, an espionage action series set in brutal and lawless 1990s Russia, as well as the present day, with a distinct female protagonist.

 

“It’s the story of complex, dynamic woman, who pours her energy into her family by day, but is Russia’s most successful, brutal and ruthlessly efficient, contract killer at night. Her back story is complicated, her double life is pushing her to breaking point and she’s desperate to save her family and find a way out,” says Bondarenko.

 

It puts the spotlight on the brutality of 1990s Russia and features a star turn from Viktoriya Isakova, with a style heavily indebted to graphic novels and the kind of high-octane drama that is quickly becoming YBW’s calling card.